‘iPhone of industrial buildings’: National Capital Business Park springs to life in the east end

Avenue 31
Construction on the state-of-the-art industrial park started in the second quarter of 2021 and the first building, with 143,000 square feet of space, is complete and occupied. It is the first of eight planned buildings. Photo provided.

Through a creative leasing agreement with the National Capital Commission (NCC), Avenue 31, an Ottawa real estate, development and investment company, is transforming a federally owned 99-acre parcel of land just inside the greenbelt into the National Capital Business Park.

“The rental structure itself isn’t odd for us,” said Bill Leonard, executive director, real estate, for the NCC. “Our leases have a base rental component with a percentage rent share of revenue at the same time; so if our tenants do well, we do well. I guess from a land-lease perspective that’s unique, but I think we are looking to be partners with our tenants and that kind of rental structure does put you right in with your tenant and it allows you to work with them over the length of the lease.”

Well under construction, the state-of-the-art industrial park is clearly visible from Hwy. 417 on the approach to the Hunt Club Road exit.  Set off of Hawthorne Road, the site is geared towards logistics, e-commerce and the distribution of goods.

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“This is a very unique site because of its size and its location inside the greenbelt, making this land the most visible and accessible industrial land in the city,” said Michel Pilon, president and CEO of Avenue 31.

The first building is complete and already occupied, with demand for the next set of spaces already high.

“We’re attracting a lot of companies in the construction materials business, so Emco (Corporation), Mitten Inc. and FedEx have already taken space and a couple of HVAC companies are on the horizon, we also have a security company on the horizon,” said Pilon.

The building design breaks away from the traditional industrial look for an elegant, colourful, fully automated and AI-capable business park. While some of the design and landscaping elements were recommended by the NCC, Avenue 31 was already on the same page.

Avenue 31

“I think one of the really interesting things with Avenue 31 is they embraced the aesthetics and they embraced the sustainability requirements right from the start, which allowed for a very good working relationship to develop the product and bring it to construction,” said Leonard.

According to Pilon, the design was a deliberate effort to get away from the ugly squat buildings that characterize the industry.

“I didn’t want to simply build a series of warehouses, just grey or beige nondescript buildings, which warehouses typically are, and so we thought about tulips — just to be inspired by tulips,” said Pilon.

When Jennifer Murray, vice-president of land development with Avenue 31, presented the team with an image of tulip fields, it formed the basis for the park’s logo and provided inspiration for the architectural elements that set the project apart.

Construction started in the second quarter of 2021 and the first building, with 143,000 square feet of space, is complete and occupied.

Avenue 31

“This building is the first of eight planned for the buildout over the next five to seven years, the total of which will comprise more than 1.3 million square feet of Class A industrial space,” said Frank Di Roma, principal with Ware Malcomb, the architectural firm designing the park. “The exterior incorporates bright accent colours from the National Capital Business Park logo, which creates a vibrant aesthetic, while design features include significant clearance heights, exceptional loading facilities, automation and AI capabilities.”

Tenants are embracing the new park and lining up to get into spaces early to maximize the custom-build capacities typical of the industry.

“Getting in at the start gave us the ability to incorporate features suited to our needs,” said Frank Borne, general manager with Emco. “We’ve taken 49,000 square feet. That space includes a trade counter, a showroom and includes office space and collaboration rooms.

“The process has been great. I’d say we’ve had good dialogue with Avenue 31, they pay attention to details. You can tell they are a young and dynamic team that are proud of their project.”

Emco’s needs included 24-foot-wide loading doors, which were incorporated before the company moved in.

Another business that’s moving in is Dustbane Products Ltd., a company that has called Ottawa home since 1908.

“After a careful review of potential sites, the (business park) was the clear choice to be our new home in the summer of 2023,” said Ben Merkley, president of Dustbane. “The site’s ideal location (with) access for trucking and the 417 highway was a significant factor. We were most impressed with the quality and efficiency of the design and construction of the buildings along with the overall site plan.”

The location at the edge of the city has FedEx Express Canada leasing 68,000 square feet within the park.

“The facility is strategically located in an important market for our operations,” said James Anderson, communications advisor with FedEx Express Canada.

Once complete, the park will boast green roofs and 324 per cent tree canopy coverage, or 2,400 trees, as well as a green energy microgrid.

“Two of the comments we’ve received so far: one was it’s very unlike Ottawa and the other was it feels and looks like the iPhone of industrial buildings,” said Pilon.

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