Tentative new owner of Bayview School site plans retirement community

The site of a former school across from Mooney's Bay beach could soon have a new life as a retirement community, once the tentative buyer takes over the lands from the City of Ottawa

Canoe Bay Developments Inc. slated to close deal with the city this week

An aerial view of the former Bayview School site. (Google Maps)

The site of a former school across from Mooney's Bay beach could soon have a new life as a retirement community, once the tentative buyer takes over the lands from the City of Ottawa.

Canoe Bay Developments Inc. won the rights to develop the former Bayview School site and is slated to close the deal on Thursday, said Gary Harper, one of the company's partners.

He wouldn't disclose the sale price.

Harper formed the company with partners Justin Chubaty and Jim Fullarton in order to bid for the property. The trio also have an equity partner, Suske Capital, in Toronto.

They intend to build some 625 residential units on the 4.3-hectare property on Riverside Drive, and market the development as one where people can move in after their children have left home, downsize, and stay in their neighbourhood as they age.

We're an established, mature community and there's not usually ten acres of land available for development.- Coun . Riley Brockington

"I really looked at what else we could do to get people to come into our community earlier and stay there through a whole transition," said Harper, who has a background in the retirement sector.

"Because you quite often get a couple where one person needs some help and the other doesn't."

It would be a markedly different use for a site that housed a public school until 2007, when the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board closed it and later sold the property to the Ottawa Community Lands Development Corporation, the city's land development agency.

Site to include city park

Full plans for the Bayview School site will be made public during a meeting on Thursday, but Harper said the hope is to build bungalows to the east and north, along with a couple of six-storey buildings and commercial developments with residential units on Riverside Drive overlooking Mooney's Bay.

The retail developments would be small-scale, possibly including doctor or physiotherapy offices, pharmacies, coffee shops or restaurants, he said. The plan would also see 0.6 hectares returned to the city for a public park.

Canoe Bay would ideally like to see construction start within 15 months, Harper said, and be finished another 15 months later.

Harper also talked about offering services such as checking in on bungalows for snowbirds who head south during the winter.

Proposal most closely resembles city's vision

River ward Coun. Riley Brockington has met with the company a couple of times and was serving as a school board trustee when Bayview was closed.
Riley Brockington said he expects a full house at the first public meeting where residents will see a developer's plans for the site of the former Bayview School. (Kate Porter/CBC)

"I actually heard from many people who were frustrated that this land was vacant for 10 years," said Brockington, pointing out that many people have brought up the site when he goes door-to-door in his ward.

"So I think folks are looking for a smart, reasonable development," he added. "We're an established, mature community and there's not usually 10 acres of land available for development."

At a meeting last November at city hall, residents were frustrated to see that a concept plan laid out years before had been updated to include commercial uses.

Of the developers that bid for the Bayview School site, Brockington said Canoe Bay's proposal most resembled what the city intended. 

"I'm not saying it's perfect," said Brockington, who anticipates a lot of discussion as the developer's proposal makes its way through the city approval process.

Brockington has also created an advisory group consisting of five people from the community to work with him and follow the file. 

Public meeting to be held Thursday

Craig Searle, president of the Riverside Park Community and Recreation Association, is one of the few who has seen the plans.

He said the community remains worried about the development including retail and offices on Riverside Drive, and wondered if those elements should be moved to the inside of the site. There is some empty, already existing retail space not far away, he noted.

For Searle, much hinges on how open Canoe Bay will be to input from the public, as well as what happens at Thursday's meeting.

Brockington said he expects a full house for the public presentation at 3191 Riverside Drive. Doors will open at 6 p.m., with a presentation to begin at 7 p.m.