Ottawa

Next LeBreton towers focused on apartments, not amenities

Claridge Homes wants to change the order in which it builds towers in its latest LeBreton Flats development, but community members call the move a "bait and switch" that will leave them without amenities such as a grocery store for years.

Claridge Homes wants to build on busy Booth Street earlier than planned

Claridge Homes has asked to build the two towers at LeBreton Flats shown in the middle of this rendering, submitted to the City of Ottawa, earlier than planned. The company's original plan had been to build the taller buildings behind on Booth Street first. (Claridge Homes/City of Ottawa)

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  • Planning committee unanimously approved the new phasing for the East Flats on Aug. 26.

Claridge Homes wants to change the order in which it builds the towers in its latest LeBreton Flats development, but community members call the move a "bait and switch" that will leave the area without amenities such as a grocery store for years longer.

The company has been the one active builder in the LeBreton area so far and owns parcels of land east of Booth Street separate from the National Capital Commission's latest master plan for redeveloping the prime site.

City council approved Claridge's East Flats development in July 2018 that called for five towers ranging from 25 to 45 storeys built over phases, starting with parcels on the east side of Booth that could house two floors of shops and amenities.

In an application that goes before the city's planning committee Thursday, Claridge has asked to first build 590 apartments in 25-storey and 30-storey towers on a side street closer to the buildings it constructed several years ago.

The change would still allow for a daycare and some commercial space, but the focus would be on housing. It would also include $2 million for construction of a city park.

"The faster we are able to bring more people down into LeBreton Flats, the sooner those businesses can be in there [on Booth Street] and be sustainable," said Neil Malhotra, Claridge's chief financial officer, adding the key is to have enough population to support businesses.

Since Claridge received that city approval in 2018, the pandemic has also changed shopping and work patterns and dramatically affected retailers' plans for commercial space, he said.

Uncertainty in the commercial real estate market had earlier led the NCC to also delay putting out to tender one of its own parcels beside the future central library.

'Ever-dangled' grocery store still elusive

The Dalhousie Community Association, which encompasses the LeBreton Flats area, Chinatown and Little Italy, is disappointed City of Ottawa staff recommended Claridge be allowed to first construct the towers tucked inside the development.

President Catherine Boucher said it supported the 2018 plan to build shops and the "ever-dangled" grocery store near the Pimisi light rail station, creating a "vibrant" Booth Street.

She also rejects Malhotra's argument about bringing more people to the community before shops move in.

"Our ward is inundated with new residential, thousands of units, and very little added retail or other amenities, or any significant public realm. It feels a little bit like a bait and switch," she said.

Malhotra said the towers and promised amenities along Booth Street will still come "when the time is right."

The company has attracted grocery stores to its developments in the past, as Malhotra pointed to a grocery store in a downtown Claridge building on Metcalfe Street, and to its plans to keep a grocery chain as part of a 26-storey tower it's building on Rideau Street where a Metro store was torn down.

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