Condo Development linked to LRT ? Will Claridge “play ball”?

The lot shown in the pictures below is bounded by Queen street on the right (north); Lyon in the foreground (east side); and Albert Street to the left (south). Claridge, a prominent Ottawa condo developer, owns it.  Your photog is standing at the foot of the downramp from the Crowne Plaza hotel:
This view is from the corner of Albert and Lyon, at the foot of the ramp up to the Crowne Plaza’s awful driveway ramp entrance. The red brick building at the far side of the lot is 151 Bay, a fourteen storey condo built by Teron in the 70’s as part of the Delta Hotel and office tower complex off to the right:
Here is a view from the west corner of the lot, near the Bay/Albert intersection. The CS CO-OP building is immediately to the right, not shown in this photo, which is the site of the proposed new main Library and the entrance to the LRT station a hundred or so feet down:
Here’s a view of the lot from the fourteenth floor of 151 Bay Street. Barbarella’s strip club is the low rise building on the left side of the lot, the Crowne Plaza and Constitution Square office buildings are beyond:

The Downtown Ottawa transit tunnel (DOTT) project for our underground LRT system will run under Albert Street (the right side of the above picture)  beside the largely vacant lot. To the right, just off the edge of the picture, is the Cs Co-Op lot, which is proposed to become the site of a large new Library building. The western portion of the downtown will be served by a underground LRT station. The station would have two entrances:

  • one to the east end of the station platforms, coming up beside the fountain in front of Place de Ville, serving the  downtown office buildings; and
  • one entrance from the west end of the platform, coming up through the Library building, and serving the concentration of residential high rises there. 

The two figures below are lifted from an earlier DOTT planning report showing the two entrances in a bird’s eye view and a cut-away drawing showing the entrance under the Library block and an optional one in the east under the Constitution Square complex.

                            double click to enlarge
Claridge is proposing three towers for the lot: a 28 storey condo (twice as tall as the Teron red brick condo already on the Bay street end of the block); a second 28 storey condo tower (taller than the Crowne Plaza, shorter than Place de Ville tower C); and a 22 storey condo tower. The height will be 81m (the current zoning permits 60m); all on a one storey commercial podium.
There is evidence in the literature that builders will pay a premium of up to 25% for sites close to a transit station. In this case, Claridge bought the site some years ago. So it has increased in value a lot. In turn, he can charge a premium for the condos there (about 4%), due to their proximity to the LRT station. Link: The story in the link — from Denver, another snowy city like ours — shows the proximity to transit is the second most important factor for residents there in selecting their high rise location.
And it would be very attractive to live in a complex directly connected to a transit station: all indoor connections via LRT to two universities and one college; to the Rideau Centre, convention centre, St Laurent, to the train station and eventually to the airport. And to many employment centres. The location will appeal to students, professors, young professionals, and seniors.  So will Claridge build the link to the LRT station?
I think if this was an office structure, Claridge would not hesitate to build the link. In this case and given the hot condo market, I think he would sell out easily whether the link to the station is across the street or within his building concourse. If I were Claridge, I’d build an elevator down to the station that was from a separate transit lobby connected to the condo concourse so residents could stay indoors, and public sidewalk users could access the elevator down- lobby from the sidewalk (but not enter the condo lobbies).
But, my sources indicate Claridge is not excited about a direct connection. Apparently, part of the problem is the unknown cost of maintaining the elevator, escalators,  and lobby, which would become the eventual responsibility of the condo owners. In this case, I think it logical to structure the access structures as a condominium itself, with the the three Claridge towers owning a part, and the city owning a part. Count the users every three years or so, and split the maintenance costs between the parties according to how many people use the elevator from the sidewalk vs the condo. The uncertainty risk is then split amongst several parties.
Another complication is that in the current DOTT plans, the city-constructed station entrance comes up through the new Library site. If the Library is not under construction by 2017, then a temporary building to house the top of the elevator shafts and escalators would be required on the Library site, to be later incorporated into the Library building. But what if the city gives up on the Library entrance for the opening of the LRT and instead builds the entrance on the north side of Albert, on the Claridge lot, as part of their condo development, and leaves the the Library access for construction later, when the library complex is actually built?? (this also gives more flexibility in where the station access would come up in the Library building — on Albert street side or the Slater street side…)
I trust the city has senior staff — backed up by some imaginative staff capable of thinking outside the box (and they do exist) —  negotiating with Claridge right now to come to some workable solution for a direct connection to the LRT station. If agreement is possible, it creates a valuable precedent and market vote of confidence in the value of connecting with the LRT underground.

One thought on “Condo Development linked to LRT ? Will Claridge “play ball”?

  1. Eric – I noticed that the city is doing some creative paving over of the parking along Slater near Bay. It is too sloped for cycling and comfortable walking. Any idea what's up there?

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