City Centre tenants given 2 weeks to move out

The Ottawa Tool Library and several other tenants under sublease to Makerspace North at Ottawa's City Centre have less than two weeks to find new homes.

Ottawa Tool Library among tenants forced to find new digs on short notice

Collaboration, creative work at stake with closure of Makerspace North

CBC News Ottawa

5 months ago
Michael Roper, who has a workspace at Makerspace North, says he’ll miss the collaboration with other tenants and creators. 0:35

The Ottawa Tool Library and several other tenants under sublease to Makerspace North at Ottawa's City Centre have less than two weeks to find new homes.

City Centre's landlord posted notices on the tenants' doors on Thursday giving them just 14 days to vacate.

"We had no inkling this was coming. Zero," said Bettina Vollmerhausen, founder of the non-profit Ottawa Tool Library (OTL), one of the subtenants being evicted.

Makerspace North was founded in 2015 as "a community hub and startup incubator." According to the non-profit's website, the 20,000-square-foot space has been home to some 100 subtenants, from woodworking shops to product developers. 

‘We had no inkling this was coming’

CBC News Ottawa

5 months ago
Bettina Vollmerhausen, with the Ottawa Tool Library, says she was shocked to find the eviction notice giving them until Dec. 9 to vacate the space. 0:35

Vollmerhausen said OTL has been vigilantly paying rent to Makerspace, and has asked the landlord through its management company District Realty if it could remain at City Centre. OTL, which has called the space home for six years, was told no, nor are any subtenants being allowed to store equipment at City Centre while they look for new digs.

"And so we now have to pack everything up," Vollmerhausen said Monday.

District Realty's representative responsible for City Centre, Michael Morin, did not return calls from CBC. 

Makerspace awaiting pandemic relief

According to the notice to vacate, Makerspace and its founder John Criswick "are in long-standing and significant rental arrears under the lease and, despite numerous demands, have failed to put the lease into good standing."

The notice said the ownership group, Development Corporation, Fourth Generation Realty Corporation and Freedom Holdings Inc., intends to "exercise its rights and remedies" under the lease and the law, "including the right to retake possession of the Premises." 

But Criswick said the eviction came as a surprise, and he's looking for answers.

"I still haven't heard back from them," he told CBC. "I've called a few times. I'm trying to understand where they stand."

Criswick said Makerspace was doing well before the pandemic. He said the non-profit had let some tenants out of their subleases, but the space started filling up again this fall. 

Criswick said he spent a $40,000 interest-free loan he obtained through the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program to pay down his own rent, and was counting on the recently passed Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy to fill in the remaining gaps. 

Furniture store also evicted

It's not only Makerspace's subtenants that are being given the boot: furniture store Mikaza's lease was supposed to end at the end of the month, but owner Haig Khatchadourian said he'd been in negotiations for a month-to-month extension until he could move in the spring.

Instead, Mikaza said he received a notice giving him 30 days to get out. 

Makerspace North, founded six years ago as 'a community hub and startup incubator,' occupies 20,000 square feet in the City Centre building. (Stu Mills/CBC)

"There's no physical way of emptying this space in one month because we can't find a location that would rent to us for just two months," said Khatchadourian, who's now scrambling to find temporary storage space.

Other City Centre tenants said they've been assured they're not being evicted.

OTL pleads for new space

Meanwhile, OTL is asking anyone who may have a lead on a space, whether for temporary storage or a permanent home, to reach out.

"I don't know if we're going to find a new location by Dec. 9, but we're really hoping someone in town may know a space," Vollmerhausen said.

"We attract a lot of people, we're an amazing organization," she said. "We are a vibrant member of this community."

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