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GoGlobal: Ottawa airport looks for development partners on ‘Gateway’ properties

New request for expressions of interest asks industry for input on combined 100 acres

Airport land
Airport land

In a rare opportunity to transform a pair of prime land parcels in the centre of the National Capital Region, the Ottawa International Airport Authority is inviting the real estate industry to share its insights on how to best develop the properties and accelerate the city’s economy.

The airport’s two Gateway properties are located on either side of the Airport Parkway, near the EY Centre.

A recent study showed the 70-acre Gateway East parcel has the potential to support at least 1.3 million leasable square feet of office space in a campus-style environment, or a mixed-use development of up to 1.1 million square feet, including a 700,000-square-foot logistics centre or light industrial building.

On the other side of the Airport Parkway, the 30-acre Gateway West parcel is located along the Trillium O-Train line expansion and can support an 800,000-square-foot mixed-use development that includes multiple office phases of up to seven storeys.

In addition to being strategically located near the airport itself, the land lies adjacent to transportation corridors connecting the area with Highways 417 and 416, representing a rare large-scale development opportunity in the geographic centre of Ottawa.

Through a request for expressions of interest, airport officials are asking the industry for its insights on how best to structure the development opportunity.

“This is a chance to be bold and create one of the first visual impressions that people have as they leave the airport and enter the city,” says Mark Laroche, the president and CEO of the Ottawa International Airport Authority. “We want to hear from the industry on how they would approach this opportunity and have a dialogue to create a model that leads to a top-tier development.”

Lower airfares

Airport officials began preparing these particular parcels of land – which were acquired by Transport Canada several decades ago – after plans for the light-rail expansion were solidified.

However, the airport has a history of facilitating economic activity through its long-term leases of land on other parts of its property. The EY Centre and several hotels, for example, are all located on airport land, as is the Hunt Club Marketplace containing the T&T Supermarket and other retailers.

These land leases also directly benefit air travellers.

Land and other space rentals bring in approximately $6.6 million to the airport authority annually, representing roughly 10 per cent of its overall revenues. This subsidizes the cost of operating the airport and helps to reduce passenger and airline fees – savings that are passed on to travellers in the form of lower airfares.

More broadly, airport officials see the development of the lands as part of a virtuous cycle. By creating jobs and facilitating business expansion, it can increase demand for air travel. That leads to greater levels of air service and connectivity to Ottawa, which in turn strengthens the local economy.

“We have a mandate to be an economic generator and to help Ottawa’s business community grow,” Laroche says.

Gateway opportunities

The Ottawa International Airport Authority plans to run its request for expressions of interest for its Gateway land parcels through the first half of the summer. Learn more at