Last night’s Ottawa is Open for Business celebration in the newly redesigned lobby of Constitution Square was one of those special events that left you feeling like, ah — Ottawa has still got it; it hasn’t lost its spark.
The place was packed. People ate, drank and connected with one another while soaking up the new and improved space, along with the live music. The energy in the room was rich and vibrant. It actually became a struggle for politicians to capture the crowd’s undivided attention while delivering their positive-message speeches. Where’s an airhorn when you need it?
Sueling Ching, president and CEO of the Ottawa Board of Trade (OBoT), had the most success in getting everyone to quiet down. “If I could have your attention for just one minute. Can I have your attention for just one minute? Just one minute. Can I have your attention?” she politely asked on stage before resorting to her utterances of “Shhh!”. It did the trick.
“We are so grateful to each of you for being here, for showing up, for your contribution to this city,” Ching told the crowd of up to 280 people.
The special event was hosted by Constitution Square and real estate owner and developer Canderel. They partnered that night with OBoT, Ottawa Tourism, Invest Ottawa and Shepherds of Good Hope, all of which had representatives out in full force. Constitution Square is a three-tower office complex located on Albert Street, in the heart of Ottawa’s financial and downtown district. At just over one-million-square-feet of rentable office space, Constitution Square is Ottawa’s largest office complex.
Colin Lynch was there on behalf of TD asset management. It’s the majority owner of Constitution Square, with Canderel being the other owner. From Canderel was Shawn Hamilton, vice president of business development in the region. He’s also past board president of the BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) Ottawa.
The city’s downtown core, similar to other major cities, is still struggling to find its place in our post-pandemic world. Workers have returned to downtown office spaces with less regularity than some had hoped.
The increased remote-and hybrid-work trend has members of the business community — including Hamilton — searching for ways to be leaders and to inspire increased interest and investment in the downtown. “We are slowly returning to a state of normalcy and it is time that we change the narrative of the news coming out of our city and for us to announce, as a community, that Ottawa is open for business,” Hamilton told his supportive audience as he implored all the leaders to “grab the bull by the horns” and “light this city up” in the areas of business, investment, tourism, living, learning and giving.
Hamilton encouraged attendees to seize the momentum created at the Ottawa is Open for Business event. “Believe in your city, invest in your people and your ideas. Support your city and do everything that you can to contribute and build.”
Hamilton was proud to have so many key groups supporting the event. “What I’m really excited about is we’re bringing everybody together,” he told OBJ.social. “It’s not just one organization or another, it’s all organizations coming together to celebrate Ottawa.”
The event also raised more than $17,000 for Shepherds of Good Hope and its efforts to build more permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless men and women.
The main lobby of Constitution Square, which spans a city block, recently underwent a roughly $9-million transformation to create more warmth, comfort and brightness while also redefining the relationship between life and work. The renovation work was done by Ottawa-based companies Linebox Studio and M.P. Lundy Construction.
There were representatives there from all three levels of government, including: Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, Ottawa MP and Treasury Broad President Mona Fortier and her colleague Yasir Naqvi, and Ottawa MPP Lisa MacLeod.
Deirdre Freiheit, outgoing president and CEO of Shepherds of Good Hope (SGH) and SGH Foundation, was there with her recently announced successors, both of whom are currently part of the senior management at the non-profit organization. Stephen Bartolo has been named the new CEO of Shepherds while David Gourlay is becoming CEO of its foundation, effective in July. “It takes two men to replace a good woman,” SGH board chair Dave Donaldson later joked to OBJ.social.
Among the attendees impressed by the event was Adam Zaret, vice president of Gemstone Corporation, a family-owned Ottawa real estate and construction firm.
“Kudos to Shawn and his team for organizing this because our city needs it,” he told OBJ.social. “The downtown has been quiet but we’re a G7 capital. It will be nice to see the feds really continue to make a strong move back into the offices and, hopefully, that will re-invigorate or renew interest in living, working and socializing downtown again. Otherwise, it’s going to be slow.”