Insurer’s ByWard Market real estate up for sale

The breakup of Union of Canada is leading to what’s expected to be one of Ottawa’s most unique real estate deals of the year.

The Ottawa-based company’s assets included a 10-storey ByWard Market office building immediately adjacent to the Whiskey Bar and a development site that’s currently a surface parking lot. The three properties up for sale collectively sit on 33,000 square feet of land at the corner of Dalhousie and York streets.

The assets are being sold as a portfolio, as the liquidator does not want to sell the properties as individual parcels, said David Lees, an Ottawa-based vice-president at brokerage firm Colliers International who is handling the sale. Furthermore, he added, the development lot currently provides parking for the office building.

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The nature of the different assets means a would-be purchaser is expected to have an interest in both development – likely residential condominiums – and owning office space, said Mr. Lees.

“We’re going to see a couple of players joining up,” he said.

Mr. Lees suggested a residential developer could excavate the parking lot, creating underground parking for both future condominiums and the existing office building. A heritage overlay of the area prevents high-density developments on the York Street side, but city zoning maps appear to show that development of up to 50 metres – approximately 12 to 14 storeys – is currently permitted on the George Street side of the property.

Mr. Lees said it is unlikely the 45-year-old office building will be torn down. Much of the mechanical equipment, such as the boilers and chillers, was replaced in 2009.

He noted interest in the properties – which are coming to the market unpriced – has been “very, very strong.” Mr. Lees said institutional and private investors from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have all inquired about the assets.

“It is a very unique opportunity. There is a retail component, an office component and a (potential) condo/multi-res (component),” he said.

“We really haven’t seen an offer like that in quite some time.”

Mr. Lees said bids are being accepted until June 22, with an anticipated closing date of Aug. 22.


325 Dalhousie St.

-10-storey office building

– 72,000 square feet rentable office space

– Ground-level retail

– Built: 1968


110 York St.

-Current tenant is the Whiskey Bar

-9,000 square feet over two floors


137 George St.

-Surface parking lot

-11,500 square feet


Source: BOMA Commercial Space Directory

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