‘Wow effect’: Toronto developer proposes three-tower project near Orléans Town Centre

Centrum Boulevard development
Bayview Group's three-tower plan for the Orléans Town Centre would dwarf all surrounding development.

In a move that would dramatically reshape the east-end skyline, a Toronto-based developer has applied to build a trio of mixed-use highrises in Orléans that would include more than 1,100 residential units along with retail and office space.

Bayview Group’s proposal calls for towers of 30, 35 and 40 storeys on a 2.2-acre plot of land at 265 Centrum Blvd. The property is located just east of Place d’Orléans mall and the Orléans Town Centre, a retail and entertainment district that features shops, restaurants and a movie theatre.

The site is currently occupied by a two-storey recreational facility that formerly housed the Ruddy Family YM-YWCA and is now home to a climbing gym and a basketball training centre. Bayview Group purchased the property from the YMCA of the National Capital Region in January 2022. 

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Bayview Group managing director Sameer Gulamani told OBJ the company’s proposal is “an opportunity to completely change the landscape” of the area, which is located less than 250 metres from a future LRT station on the extended Confederation Line. 

“We get to kind of set the pace, set the design standard and feel like we move the needle to changing that neighbourhood,” Gulamani said in an interview last week. “There is kind of a wow effect when you look at this application from what the neighbourhood looks like now and what it will look like when hopefully this all gets developed.”

Indeed, Bayview’s plan dwarfs any development project currently under consideration in Orléans. In total, the three towers would add 700,000 square feet of real estate in the heart of the suburb’s central business district. 

Most of the space would be devoted to 1,127 residential suites, and Bayview plans to kick off the development with a 30-storey, 200,000-square-foot highrise with 328 units. But the multi-phased proposal also calls for almost 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and more than 31,000 square feet of office space in a 35-storey highrise that would be built in a later phase.

Gulamani said it “remains to be seen” whether the residential units will be rental apartments, condominiums or a mix of both.

Bayview’s project would include more than 1,100 residential units as well as shops and office space.

“The market has changed quite a lot even since we acquired the land,” he explained.

“Condos made a lot of sense probably right up until the time that the (Bank of Canada) started to raise rates in response to inflation. There was a boom in condo demand. That has obviously slowed in Ottawa. It’s going to depend on what happens (with market conditions).”

The development site falls within territory that has been earmarked for intensification under the recently approved Orléans Corridor Secondary Plan, which is currently under appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

Orléans East-Cumberland Coun. Matthew Luloff said Bayview’s proposal is “definitely in line” with the City of Ottawa’s new Official Plan and the Orléans secondary plan, which aim to promote higher-density mixed-use development within 800 metres of transit stations from Jeanne d’Arc Boulevard to Trim Road.

Luloff said he will push for affordable units to be part of the proposal as a means to help address the regions growing housing shortage.

“This is an appropriate location for it,” he added. “We’re expecting new communities to grow around these stations.”

Bayview’s plan is the latest in a spate of new development proposals that could potentially add hundreds of new residential units to the east-end suburb. 

Area ‘ripe’ for intensification

Just down the road, a two-tower, 320,000-square-foot retirement home with nearly 400 units is set to be built on the site of the former Royal Bank building at 211 Centrum Blvd. Meanwhile, a 16-storey highrise is in the planning stages for property just south of the Town Centre on St. Joseph Boulevard.

Gulamani said he’s not surprised that the city’s far east end is suddenly having its moment in the sun, calling the area “ripe” for intensification. 

The Orléans Town Centre “didn’t really take off in the way that it was originally imagined,” he noted, but he believes his firm’s proposal could help attract a “critical mass” of residents who will “breathe new life” into the neighbourhood.

“In a way, Orléans has kind of been neglected by the development community,” Gulamani said. “I think we’re in the right place at the right time. I think that we’re producing something that is going to be very much in demand.”

Tannis Vine, the executive director of the Heart of Orléans Business Improvement Area, said any plan that brings more residents and visitors to the east end will be a boon to her organization’s members.  

Orléans needs more of this,” Vine said in an email.

The city and the developer are expected to hold public consultations on the proposal in the next few months. 

Luloff said the project has drawn “mixed reviews” from residents who’ve seen the application, and he admitted the 40-storey tower might be a bit of a stretch for some of his constituents.

“I think we’re going as far as we can on that,” he said. “I’m not quite certain that will be the final iteration of the proposal.”

But on balance, Luloff said, the project would make the area “a more desirable place to live” and help kickstart the local economy by bringing more people and businesses to the east end.

“Centrum has never really been able to realize its full potential, for the same reason that Sparks Street hasn’t and for the same reason that St. Joseph hasn’t yet – because no one actually lives there,” Luloff said. “You can have all the greatest restaurants, but that’s not going to make a difference if there aren’t people that live there.

“You have to have that sort of critical mass, that intensity of development, to support the amenities that people want. I think that it can be done. Change is coming, but I believe that the pros are going to far outweigh the cons when you can go to a world-class restaurant on St. Joseph or be at a brewery or coffee shop steps from where you live.”

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