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Equiton acquires 75% stake in 3-tower Ottawa development

UPDATED: Equiton’s Residential Income Fund will be Main and Main‘s new partner in the planned thr...

IMAGE: Artist's conception of the three-tower Riverain District development in Ottawa. (Courtesy Equiton)

Artist’s conception of the three-tower Riverain District development in Ottawa. (Courtesy Equiton)

UPDATED: Equiton’s Residential Income Fund will be Main and Main‘s new partner in the planned three-tower, multi-phase Riverain District development along the Rideau River at the edge of downtown Ottawa.

Equiton paid $30 million for a 75 per cent stake in the project, which is to include three residential towers of 22 to 32 storeys, plus a podium.

It will comprise over 790,000 square feet of residential space, housing approximately 1,000 “upscale residential rental units” plus amenities. The two-storey podium is to feature over 32,000 square feet of commercial space.

The firms estimate the project to be worth almost $495 million upon completion.

“I’m really excited because it’s a large-scale project, in a great market, in a great location. As a developer you can’t ask for anything more,” said Jason Roque, Equiton’s founder and chief executive officer, in an interview with RENX.

The Riverain District project

The 4.2-acre property is beside the city’s historic Cummings Bridge at the eastern edge of the downtown, in the Vanier neighbourhood at 29 Selkirk St. and 2 Montreal Rd. It’s currently the site of a shopping centre and parking lot.

“Having done a lot of development during my career, when we walked the site and looked at the neighbourhood, where it was located and what was happening, I got really excited. This is an excellent location,” Roque said.

“In any urban area, to have a site that size is a gem . . . I remember as we were driving away, I was trying to find another site nearby.”

The property will offer views of the neighbouring Rideau River and Riverain Park and is a 10-minute drive to the downtown core and five minutes to the ByWard Market, a prime shopping, dining, arts and entertainment district.

A food store and major pharmacy are within a block.

“It’s one of those places you can tell it’s going to be a lifestyle community,” Roque said. “It’s close to downtown but you are not coming out of your home onto a busy residential street with people walking by.

“You’ve got the view, the park across the street, you’ve got all the amenities just down the street. But then you’ve got this different feel about it, and you don’t always find that in the city.”

Zoning in place for development

Zoning is in place for the development, with the site plan approval and permitting process underway. Construction of Phase 1 is expected to start this summer.

It will comprise one of the three towers plus the podium, Roque said, with occupancy slated to begin in 2024. When the project is complete, the podium will connect two of the three towers.

Equiton acquired a stake previously held by Montreal’s ML Devco, which was partnered with Main and Main but has exited the project.

The firm, which already has investments in Kingston, along the Highway 401 corridor between Toronto and Montreal, had its eye on Ottawa as a city where it wanted to expand. Roque said the original intent was to find existing buildings for acquisition.

“This came available and we were like, perfect, it gets us into some new development and it’s in a market that we are targeting.”

Main and Main in Ottawa

Equiton’s new partner, Main and Main, has considerable experience in the Ottawa market. Equiton is “delighted” to enter a new market with a partner which knows it well, Roque said.

“The Riverain District will be a transformative project for Ottawa and Vanier,” said Main and Main CEO Rick Iafelice in a prepared statement, “and Equiton’s expertise and experience managing multifamily assets make them a great fit for this development.”

Among Main and Main’s current developments is the Albert and Lyon multiresidental and retail site at 400 Albert St., in Ottawa. It is slated to contain 834 residential units and 23,000 square feet of retail in three towers ranging from 18 to 33 storeys.

Main and Main is partnered with Westdale Properties on that site.

It is also partnered with Choice Properties REIT and Woodbourne on a six-storey, 252-apartment development at 400 Kirkwood Ave. Adjacent to the Westboro transit station, the Element site covers two acres.

Equiton Residential Income Fund

The Equiton Residential Income Fund is a private real estate investment trust focused on acquiring existing apartment buildings and multiresidential developments. It held $527 million in assets under management at the end of 2021, up 86 per cent year-over-year from $284 million.

Roque said there is strong ongoing interest in both the fund and the residential sector, and he expects that type of growth to continue in 2022.

“I don’t see why we won’t grow the fund by an equal, or more, amount this year,” he said, noting it has a long-term perspective on the assets.

“We’re basically buy and hold. Not to say that over time we wouldn’t trim things here and there as needed, but for the most part we look to keep what we’ve bought.”

Roque also said there is no plan to close off the fund any time soon.

“The fund has the capacity to become quite large. I don’t think we’re anywhere near the point where you’d consider closing it.”

About Equiton and Main and Main

Founded in 2015, Equiton is a private equity investor based in Burlington, Ont.

Main and Main is a Toronto-based investor and developer. Since 2011, the firm has invested in over 75 properties, assembled over 25 projects and has a development pipeline of 3,500-plus residential units.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated with significant new information following an interview with Equiton CEO Jason Roque.

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