A group of developers is hoping its plan to build a 1.3-million-square-foot complex of apartment units and hotel suites a stone’s throw from the Cyrville LRT station will help breathe new life into a neighbourhood that one of the project’s backers calls a “forgotten pocket” of the city.
Ottawa city council gave the green light earlier this month to the proposal that would see three highrises and a hotel constructed on a vacant 3.8-acre parcel of land south of Ogilvie Road and just east of Cyrville Road.
The mixed-use project is expected to include three towers of 25, 27 and 36 storeys featuring a total of about 850 rental apartment units as well as an eight-storey hotel with 175 suites catering to extended-stay guests.
The three developers behind the project – Ottawa native Denis Archambault and the Quebec City-based father-and-son tandem of Pierre and Francois Moffet – hope to start construction next spring, with a targeted completion date in 2023.
Archambault and his partners bought the property – which was previously unoccupied except for a bungalow that was torn down three years ago – back in 2007. Eight years ago, the veteran developers proposed a plan to erect 85 townhomes on the site, but that proposal was shelved after the landowners and the city agreed the prime parcel of real estate just 400 metres from the future Cyville LRT station would be better suited to more intensification.
“It was a long process because of the size of the property and the size of the development,” says Archambault, who is also a partner in the Heafey Group, a Gatineau-based real estate development firm. “But we weren’t fighting city hall by any means. The city was quite on board (with) having a lot of density in that area.”
While the proposed apartment towers will dwarf most other buildings in the area, a city staff report says few residents objected to the proposal. Archambault says the trend toward mixed-use development near transit nodes across the city meant the area was ready for a project of this kind.
RioCan and partner Killam Apartment REIT, for example, are putting the finishing touches on a second apartment highrise one LRT stop to the east near Blair Station. Two stops to the west, meanwhile, Ottawa’s Colonnade BridgePort is partnering with a Toronto-based group on plans to build a mixed-use “urban village” near the Via Rail station, while the federal government is looking for a private-sector partner to develop residential units, parks and shops as well as a major new office complex just south of the nearby St. Laurent Shopping Centre.
Archambault says there’s no reason why the area surrounding Cyrville Station can’t also be a bustling hub of new intensification projects.
He concedes he’s still a bit puzzled why so much of the neighbourhood has been left untouched by commercial builders. He says he hopes the new hotel and apartment complex, dubbed LUX Place, “will spur on development in that area and that whole triangle (bordered by Ogilvie and Cyrville roads and Cummings Avenue) will come back to life. It’s just strange that it’s been kind of overlooked.”
Emily McClelland, a commercial real estate adviser at Colliers International, agrees the project could be a catalyst for a new wave of construction projects.
“I think it’s just going to kickstart more nearby development,” says McClelland, who has lived in the neighbourhood for two years. “There is so much potential. Cyrville Station is right there. I think we need to start looking at these east-end (transit) stations and start to focus more development out this way.”
McClelland says once more residents and hotel guests cluster near Cyrville Station, other businesses such as restaurants and food stores will inevitably follow.
“People are going to want more options and more trendy options,” she explains. “If you drive around that area, basically all you see is gas stations. It’s not very attractive. It needs some love, so to speak.”
Archambault says the developers have been approached by “all the major (hotel) brands” but haven’t decided on an affiliation yet, adding he thinks the extended-stay format will be popular with out-of-town government workers from agencies such as CSIS, CSE and the National Research Council.
Despite being so close to public transit, the project will have plenty of parking – a five-floor underground parking garage will have space for 990 vehicles, with 270 spaces reserved for hotel guests and the remaining 720 for residents and visitors. But Archambault says he believes the site’s proximity to light rail will attract younger tenants who’ve decided that owning a vehicle is no longer a prerequisite for living outside the downtown core.
“Living without the necessity of a car when you're on the LRT line will create demand for rental housing in that area,” he says. “Even if (overall rental demand) does soften down the road, whatever’s on the line tends to be fully absorbed quite quickly.”
McClelland agrees, noting the COVID-19 lockdown has proven we can work effectively from almost anywhere and it’s no longer essential to live near your office if you don’t have a car.
“We're going to see more people working from home,” she says. “They’re not going to be opposed to living a little bit farther from downtown.”
With phase two of the Confederation Line now under way, Archambault says he expects to see more cranes popping up around LRT stops for years to come.
“You’re going to have high-density nodes around all the stations,” he says. “That’s part of the growing-up of the city.”