Montreal developer behind heritage hotel plan calls move into Ottawa a 'natural progression'

Beckett apartments
Rimap Development's projects in Ottawa include the Beckett, a 19-storey apartment complex on Bronson Avenue that's slated to open this summer. Photo courtesy Rimap Development

The Montreal-based developer behind a plan to convert a ByWard Market heritage site into a hotel and build an adjoining apartment complex says it has “a bunch” of projects in the pipeline for the National Capital Region, promising more “big” news soon.

“It seems like a natural progression to go west,” Rimap Development co-president Marc Varadi told OBJ on Friday, noting the Quebec firm also has projects in the works in the Toronto region. “Ottawa’s fantastic. People often underrate it.”

Varadi’s firm recently added to its growing portfolio of local developments with a proposal that calls for a 214-room hotel and a 280-suite apartment tower on a 1.3-acre site in the ByWard Market. 

“We know the area (and) very much like the ByWard Market,” says Varadi, whose wife grew up in Orl​éans. “It’s in the heart of the action. It’s a great, fun, vibrant area.”

Rimap plans to refurbish the existing five-storey Major Building at 126 York St. ​– a 108-year-old structure that’s protected under provincial heritage legislation and is currently home to several office tenants ​– as a hotel. A proposed 22-storey highrise on adjacent property at 151 George St. would be integrated into the former warehouse via a series of stepped-back floors and a pedestrian walkway. 

Mum on branding

Varadi says his company is working with city heritage staff to ensure the Beaux Arts-style building built in 1913 is restored to its “former glory.” 

“It was a very nice collaborative process,” he says, adding he expects the whole project to take about two-and-a-half years to complete once the necessary zoning amendments are approved.

Varadi would not disclose the branding of the future hotel, saying he would reveal it “as soon as I’m allowed.”

Viradi’s firm purchased the ByWard Market property last spring, just as the pandemic was beginning to take a massive toll on the tourism industry.

"We are optimistic that humans are resilient and that the world will return to normalcy in the near future."

While he concedes there’s not “a huge appetite for people to go into the hotel market” right now, he says he’s not worried about the sector’s long-term prospects.

“COVID has put a temporary damper on (tourism), but we bet it’ll come back … even better than before. That’s why we’re ready to make the investment. We are optimistic that humans are resilient and that the world will return to normalcy in the near future.”

In addition to the proposed York Street hotel, Rimap is also building a 208-room AC Hotels by Marriott lodging at nearby 201 Rideau St. in conjunction with sister company Prince Developments. 

Construction is already under way, and the new hotel is slated to open in 2023.

“Hopefully, if it’s like our Montreal AC Marriott, it’ll be a big success and bring a lot of vibrancy, life and action to the area,” Varadi says.

Rimap and Prince also teamed up to buy a two-thirds stake in a property at the corner of Rideau Street and King Edward Avenue a few years ago, with Westdale Properties of Toronto purchasing the remaining share. 

Multi-residential projects

The LCBO has several years left on a long-term lease at the site. It will likely be closer to the end of the decade before any new development plans come to fruition, Varadi says, adding that whatever takes shape is more likely to be a multi-residential project than a hotel.

Rimap has already dipped its toe into the capital’s multi-residential market with the Beckett, a 19-storey apartment highrise with more than 250 units at the corner of Bronson Avenue and Gloucester Street. 

The firm also partnered with Prince on that development, which is scheduled for occupancy this summer and will be managed by District Realty.

Rimap has a sister company, Rimap Hospitality, that already manages several hotels in Montreal and will also oversee its Ottawa lodgings. Varadi says the firm has a “good, healthy mix of hotels and multi-res” projects in various stages of planning and construction.  

“The development we’re doing is basically feeding the machine,” he says.