The old industrial building at Bayview Yards features broken windows, rusting steel, pigeon poop and graffiti-covered walls, but Mayor Jim Watson says its renovation into a centre for innovation and entrepreneurship will be "one of the most exciting projects" the city will be involved in over the next five to 10 years.
A non-profit corporation was established to manage the $30 million budget for phase one: $15 million from the city and $15 million from the province.
The building at 7 Bayview Rd., between Scott Street and the Ottawa River Parkway, was built in 1941. It's just the kind of lofty, character-rich space that hip young people love.
"Since Ottawa didn't have a lot of industrial past, there's not as many interesting spaces in the city like this," said longtime Ottawa entrepreneur Mike Weider during a tour of the building on Wednesday morning. "There's a lot of boring office space. Young start-ups like to have interesting space with character, and this building really has it in spades."
Its facade will be preserved, along with any doors and windows that meet today's energy efficient standards and can be restored. New windows and doors would be designed to match the old ones.
The design firm prototypeD, which conducted the initial design, even hopes some of the existing graffiti can be showcased.
The initial design for phase one — the renovated, existing building — features the usual corporate office space, rental office space and anchor services suited to starting businesses. But in addition, it's got a digital media/animation lab with equipment for photography, graphic design and sound recording, as well as a makerspace for people to design objects, create prototypes and fabricate them.
A space called The Well is billed as "the coolest spot on the site" on prototypeD's map. "This techno-lounge is open 24 hours to the public, the place for presentations, live musicians, and all things cool." An upper mezzanine called The Nest would offer teams some privacy to talk. There would also be a café and an Incubator Hall.
"We feel really excited and confident that it's going to become a real showcase for the kind of innovation that Ottawa has to offer," said prototypeD founder Janak Alford.
In total, the building has about 45,770 square feet of space. If the finance and economic development committee and city council approve the business plan, construction is set to begin later this year. They hope to open to tenants in 2016.
Phase two would see a tower built in the courtyard. Plans for the tower — up to 180,000 square feet — would only move forward after phase one is complete and after enough anchor tenants are secured to justify building it.
"This, in my opinion, is going to be one of the most exciting projects the city is going to be involved with in the next five to ten years," Watson said during the Wednesday tour.
"This is a very valuable piece of land. There are not a lot of pieces of land this big left in the city right down at the cross section between the O-Train and LRT, with a spectacular view of the Ottawa River."