A development application filed with the municipality shows plans for the 122,450-square-foot office building at 5000 Innovation Dr., at Terry Fox Drive, and lists the owner as a number provincial company. The accompanying Waterloo address is that of the Blackberry designer and manufacturer.
“(This would) mean they are looking at a serious play in Ottawa for a long time to come. This is a major investment. You just don’t do this based on a five-year cycle,” says Darren Fleming, a senior advisor and broker with commercial real estate services firm Devencore-NKF.
RIM has been rumoured to be expanding its Ottawa presence since last fall. RIM currently occupies two-and-a-half floors at 450 March Rd. and has space at 3026 Solandt Rd.
A source told OBJ in November that the wireless communication company had ordered roughly 800 cubicles for its building at 4000 Innovation Dr., which was purchased by RIM along with adjacent vacant land from Cisco Systems in 2007. The cubicles were estimated to fill between 120,000 and 150,000 square feet.
The Innovation Drive site, which was originally developed by Canderel before being sold to Cisco, was designed to house five buildings. It currently has two Cisco buildings, as well as the current RIM building at 4000 Innovation Dr., meaning there could plausibly be room for two new buildings, says Mr. Fleming.
While constructing a new office building in Kanata might at first seem odd, given the west market’s currently high vacancy rate and low rents, Mr. Fleming notes there are few vacant properties in the 120,000-square-foot range in close proximity to RIM’s current location.
“I would have been surprised if they had not wanted it to be next to the one that they already own,” he says.
In an interview last fall, Jeffrey Dale, then the head of OCRI, said he had heard that RIM was so tight on space in the National Capital Region that it had been converting meeting rooms and boardrooms to house its local staff, which numbered 650 as of this February.
“When co-CEO Jim Balsillie was here (in 2007), he said Ottawa was a very strategic location for RIM and that the company could double or triple the size of its employment base here,” Mr. Dale said at the time.
Along with the lack of space, industry observers said the company was likely to grow in Ottawa to help it compete with Apple’s iPhone. Contracts between RIM and major carriers such as Verizon, Vodafone and AT&T suggest it is focusing on third-generation (3G) smartphone technology similar to the iPhone.
Hamid Rahbar, president of high-tech employment group the Ottawa Talent Initiative, said RIM added more than 1,200 jobs in the second half of 2008, with about five per cent of the growth occurring in Ottawa, mostly focused on applications and user interface development.
Development application documents list the architect as Ottawa-based Pye & Richards Architects Inc., which hired David McManus Engineering Ltd. to provide engineering services for the preparation of site grading, servicing and stormwater management design.
A spokesperson for RIM said she would look into providing information, but could not immediately provide details on the new building.