Airport land development set to take off

Courtney
Courtney Symons
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CE Centre paves the way for additional construction

After scouring the city for a spot to construct Ottawa's new trade show centre, Shenkman Corp. president Kevin McCrann says no other area served its needs better than the land surrounding the airport.

Ottawa International Airport.

"This was the best site by far," he says. "Once we chose this site, we never looked back."

During construction, contractors building the CE Centre had to be pioneers in servicing the land, installing pipes from its location at Uplands Drive and Aviation Parkway all the way to Hunt Club Road, says Mr. McCrann, also president of the CE Centre.

"It's very expensive to do that but it's done," he says. "The next guy coming in doesn't have to worry about that."

It was just one example of how Shenkman overserviced the area to accommodate for future development.

"I don't just think it's a good place for development, I think it's a necessary place for it," he says. "No matter where you fly into, the airport is usually a robust area, but in Ottawa it's been neglected."

Shenkman spent millions of dollars on road infrastructure, he says, and the CE Centre operates mainly on weekends - leaving the area underused for most of the week.

The lands surrounding the Ottawa airport are the property of Transport Canada, but they were leased to the Ottawa International Airport Authority for a 60-year term that began 15 years ago. As such, the airport authority is able to lease land out to developers, including the property upon which the CE Centre sits, as well as two hotels - the Hilton Garden Inn on Alert Road and a Days Inn on Hunt Club Road - and the Asian T&T Supermarket, also on Hunt Club Road.

In the 2008 airport master plan, the authority outlined "the intent for future growth and development of airport lands over the planning period 2008 to 2030."

The airport will place a priority on aviation development, says Ann Tremblay, director of airport planning, but will allow non-aviation development in "areas that make sense."

Various restrictions apply, including no residential use and the inability to build anything tall enough to get in the way of flights landing or taking off.

CE CENTRE AND BEYOND

It hasn't taken long, says airport authority spokesperson Krista Kealey, to realize the benefits of developments such as the CE Centre, which has held sold-out concerts and successful trade shows.

"Hotels are being filled, meals are being served in restaurants, and ultimately it means people will be flying in to see some of those shows," she says.

Ms. Tremblay says no site plans for further development have fallen across her desk, and no big projects are on the horizon.

As for what ideal development would look like, Ms. Tremblay says there is nothing set in stone, no square foot measure allotted, but the airport will make decisions based on the needs of the community after receiving future development proposals.

While the airport lands do lie on the Greenbelt, an area of protected green space, development is possible and the National Capital Commission supports it, says François Lapointe, the NCC's executive director of capital planning.

"Land development and development in general is really something that is important in terms of their capacity to generate revenues," he says. "We're going to work with them as they proceed (with) the development of their land."

Mr. McCrann says that because the CE Centre is so new, "the full effect of what our building does for the area is just coming into its own," but he believes the airport authority "looked at our development as a catalyst for other development."

As for what he thinks would be appropriate, another hotel or two wouldn't hurt, he says. Industrial and commercial development would work too, since the road infrastructure is in place and the official zoning plan calls it an economic development area.

"This area, I believe, is going to be the next hot spot," he says.

 

Organizations: CE Centre, Transport Canada, Ottawa International Airport Authority Hilton Garden Inn Days Inn Hunt Club Road.In National Capital Commission

Geographic location: Hunt Club Road, Ottawa, Aviation Parkway Alert Road Greenbelt

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