CLV Group to convert former office building at 360 Laurier Ave. W. into apartments

360 Laurier Ave. conversion concept
CLV Group is working with partners such as Linebox Studio to convert an empty office building at 360 Laurier Ave. W. into an apartment complex. Image courtesy Linebox Studio

The developer that transformed a vacant commercial building on Albert Street into an apartment complex is poised to launch its second office-to-residential conversion project in downtown Ottawa.

CLV Group plans to gut the recently vacated Narono Building at 360 Laurier Ave. W. and turn it into a residential development with 139 rental units, president Oz Drewniak told OBJ on Wednesday. 

“No one wants to have empty buildings downtown,” Drewniak said. “It doesn’t do anything for anyone.”

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The company and two partners purchased the 11-storey, 107,000-square-foot property from True North Commercial REIT for $17.5 million in a deal that closed this month. 

The Correctional Service of Canada previously occupied more than 100,000 square feet of space in the building, but the federal government did not renew its lease and the agency moved out earlier this year.

It will be the second major conversion project for CLV Group, which recently finished redeveloping another former government office, the 11-storey Trebla Building at 473 Albert St., into a 158-unit apartment complex.

Calling the first project “a little bit of an experiment,” Drewniak said his firm will try to apply the lessons it learned from that process to the new undertaking.

‘Close to ideal’ for conversion

“To me, 473 Albert was almost like taking a bachelor’s degree, and 360 (Laurier) is going to be like taking a master’s degree. Afterwards, it’s going to be like we’re experts.”

Opened in 1968, the Narono Building is “as close to ideal” a candidate for a residential conversion as the company has found in Ottawa, Drewniak added. It’s the right shape and its floorplate is compact enough to allow natural light to fill the apartments, he said. 

“If it’s too deep from the core to the wall, you have super deep units and it’s hard to design those units,” he explained. “This is kind of like a slab-style building where it’s rectangular in nature. It’s not perfectly ideal, but it’s close.”

CLV Group’s proposal calls for a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as 1,450 square feet of ground-floor commercial space. The existing underground parking lot will be retained, with space for 59 vehicles.

The 12th-floor mechanical penthouse will be enlarged to accommodate a rooftop patio and lounge that will feature a hot tub. Other amenities will include a fitness centre, games room and additional perks aimed at the young professionals who are expected to be the building’s target market.

360 Laurier Avenue rooftop
The proposed apartment complex at 360 Laurier Ave. W. would include a rooftop patio and lounge. Image courtesy Linebox Studio

“We’re thinking creatively to see what else we can put in there that our demographic’s going to want to see,” Drewniak said.

The building’s existing windows don’t open and will be swapped out for modern, energy-efficient replacements. More windows will be added by punching out some of the precast concrete panels. 

But the vast majority of the building’s exterior will be preserved, Drewniak explained, saving more than 15 million kilograms of concrete – the equivalent of 720 truckloads of cement. 

Concrete production is one of the world’s biggest sources of carbon dioxide pollution, and Drewniak said the Laurier Avenue project is expected to generate 28 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than building a similar-sized development from scratch.

“There’s a ton of embodied carbon in concrete,” he said. “We’re going to be able to do this in a highly sustainable way.”

CLV Group is collaborating with many of the same partners it used on the conversion at 473 Albert St., including engineering firms Cleland Jardine and Smith + Anderson. The redesign is being spearheaded by Ottawa-based Linebox Studio, which also worked on the Albert Street redevelopment.

“They’re being very creative with this conversion process to balance the Brutalist nature of the (architecture) with the modern needs that residents … expect,” Drewniak said of Linebox, a firm best-known for designing Shopify’s former headquarters at 150 Elgin St. “They’re doing a great job bringing those two together.”

Transforming antiquated commercial space into residential units is a hot topic in Ottawa amid a growing housing crisis and a widespread shift to remote work that has hollowed out office towers in the core.

Drewniak said CLV Group’s success with 473 Albert St. has triggered a flood of interest from investors interested in teaming up with the Ottawa firm. 

CLV Group partnered with two institutional investors to buy 360 Laurier. Drewniak said those organizations, which do not wish to be identified, are keen to work with the company on other conversion projects in Ottawa and other Canadian cities.

“High-calibre institutions see (conversions) as a very responsible way to develop,” he said. “We’ve been constantly looking at leads. We’re definitely going to try to do more of these.”

Drewniak said it will take about two years to complete the conversion process at 360 Laurier.

“There are a lot of steps to go through,” he noted. “It’s going to be all hands on deck, for sure.”

True North REIT selling Narono Building at 360 Laurier Ave. for $17.5M

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