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Design takes on new importance in condominium market

Today, RENX welcomes new Column Contributor Derek Nzeribe, the Ottawa Regional Director for Milbo...

Today, RENX welcomes new Column Contributor Derek Nzeribe, the Ottawa Regional Director for Milborne Group. Derek’s monthly In The Condo Know contributions will focus on condominium markets, but he might also venture into other multi-res and National Capital Region issues.

Now that Ottawa is following in Toronto’s footsteps as a hot residential market, we have much to learn from that urban centre, especially when it comes to condominium design.

Toronto and other vibrant North American cities are home to a variety of residential architectural styles, from traditional to transitional and contemporary, sleek to ornate — all cohabiting harmoniously to satisfy both niche and major markets. To compete in our burgeoning marketplace, Ottawa developers and builders will have to sharpen their design pencils.

Developers have a responsibility to design landmark buildings which will look as striking in 20 and 30 years as they do today, and that means balancing new trends and evolving tastes with timelessness. It means keeping an open mind to architectural design.

With the increasing demand for urban condominium residences, it makes sense to design for the breadth of aesthetic tastes. It also follows suit to go to the extra expense to ensure excellent architecture.

Of course, profit is the driving force in any residential development, but building exteriors and suite layouts that satisfy target markets and enhance their surroundings help developers sell projects, and suite owners may enjoy a substantial ROI when they sell. The additional costs of hiring top-notch architectural firms can be recouped from the market by developers.

Bold, new Arthaus condominiums

Sometimes, being bold and offering something totally new is the best approach in cities such as Ottawa.

One example is Arthaus Condos, which came onto the market in 2016 at $550 per square foot, at a time when most new condominiums in the city were selling for $450 to $460 per square foot. Over the past two years, prices have increased, sitting now at approximately $610 per square foot, and purchasers are happily paying.

What propelled Arthaus to success is that its architecture was different from anything Ottawa had seen before. In fact, the concept behind Arthaus — a mixed-use development that includes residential, retail, the expanded Ottawa Art Gallery, entertainment and the city’s first Le Germain hotel — is unprecedented in this city.

A joint venture involving the City of Ottawa, DevMcGill, The Ottawa Art Gallery, Le Group Germain and the University of Ottawa, Arthaus is proof uniqueness and innovative design are well-received by end-users who will pay more to live in a distinctive building. It is also a living example of collaboration and synergy in action in the form of an innovative public-private partnership.

DevMcGill led multi-use development

To achieve the goals of this exceptional development and make it financially feasible, the City of Ottawa conceptualized a design that would appeal to developers. Montreal-based DevMcGill took up the charge.

Three eminent architectural firms were enlisted to collaborate on the exterior from concept to the actual design of the individual components. The superstar architectural team includes Ottawa-based Barry Padolsky Associates Inc. Architects and multi-award-winning Toronto firm KPMB Architects for the sleek, minimalist exterior, and Montreal architectural firm Régis Côté for the residences.

The resulting collaborative, cutting-edge design is ultra-sophisticated in the style of Toronto and other cosmopolitan cities such as Montreal and New York.

According to Stéphane Côté, president of DevMcGill, which has experience combining residential with heritage and new design, “It had never been done in Canada to have an art gallery and hotel with residences above it; therefore it’s very appealing.

“I think the project will be a big engine for the neighbourhood to continue to grow. It will bring life 24/7 with what we’re seeing with the university, the Rideau Centre expanding again, and the LRT coming.”

Architecture is an art form that must be created within parameters determined by market demands, as well as municipal and provincial guidelines. Developers need to consider how people will use buildings and make them as functional as they are aesthetically pleasing, while of course building for profitability.

DEREK NZERIBE is Milborne Group’s Ottawa Regional Director.  Milborne Group is Canada’s largest and most successful new development sales and consulting agency. Visit:

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