Rideau Centre readying $250M expansion

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Leasing discussions underway

The Rideau Centre disclosed Thursday that it will soon begin an estimated $250-million renovation and expansion, which it hopes to complete by spring of 2015.

The mall’s owner, Cadillac Fairview Corp., is contemplating the addition of 180,000 square feet over three floors of retail space on the north-east corner of the Rideau Centre site, said Sal Iacono, Cadillac Fairview’s senior vice-president of development, at the Ottawa Real Estate Forum on Thursday.

Part of that space is now a parking lot. The other part is occupied by a three-storey building that was formerly an Ogilvy’s department store. The facade of that building – a heritage property – will be preserved in the expanded Rideau Centre.

Mr. Iacono estimated it will cost $150 million to build the expansion, together with two underground floors of parking, bringing the mall’s total number of parking spots up to about 1,700.

He stressed that the Rideau Centre’s expansion plans still require final approval by Cadillac Fairview, but added that leasing is going well for an anticipated 30 more smaller new tenants.

The other $100 million in the $250-million plan is to convert the Sears store, build a new food court and convert the existing food court into shops.

The expansion will coincide with the opening of a new anchor tenant for the Rideau Centre. Nordstrom, an upscale U.S. department store chain specializing in high-end fashions, recently announced it is expanding into Canada. Nordstrom is opening four stores across the country, including more than 150,000 square feet of retail space on the top two floors of what has been the Sears store at the Rideau Centre.

The bottom floor will be the site of a new food court for the Rideau Centre – larger than the existing food court on the Rideau Street-level floor. Space now occupied by the food court will be converted to retail space.

A Rideau Centre expansion has been contemplated for years, but it was delayed while the city’s grand new convention centre was built next door.

The expansion comes at a time when the Bayshore Shopping Centre – the Rideau Centre’s chief rival – has just embarked on a $200-million renovation and expansion. The St. Laurent Shopping Centre is expected to announce expansion plans shortly.

Ottawa is ripe for retail expansion, says Barry Nabatian, an Ottawa retail analyst, who appeared on the same stage with Mr. Iacono at the Ottawa Real Estate Forum.

It was the health and strength of the Ottawa retail market that decided Nordstrom to include the capital in its move to Canada, Mr. Iacono and Mr. Nabatian both told the forum.

There is more good news for Ottawa fashionistas.

Among retailers expected to be part of the expanded Rideau Centre is H&M, a hugely popular European chain that has been courted by Rideau Centre general manager Cindy VanBuskirk for nine years. Mr. Iacono said he was hopeful that H&M would lease space in the expansion.

The planned expansion will leave the Rideau Centre with about 80,000 square feet of space for further expansion at some future date. That space is on the west side of Nicholas Street, and includes the old city registry building, which sits empty and forlorn on the site.

The Ottawa Real Estate Forum, a gathering of more than 500 people from the world of local commercial real estate, was held at the Hampton Inn & Conference Centre on Thursday.

With files from Courtney Symons