A real estate firm that recently announced plans to redevelop the site of Ottawa’s former Greyhound bus terminal says it’s buying a major hotel and a historic building in downtown Gatineau in a bid to revitalize that city’s heritage district.
Brigil said Tuesday it’s reached an agreement to purchase the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel and Conference Centre at 35 Laurier Ave. in Gatineau, just west of the Canadian Museum of History. The sale is expected to close at the end of April.
The 1.75-acre site also contains the former Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Presbytery, a five-storey heritage building that now houses a conference centre for the hotel.
“It’s a very important site for the post-COVID economic growth of the (city) centre,” says Brigil’s vice-president of development, Jessy Desjardins.
Current zoning permits buildings of up to 30 storeys at the site. Desjardins, the son of Brigil founder Gilles Desjardins, says the firm plans to consult with residents and business groups to map out a development strategy for the parking lot beside the hotel.
The property is located just steps from Gatineau’s Quartier-du-Musée district, a neighbourhood known for its historic houses that survived a devastating fire that razed much of the city centre in 1900.
“We’re really at the drawing (board),” he says. “We want to create a tourist-(friendly project) that’s going to be great for the whole community.”
Desjardins says Brigil plans to continue operating the 201-room hotel, which was renovated in 2019, under the Sheraton banner.
He says the company also plans to preserve the former rectory next door. Built in 1889, the heritage structure served Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Church, which was destroyed by fire in 1971.
Desjardins says museums and community groups have already approached the developer about potentially becoming tenants in the distinctive greystone building.
“We’re looking at all our options,” he says.
Brigil says the property fits well with its vision of a “15-minute neighbourhood” where people can walk everywhere and don’t need cars.
“Cities offer what suburbs don’t – great access to walkable services, to culture, to entertainment, whether it’s music shows, festivals or museums,” Desjardins says, adding that he believes residents and tourists alike will be eager to return to the city’s core when the COVID-19 crisis abates.
“After wars or after pandemics in the past, we’ve seen strong migration towards city centres once things are resolved. We’re pretty confident. It’s human nature to be with other humans, so city centres are going to be there for a long time.”
Desjardins says there’s currently no set timeline for redeveloping the property.
“It’s going to be an evolutionary process,” he says, adding the company hopes to start meeting with residents and community groups this spring. “From there, everything will fall into place.”
Previous development plans scuttled
It’s not the first time Brigil has floated a major development project for the neighbourhood.
Three years ago, the builder proposed a controversial $400-million plan to construct a 35-storey and a 55-storey tower with a total of more than 400 condos and 320 hotel rooms across from the Canadian Museum of History.
The plan sparked an outcry from opponents who argued the proposed buildings were too tall and did fit the character of surrounding streets. In 2018, Gatineau city council chose to designate the area a heritage district with a three-storey limit on all new development, effectively scuttling the project.
Meanwhile, Brigil also has its sights set on redeveloping a prominent property on the Ottawa side of the river.
The company recently purchased the 2.55-acre site of the former Greyhound bus station on Catherine Street. Brigil plans to build a mix of condos, townhomes and rental apartments on the property, along with office suites and a retail component that could include coffee shops, eateries, boutiques and specialty food stores.