Can this Gatineau site support $1-billion of development?

Gatineau

A Gatineau real estate developer wants to see up to a billion dollars of new development on a prime piece of real estate near the Canadian Museum of History. 

Brigil bought the property at 35 Laurier Ave. in Gatineau, just west of the museum, earlier this year. The 1.75-acre parcel is now occupied by the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel and Conference Centre and the former Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Presbytery, a five-storey heritage building that now houses a conference centre for the hotel that the builder intends to preserve.

Current zoning allows buildings up to 30 storeys at the site. 

“It all depends on what the community wants there and what we can actually achieve,” Jessy Desjardins, vice-president of development at Brigil, told OBJ in an interview. “There’s a lot of potential to this site.”

Desjardins, the son of Brigil founder Gilles Desjardins, says the firm is consulting with residents and business groups to map out a development strategy for the parking lot beside the hotel.

Desjardins noted that the Canadian Museum of History drew more than 1.2 million visitors a year before the pandemic. He thinks the industry is poised to bounce back in the next few years and says the Laurier Avenue property is the “perfect environment” for tourist amenities such as restaurants and meeting facilities.

“The intention here is to really start to create this urban fabric that drives people into the downtown area,” he said, adding Brigil is “really open” to community input on what the site could look like.

Desjardins stressed that development discussions are still in their embryonic stages. Noting that pedestrian traffic in the downtown core has plummeted since government workers began working remotely during COVID-19, he said his company plans to work closely with Gatineau city hall on a development plan that will draw new residents to the area.

“With more people, obviously there’s more services for the community and all the benefits that come with a 15-minute walkable neighbourhood,” he said. “The more we build, the less pressure we put on the existing inventory of housing. As a city, we need to encourage as much new development as possible in the right location to really relieve that pressure.”

It’s not the first time Brigil has floated a major development project for the neighbourhood.

Three years ago, the builder proposed a controversial $400-million plan to construct a 35-storey and a 55-storey tower with a total of more than 400 condos and 320 hotel rooms across from the Canadian Museum of History. 

The plan sparked an outcry from opponents who argued the proposed buildings were too tall and didn’t fit the character of surrounding streets. In 2018, Gatineau city council chose to designate the area a heritage district with a three-storey limit on all new development, effectively scuttling the project.

Meanwhile, Brigil also has its sights set on redeveloping a prominent property on the Ottawa side of the river.

Earlier this year, the company purchased the 2.55-acre site of the former Greyhound bus station on Catherine Street. Brigil plans to build a mix of condos, townhomes and rental apartments on the property, along with office suites and a retail component that could include coffee shops, eateries, boutiques and specialty food stores.