The team behind an upscale mixed-use development in downtown Ottawa remains bullish after weathering two years of challenge and disruption.
Developer Main + Main, in partnership with Westdale Properties and Centurion Asset Management, broke ground in March on 400 Albert St. This two-tower redevelopment is a mixed-use, high-end, purpose-built rental project with over 560 residential units and about 20,000 square feet of retail space.
It rests 150 metres south of the Lyon LRT Station on Ottawa’s Confederation Line, straddling the office district in the downtown and residential-oriented western neighbourhoods.
Site appeal and upscale amenities aside, the challenge that faces any developer right now is recovering from the pandemic. The mass shift to remote learning by tens of thousands of post-secondary students, as well as major employers like the federal government adopting work from home, continues to have an impact on the entire rental market.
“Very bullish” on downtown Ottawa
“The whole rental market is somewhat tied together and there has been a shock . . . a ripple effect,” Main + Main vice-president Daniel Byrne told RENX. “There will be a longer return to normal. But ultimately, we’re very bullish on downtown Ottawa.”
That’s not to say the pandemic won’t have a lasting impact on how tenants of all kinds view multiresidential rental, for the amenities in-suite, as well as available public use space in the buildings.
“The most striking and durable shift in consumer preferences coming out of the pandemic is really tied to the work-from-home and hybrid work models,” Byrne said. “So, we’re responding to that.”
This includes an amenity program, with flex space on-site that can function as co-working and communal spaces, complete with features like appropriate Internet and power connectivity, coffee stations and business centre services.
Additional perks will include various party, games and virtual simulation rooms, a third-floor rooftop infinity pool and elegant outdoor dining rooms.
Responding to shifting tenant wants is only part of the challenge. There have of course been profound impacts on the supply chain for any developer in addition to the cost of and availability of skilled labour. All of this has made it difficult to keep any large-scale project on track.
Byrne said the relationships which Main + Main has built with suppliers and trades, the design and engineering community, local government and community associations during its 11 years as part of the local market have been critical.
Two towers at 400 Albert Street
Equally important is a persistent focus on the fine details of project management to avoid construction delays and manage cost pressures.
“You have to continually reassess the decisions you’re making on the project,” Byrne said. “We believe that very active management of the construction process is key to mitigating the worst effects of all the inflation and supply chain problems we’ve encountered.”
Main + Main describes 400 Albert – which was designed by IBI Group – as “curvy, organic, and elegant.”
A 23-storey tower and a 29-storey tower will sit on a two-storey podium that “emphasizes generous ground-floor retail and a connection to the street on all sides. The sculpted design is in keeping with the sophisticated approach taken both inside and out to bring refined living to west downtown.”
First occupancy at the site is expected in late 2025.
Main + Main sells site for third tower
The project was approved by Ottawa city council and the city’s planning committee two years ago, after several years of design, as well as ownership, changes. Main + Main bought the site in 2018 and then sold the parcel where a third tower is planned to Rimap Development, which is building that tower separately.
Main + Main was founded by veteran Ottawa real estate developer Rick Iafelice in 2011, with a focus on mixed-use, purpose-built rentals. The company now has offices in Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg as well as Ottawa.
In addition to 400 Albert, Main + Main has several other Ottawa projects underway, including a 1,000-unit project along the Rideau River at the edge of downtown, in Vanier, that will break ground later this year.
It will be developed in partnership with Burlington-based Equiton and its Residential Income Fund, which acquired a 75 per cent stake in the development in January.
That is also a three-tower project, with buildings ranging from 22 to 32 storeys. It will comprise about 790,000 square feet of residential space and 32,000 square feet of retail.
The firms estimate that project to be valued at close to $500 million on completion.