Next-gen neighbourhood? Nokia proposes new office and R&D campus, residential towers in Kanata North

Nokia rendering
A rendering shows a streetscape in Nokia's new proposed office and residential development on March Road.

One of the region’s largest employers is proposing to tear down its existing Kanata North campus and replace it with a new 500,000-square-foot office complex and as many as 11 residential highrises containing up to 1,900 units.

In planning documents recently filed with the city, Finnish telecom giant Nokia says it wants to construct a new office and R&D hub on March Road covering half a million square feet, with about 35,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial and retail space. 

The new campus, which would be located just south of Nokia’s current facility at 600 March Rd., would include two office towers and parking spaces for 1,344 vehicles.

In addition, Nokia says it plans to raze its existing office buildings and surface parking lot and build 11 residential towers ranging from 13 to 29 storeys in their place. 

The proposal calls for 1,900 units along with nearly 50,000 square feet of retail space, restaurants and other amenities and 2,410 parking spots. Most of the parking would be underground, with some visitor spaces at grade.

The development would require a number of zoning amendments since some of the proposed buildings exceed current height limits of 144 feet and retail businesses are not permitted on the northern half of the site.

'Necessary transformation'

If it comes to fruition, the new development would add thousands of additional residents to an area that’s already among the city’s fastest-growing neighbourhoods. 

Kanata North Business Association executive director Jamie Petten, who’s discussed the plan with Nokia, says the development could play a big part in the tech park’s “necessary transformation” into a mixed-use district with vibrant commercial and residential components.

“Our daily lives include a lot of other elements beyond just that single use of office space,” she said. 

In addition, Petten said the tech park is striving to become a “living lab” where companies like Nokia, Ericsson, Ciena and others can showcase technology such as autonomous shuttles in real-world conditions.

"Our daily lives include a lot of other elements beyond just that single use of office space."

“Our companies are growing faster than ever and the momentum is great, but in order to continue with that momentum, we need to foster an environment within the park that enables talent to live, work, play, learn and innovate,” she said. “This proposal from Nokia really supports that.”

Nokia, which employs about 2,400 workers in the National Capital Region, believes the redeveloped site could become the focal point of a district featuring a mix of office, residential and retail spaces.

The Finnish firm conducts much of its research into next-generation 5G communications technology at the March Road facility, while fellow network infrastructure giants Ericsson and Ciena also have major R&D centres nearby. 

In all, the Kanata North tech park employs more than 30,000 workers at 500-plus companies. Nokia is betting that the area’s population will continue growing rapidly – and that tech employees will want to return to their offices and live nearby.

“It is likely that many of the future residents of the buildings will work in the (Kanata North tech park) and will be able to walk or cycle to work,” planning documents prepared for Nokia by consulting firm Novatech say. “Although subject to future Site Plan applications, the amount of residential (space) will allow for a broad range of apartment sizes that will cater to a wide range of people and budgets.”

Noting that about half of the tech park’s workers already reside in the neighbourhood, Petten said the addition of even more coffee shops, restaurants, daycares and other amenities under Nokia’s plan will make Kanata North an even more attractive place to live regardless of whether some residents opt to work from home.

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