UPDATED: Live Nation Canada to set up new music venue in former Chapters building

Former Chapters location on Rideau
The National Capital Commission has purchased the building formerly occupied by Chapters bookstore at 47 Rideau St.

In a move local business leaders hope will help give a jolt of energy to Ottawa’s beleaguered downtown core, Live Nation Canada has signed a lease to operate a live music and entertainment venue at the former Chapters building on Rideau Street.

The National Capital Commission, which purchased the building at 47-57 Rideau St. late last year, announced Wednesday morning the new music hall is expected to open in late 2025 after the “necessary renovations” are made.

“Ottawa remains one of the country’s most important markets for live music and our goal is to create a vibrant space where artists and fans can come together to enjoy an unparalleled live entertainment experience,” Live Nation Canada president of business operations Wayne Zronik said in a news release. 

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“This new establishment will undoubtedly become a cornerstone of the local entertainment scene and a beloved destination for years to come.” 

In an email to OBJ Wednesday, Live Nation spokesperson Tonisha Bath said the venue is expected to have a capacity of 2,000 people, adding there will be “more details to come.” 

The NCC said it hopes the new facility will bring “renewed life” to an area of the city that has struggled to attract visitors and shoppers in the wake of the pandemic as the work-from-home trend hollowed out downtown office towers.

“At a time when downtown cores are seeking new amenities and destinations to increase urban vibrancy post-COVID, the opening of this concert venue will be a welcome addition to the city’s entertainment and hospitality offerings by offering a range of different artists and musical genres,” the organization said in a statement.

NCC spokesperson Valérie Dufour would not offer further details about the terms of the lease. She said more information would be provided once the agreement is finalized, which is expected to occur in the next 60 days. 

The NCC purchased the two-storey building near the corner of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive from a private Quebec company in late 2023 for $21.8 million. 

Chapters occupied the building from 1996 until 2022, when parent company Indigo Books & Music moved the store to a smaller location across the street at the Rideau Centre

The prime piece of real estate will soon be occupied by an organization that bills itself as the “world’s leading entertainment company.” 

On its website, California-based Live Nation says it sells more than 550 million tickets annually to live music, theatre and sporting events through Ticketmaster, which merged with Live Nation in 2010, and other platforms. The company says it operates or has booking rights at more than 270 live venues around the world.

Earlier this year, the NCC called the former Chapters building a “landmark property.” The Crown corporation said it bought the site “because it is considered part of the National Interest Land Mass (NILM) due to its prominent location along Confederation Boulevard, and its potential to bring new life to this area of the downtown core.”

Business advocates leading the charge to attract more residents and visitors to hubs such as the ByWard Market are hoping the 60,000-square-foot space becomes a catalyst for a downtown revival.

Ottawa Board of Trade president and CEO Sueling Ching said the new facility will “bolster the arts, culture and music ecosystem,” adding initiatives such as Live Nation’s could play a key role in helping the city attract more skilled workers and business investment.

“We need to diversify our downtown core to transform it from a monoculture economy and to have more people living there, playing there, working there, to make it more vibrant,” said Ching, whose organization released a report last month in conjunction with the Canadian Urban Institute that set out a blueprint for revitalizing Ottawa’s downtown.

Among the report’s proposals is the creation of a $500-million fund aimed at kickstarting “a series of catalytic projects,” including significant enhancements to the public realms of Sparks Street and the ByWard Market as well as the establishment of a new business incubation district and an arts/culture corridor.

Ching called the NCC a “strong partner” in the effort to chart a new direction for Ottawa’s core, adding the new lease agreement “should help inspire confidence” in the ongoing campaign to revive the central business district. 

“I think this is good news all around. When we think about the ByWard Market, we named it specifically as an opportunity for place-making as an anchor in our downtown.”

The plan for a new live entertainment venue is also music to the ears of Andrew Peck, the executive director of the Downtown Rideau BIA.

“We have every confidence that this new addition will serve to further the area’s reputation as the top-of-mind destination for culture, entertainment, shopping, dining and hospitality in the city,” Peck said in an email Wednesday morning. 

“The audiences and experiences it will attract will not only enhance our nightlife economy, they will add an even greater level of vibrancy to the neighbourhood, and contribute to the economic vitality and civic pride of the downtown core as a whole.”

The announcement comes a day after the city introduced new nightlife commissioner Mathieu Grondin.

The Montreal native will oversee the team at City Hall responsible for implementing the Nightlife Economy Action Plan, which was approved by city council in May 2023.

The plan seeks to address economic opportunities and challenges to nightlife through a series of 10 recommendations and actions that support the development and delivery of nightlife infrastructure, amenities and experiences. 

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe told reporters after the news conference announcing Grondin’s appointment the oft-repeated complaint that the nation’s capital is the “town that fun forgot” is an “insult” that doesn’t reflect what’s happening in the city today.

“We’re 50 years removed from that,” Sutcliffe said. “I’ve lived in Ottawa my whole life. This is not the city I grew up in.”

Ching echoed that sentiment on Wednesday.

“The origins of that (phrase) are so outdated,” she said. “Ottawa is fun. It’s dynamic. We have more amenities here than many other cities. Anyone looking to engage in that unique and vibrant scene in Ottawa, it’s not hard to find.”

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