This story has been updated with comments from Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder.
A prominent Ottawa network of car dealerships is gearing up to become a player in the field of commercial development with plans for an office building and a potential hotel in Barrhaven.
Myers Automotive Group has filed a development application for a two-phased project that would see a new Volkswagen dealership and a five- or six-storey commercial building constructed at 4149 Strandherd Dr. Located just south of the growing Citigate Business Park off Highway 416, the eight-acre property is across the street from a pair of other Myers stores.
Myers, which operates 14 dealerships in the Ottawa region, is hoping to get site plan approval for the project early in 2020 and have shovels in the ground by next summer, with a targeted opening date for both buildings in the second half of 2021, said CEO Cyril Leeder.
“We’re really bullish on Barrhaven,” he said, adding the 30,000-square-foot car dealership, which will be known as Myers Barrhaven Volkswagen, will be a “showcase” for the German automaker’s latest electric vehicles and related technology. “I think lots of good things are happening there.”
Leeder said the company will start pre-leasing the 100,000-square-foot office property early in the new year. He said he expects to see plenty of demand for the space – particularly from growing tech firms that are getting squeezed out of the red-hot Kanata market, where commercial vacancy rates have dipped to near-historic lows in the midst of a software boom.
“If they’re looking for a way to stand out and make it easy for their employees to get in and out of work, then the Citigate location there … is a great opportunity,” he said.
In the second phase of the project, Myers is proposing a six-storey hotel just west of the new Volkswagen showroom on Dealership Drive, but Leeder said those plans are still in flux.
“We’re thinking (of building a) hotel somewhere in Barrhaven,” he explained. “It may not be on that site. We’re not quite sure what’ll happen there yet. That could easily be another office building if demand warrants.”
The family-owned company’s interest in branching out into the hotel development business in Barrhaven comes as two other new lodgings are set to open in the south-end community next year.
A six-storey Hampton Inn Hotel and Suites is currently under construction at nearby 4401 Fallowfield Rd. and will have 102 rooms, suites, a pool, fitness centre and conference facilities. A second hotel, the five-storey TownePlace Suites by Marriott, is being built at 4433 Strandherd Dr. and will have 99 rooms, according to city planning documents.
Leeder said he believes the growing suburb, which has a population approaching 100,000, can easily support several more hotels.
“The market for hotels in this area has been growing,” he said. “I think it will become a future node at some point.”
Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder said the latest plans are further proof that her ward is coming into its own as an economic engine.
In addition to its proximity to Kanata, she noted, the community is just a few kilometres from the new L5 autonomous vehicle test track on Woodroffe Avenue, where companies such as BlackBerry QNX and Ericsson are piloting state-of-the-art technology for self-driving cars, and is a short drive from the Department of National Defence’s new campus on Carling Avenue.
Earlier this week, Ottawa council approved a blueprint led by developers Richcraft and Minto to create a “downtown” core in Barrhaven in an area south of Strandherd Drive and north of the Jock River. Harder envisions a day when the suburb will have its own performing arts venue and other recreation amenities.
“I think our time has come,” she said. “Many, many wonderful things are happening, and (the new Myers development) is part of that.”
Myers already owns a couple of Class-B office buildings in Ottawa, but the latest project will be the company’s first foray into developing its own commercial properties. Leeder said it’s all part of a long-term plan to add to the 77-year-old business’s revenue streams.
“We’re still automotive first … but we’ll be doing a bit of diversification as well,” he noted.