Montreal-based developer Broccolini has submitted a concept plan to the City of Ottawa to allow it to build a light industrial property of up to 700,000 square feet and up to 98.5 feet high, in the rural southwest area.
The 121-acre site is located at 1966 Roger Stevens Rd., at the interchange where it meets Highway 416, just outside the village of North Gower.
During a presentation Thursday night in the village, Broccolini’s director of real estate and business development James Beach said the land is already zoned for up to 1.4 million square feet of space. The company is seeking amendments to double the maximum height allowance from 49.25 to 98.5 feet to better accommodate the needs of modern industrial users.
“Our plan is to build one large, single-tenant building. Do it in one phase, complete the project in a relatively quick period of time,” Beach said.
Broccolini talking with potential tenants
He stressed Broccolini does not have a firm tenant in place at this point. The company has built spec projects in the past, but will build at this site only when it has an agreement in place.
“Not in the Ottawa market,” he said of spec building. “We are going through this process to make the site more compliant with existing demand in the market.”
Beach said there are several prospective tenants for the site: “We are 100 per cent in discussions with a number of possible users. We would not be here if there was not demand, if there was not interest in the site.”
Ottawa’s industrial vacancy rate has been steadily declining, to about two per cent in the most current market reports. During the past few years, more than two million square feet has been absorbed.
The availability of large spaces in the region is almost nil. Earlier in the day at the Ottawa Real Estate Forum, Beach said “there absolutely is a need for facilities over 50,000 square feet.
“We are struggling right now to find space for a sub-100,000-square-foot user who would sign a lease tomorrow if we could find the space. And even a 100,000-square-foot user, there is no inventory . . . very little land available for redevelopment.”
If Broccolini were to develop the site, it would be the first major industrial property in that sector of the city. However, Broccolini is no stranger to rural building in Ottawa; it has just completed construction of the one-million-square foot Amazon fulfillment centre on Boundary Road, at Highway 417, in the city’s rural East End.
Broccolini has subsequently sold a 90 per cent interest in the Amazon property to Concert Properties’ CREC Commercial Fund LP.
Bought site in fall of 2018
“In September of 2018, Broccolini had just launched a performance centre over on Boundary Road. That building has been delivered, a very successful project,” Beach said.
“We started looking for another opportunity in the Ottawa area to create another industrial building. We looked up and down all the interchange land, all the 400-series highways in Ottawa.”
It discovered the site in a CBRE listing, bought the land in the fall of 2018 and began planning to develop the site.
“We have a request to increase the height,” Beach said. “We are also prepared to significantly offset the building from the neighbouring property lines. We will centre the building on the site and have significant offsets.”
Broccolini’s concept plan envisions the distribution centre near the centre of the site. It would also contain office space for building operations, and up to 63 loading bays.
The concept plan, if approved, could accommodate as many as 1,100 to 1,700 workers, and provides for a business which could operate 24/7, 365 days per year. Parking would include 1,800 passenger vehicle spaces, and capacity for up to 240 trailer drop spaces.
Beach called this a “worst-case scenario” and said the needs of a potential tenant could differ from the concept. The concept plan also leaves in place a significant number of trees already on the site, providing a buffer for neighbouring homes.
The site would be serviced by three access points – two for passenger vehicles and one dedicated only to trucks – all along Roger Stevens Drive.
Building would suit tenant needs
The height requirement reflects a trend for many light industrial users for height over extensive footprints, especially for commerce and distribution.
Beach said the concept plan would be adapted to suit the needs of the tenant, before a formal site plan application is made to the city.
“A lot of these tenants have very specific requirements for their needs. They want an exact, prescribed height because they want to have the same building across the country, or across the continent,” Beach said.
“The request came from canvassing the market, looking at what we’ve done in the past, looking at whoever is interested in an industrial building and identifying the maximum height that most users would need to operate their business.”
Although Beach has declined to discuss financial details for the proposal, such facilities cost upwards of $100 million or more to construct.
Highway 416 is one of two major 400-series highways servicing Ottawa. It runs from the city south toward the St. Lawrence River at the Brockville area, connecting with Highway 401 and allowing access to both Montreal (about two hours of driving time) and Toronto (about four hours).
It also services dozens of small to mid-sized communities along the Montreal-to-Toronto corridor.