Negotiations underway to turn former Chapters on Rideau St. into an events venue

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

An organization in the “hospitality and entertainment industry” is eyeing a proposal to convert the former Chapters building on Rideau Street into an events venue, the federal Crown corporation that owns the site said Thursday.

National Capital Commission CEO Tobi Nussbaum said the NCC, which recently acquired the two-storey building at 47-57 Rideau St., is still negotiating the lease that would see a new tenant take over the vacant 60,000-square-foot space.

“There is still more work to be done,” Nussbaum told reporters after the NCC’s board of directors meeting. “We’re encouraged with the discussions we’ve had with them thus far.”

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The NCC confirmed earlier this month it had acquired the building, which was previously leased to the Chapters bookstore chain. In an email to OBJ, an NCC spokesperson called it a “landmark property” with “potential to bring new life to this area of the downtown core.”

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.

According to CBRE, which brokered the deal, the building’s previous owner was a Quebec-based entity that’s connected to an “international” company. The two-storey structure, which includes about 42,000 square feet of space above ground and 19,000 square feet below grade, was put on the market last April.

Business leaders view the Rideau Street corridor as an important element of a broader campaign to revitalize the city’s core after downtown office towers hollowed out amid the shift to hybrid work during the pandemic.

Earlier this month, a task force consisting of developers, real estate executives, BIA heads and other community leaders issued a report urging governments and the private sector to work together to find new uses for aging downtown buildings such as L’Esplanade Laurier, the Jackson Building and the current main branch of the Ottawa Public Library.

As the city looks to create more “15-minute neighbourhoods,” where people can live within walking distance of transit and amenities such as shopping and restaurants, some observers say properties like the former Chapters building could be part of the solution.

Michael Church, the managing director of Avison Young’s Ottawa office, told OBJ last year the former Chapters space could be a “prime” site for a future highrise multi-residential project.

“There’s got to be an opportunity there,” Church said in an interview last June. “I would have to think that the buyer of that is going to be a build-to-suit apartment or condo user in the future.”

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