‘Tired’ Carling Avenue will be ‘hot spot’ for businesses for next 20 years, realtor predicts

Altea Active Carling
Altea Active Ottawa — proposed architectural design. Credit: McRobie Architects + Interior Designers.

A wellness and social club that is moving into the former Canadian Tire store on Carling Avenue could be the first of many businesses opting for a location near but not in the downtown core, market watchers say.

Altea Active last month announced that it’s coming to Ottawa, where a number of local business leaders have invested in the company’s $30-million-plus project. Altea signed a lease with RioCan REIT in April and will take possession of the former retail store on Carling Avenue near Churchill Avenue in August. Altea plans to turn the 129,000-square-foot space into a premier spot for residents to be active, physically and socially. 

The new facility, slated to open in late 2024, will offer fitness facilities, strength and cardio equipment, personal and small group training, spa amenities and “luxury” hospitality. 

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The two-storey vacant retail space is an “excellent” choice for Altea’s first Ottawa facility, said Lorne Scott, a realtor with Royal LePage Team Realty, whose office is just down the street from the site.

Local investors support new wellness and social club at former Canadian Tire on Carling

Altea’s business model requires a large space, as demonstrated by its existing facilities in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto, and the Canadian Tire building “provides for that footprint,” Scott said.

“Assuming that Altea wanted something in the central core of Ottawa, there are not too many locations that are readily available or even possible,” Scott explained. “Ottawa has grown substantially over the last few decades and there are very few big enough pockets of available real estate that could house facilities that large in the core.”

With proximity to Highway 417, public transit and several Ottawa neighbourhoods, Scott said the location “offers excellent accessibility.”

“(Nearby) Westboro and Hintonburg are super cool and trendy areas to live in Ottawa … And assuming Altea wants to attract as many people as possible, the Champlain Bridge to Gatineau is only 4.5 kilometres away,” he added. “I live in Aylmer, Quebec, and it takes me 15 to 20 minutes to get to my office, so it is reasonable in my opinion for Quebec residents to possibly join Altea.

“This stretch of Carling, let’s say from Bronson Avenue to Greenbank Road, will only become more and more popular as our city continues to densify or build up.”

Given the current challenges in the downtown core brought about in part by the pandemic and the move to remote or hybrid work, Scott said many more companies will be considering other areas of Ottawa that are still central but outside of the downtown. 

“More and more companies and builders are going west of the core in Ottawa, at a much quicker rate than east of the core, despite real estate being more expensive in the west. Just look at Kanata, or Stittsville, or even Carleton Place. Those places are booming big time.

“I think Carling Avenue, while still rundown or tired in some stretches, will be a hot spot for the next 20 years. Any business, regardless of the service or product they offer, should — and many will — consider Carling.”

Amir Rahim, owner of Grounded Kitchen, opened his restaurant’s second location earlier this year at 1545 Carling Ave., not far from the new Altea site. He said the wellness facility is a “step in the right direction” when it comes to revamping the neighbourhood and encouraging real estate conversions.

“It’s showing that unique and innovative things can be done with dormant real estate,” he said. “That conversion of space with the old Canadian Tire shows that things are possible and that action can follow ideas.”

While the impact that the Altea facility might have on his restaurant “remains to be seen,” Rahim is optimistic. If people are travelling to the Altea facility, it could bring more traffic and advertising for his business.

“We’re still so new, so getting the word out to the existing community is the big push we’re on right now. So new places like the Altea facility could be a hub for us to advertise and partner with,” Rahim said. “I do like that.”

Riley Brockington, the city councillor for River Ward where the Altea building is situated, said he’s heard “lots of interest” from the community in repurposing the old building.

“I’d like to see more recreation and sports in the communities at affordable prices and a new amenity like this would be welcome,” said Brockington. “Our recreation facilities are aged and if this can bring offerings that don’t exist elsewhere, it’s definitely positive for the community.”

David Wu, co-founder of Altea Active, told OBJ last month that his company is thrilled about its new Ottawa location, which offers good accessibility and visibility. It’s within sight of Highway 417 and is next to Westboro, which Wu sees as an underserved area for this kind of premium wellness and social club. The Glebe and Centretown are about a 10-minute drive away.

“We started negotiations with RioCan in July 2021, so that’s how long we’ve been working on this.”

Ottawa investors in the Altea facility include Jeff York of Farm Boy; David Little, managing partner of Dentons Ottawa office; his wife, Andrea Johnson, who’s also a partner at Dentons; former Farm Boy CFO Marc Santerre; Nouville Holdings president Louis Tremblay; Econo Petroleum CEO Goldy Singh; Dentons partner Phil Rimer; entrepreneur Nathan Sheaff; Ottawa physicians Binny Kuriakose and Sanjay Acharya; Smart Living Properties CEO Tamer Abaza; and VCL Construction president Mark Dalton.

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