DND’s Carling Avenue consolidation at a standstill

More than two years after paying $208 million to buy the sprawling former home of Nortel Networks, the federal government says it still lacks a budget, timeline and specific plans to renovate the campus and consolidate the Department of National Defence at the west-end property.

Officials at Public Works, which manages the federal government’s real estate portfolio, say they cannot discuss schedules, dates or costs until plans for the Carling Campus are “reviewed in the context of … a continuing environment of fiscal restraint” and a decision is approved by the government.

A media report last year quoted a senior military official as saying he hoped to have a plan ready to present to government officials by fall of 2012. It was to detail how DND would spend approximately $630 million consolidating workers currently spread out over more than 40 offices in the National Capital Region.

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Public Works spokesperson Annie Duguay declined to directly answer questions related to rumours that the Treasury Board Secretariat rejected a request before Christmas to reallocate hundreds of millions of dollars from the Department of National Defence’s existing real property budget to the fit up the property.

“(Public Works) is developing its approach for the use of the property. Once a proposal is finalized, it will be submitted to the government for consideration,” she wrote in an e-mailed statement.

Some speculate the decision stems from the Conservative government’s desire to avoid shining a fresh spotlight on DND spending, in the wake of cost overruns in the military’s attempts to purchase new fighter jets and armoured vehicles.

In 2010, government officials said they expected the renovations and moves at the 370-acre campus on Carling Avenue, at Moodie Drive, to take five to seven years. As a result, any delay is unlikely to significantly shake up the city’s commercial real estate market, several brokers say, suggesting it will spur short-term lease renewals with DND’s existing landlords.

It will, however, “keep Kanata artificially weak,” said Cresa Ottawa managing partner Darren Fleming.

“We’ve been telling clients that when (DND’s) move finally happens, there will be ancillary companies that want to be near whoever ends up (at the Carling Campus),” he said. This could range from service-oriented businesses such as sandwich shops and gyms, to companies that do business with DND.

The Carling Campus is not the only underutilized federal building in Ottawa. The Sir John Carling Building near Dow’s Lake has been empty for more than three years while bureaucrats wrangle over demolition and redevelopment plans.

To the east, Public Works says it still has no plans for the former RCMP headquarters, which sits on 36.5 acres of land off the Vanier Parkway. This is despite the fact that it’s been known since 2006 that employees of the national police force would be moving to the former JDSU campus at Merivale Road and Prince of Wales Drive.

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