As plans for Ottawa's Light Rail Transit (LRT) project solidify, city planners may actually be contemplating yet another attempt at a collaboration between Claridge and the City—as incredible as that may seem after the Tribeca/Portrait Gallery fiasco.
You see, a little known fact is that Claridge struck an $18 million deal with Shamrock Parking in 2008, giving them ownership of some of the city's choiciest development opportunites. First and foremost is the surfaced parking lot at 383 Albert St which lies directly across the street from Constitution Square...
...and is right on the city's proposed site for an underground transit tunnel and a station platform to serve the western edge of downtown. It is also a hop, skip and a jump from Alterna Saving's parking lot, where the City was planning to build the Ottawa Library's new main branch.
City planners have been referring to this as the "Library Site" and the plan was to build the entrance to the tunnel at the base of the Library that connects to the station platform:
Small problem: the City was unable to negotiate the purchase of this site from Alterna Savings [click for article], and the better—much better—idea of relocating the Library's Main Branch to the old Union Station across from the Chateau Laurier is slowly gaining steam. So thoughts turn towards Claridge, who will be developing the gap pictured above between Constitution Square and the now defunct "Library Site".
Claridge's proposal for this lot calls for 3 rather Toronto-esque condo towers, one at 22-storeys and the other two at 28 storeys, housing a total of 485 units. Given that the LRT would be right at their doorstep, City Hall staffers have been musing as to whether Claridge would be amenable to a direct link to an underground LRT platform from their proposed complex.
On the surface, this is a very attractive proposition for both retailers and residents, particularly those averse to the intensity of Ottawa winters:
But this becomes less attractive when the discussion turns to who will pay to maintain and service an underground link that includes elevators, escalators, a lobby and a security system.
I applaud the idea in theory but with condo fees already averaging 35 to 40 cents per square foot for new construction, Claridge will need to do some number crunching and careful negotiation with the city if this idea—a very good one mind you—is to be economically feasible for all affected... City of Ottawa taxpayers included.