The project received unanimous support from city council on Wednesday, contingent upon the provincial funding it had asked for.
With the province’s announcement, city council is prepared to provide $15 million in-kind contributions, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said at a press conference in Invest Ottawa’s current office space on Aberdeen Street.
The complex would become the new home for Ottawa’s lead economic development agency and would include business incubation space, meeting rooms and commercial tenants alongside a new film and television studio on a city-owned property west of downtown.
The 150,000-square-foot building envisioned by the city and Invest Ottawa would be located at the Bayview Yards, the site of a municipal public works garage constructed in the 1940s.
But the cash so far committed to the project won’t cover all the costs, and the final number has not yet been tallied.
Officials at Thursday’s press conference referred to the project as a “public-private partnership.” However, when asked about to role of the private sector in an earlier interview, Mr. Lazenby said it is envisioned to be limited to leasing office space in the city-owned building at market rental rates.
The promised provincial funds come before any concrete details have been decided, but Invest Ottawa CEO Bruce Lazenby said Dalton McGuinty’s government is confident in the project.
“They recognize that even without all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed, the acceleration concept is a smart one,” he said, adding that the government has seen the success of other similar initiatives it has funded, such as Communitech in Waterloo.
“We saw this rather narrow window of opportunity to get the ball rolling,” Mr Lazenby said.
The announcement comes just days before Mr. McGuinty’s replacement is announced, making it one of the last initiatives from the McGuinty era.
The provincial funds will be dispersed according to recommendations brought to city council following the Bayview Community Design Plan, which will take place later this year.
In-kind contributions from the City of Ottawa will include a donation of 1.4 hectares of the 6.7 hectare site at Bayview Yards; declaring the initiative a Capital Investment Track project which provides priority and facilitation assistance; as well as rebating 50 per cent of eligible site remediation costs in accordance with the city’s brownfield tax credit program.
In June 2010, city council approved $1.23 million to stabilize the structure of the existing Bayview garage and conduct an environmental cleanup of the building. Environmental remediation costs are yet to be determined for the rest of the lot.
It remains unclear which portion of the site Invest Ottawa’s new home will be build upon. Mr. Watson said the garage will be protected as a heritage building but it’s undecided as to whether it will be used as part of the innovation complex or for another use.
Despite the major decisions that still need to be made, Mr. Lazenby said there is a sense of urgency to get the project underway.
“We’re full to the rafters,” he said. “We’ve been here less than a year and we’ve run out of space already, so now what do we do? There has to be something else.”
The goal is to open the innovation complex facility in time to move Invest Ottawa there by the end of its current lease term at 80 Aberdeen St., according to a press release.
Invest Ottawa’s current five-year lease is set to expire on Dec. 1 2016.