Tag: Ontario News

Smoking Pot Inside Condos

A hot topic right now in the condo world touches on the Federal government’s push to legalize marijuana across Canada. Many condo owners are becoming increasingly concerned as legalization nears, with what legal rights and measures their respective buildings can take in order to prevent smoking pot inside condos and common areas in condo buildings. One condo board in Toronto near Sheppard and Don Mills wants to prohibit the smoking of cannabis, as it already gets countless complaints about marijuana odours wafting between units, triggering asthma and allergic reactions. – nowtoronto.com

Further, Ottawa Public Health agency recently made a recommendation to the province to outright ban smoking pot inside condos and apartments, including balconies. – cbc.com

The question is – Is it within the rights of Condominium Boards to ban this soon-to-be legal substance within privately owned units? According to Michelle Kelly, a specialist in condominium law, bans such as this are done by the Condo Corporation creating a rule (under Section 58 of the Condominium Act). – globalnews.com This rule would then be circulated to owners, and unless the owners call for a vote, and vote against it, it enters into force. Rules such as these are created in order to promote the safety, security or welfare of the owners, and to prevent unreasonable interference. Things such as the pungent smell of second-hand smoke could be considered a nuisance, and therefore a new rule would be reasonable.

Ontario Landlords are also becoming increasingly concerned with the upcoming legalization. The concern lies with the major financial cost that could be associated with removing the smell of marijuana after the tenant vacates. – nowtoronto.com Currently, landlords are able to ban smoking for new leases, yet with existing leases, it is illegal to modify any of the clauses before the natural end or termination of the lease.

An even further grey area is whether condominiums can ban smoking for those who have a medicinal license to do so. Many argue that medical consumers would be exempt under the Ontario Human Rights Code, which may result in a legal challenge by Condominium Boards. Needless to say, this hot topic is not going anywhere anytime soon.

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Real Estate in the 613 Has Never Looked Better

Real Estate in the 613 Has Never Looked Better – Ottawa is on Fire

No, Not literally. Although we can’t be blamed for seeing smoke emerging from the city’s hot housing market. It’s a great time to be in the 613. It’s an even greater time to buy a house within the boundaries of Canada’s great capital.

In the last couple of years, Toronto and Vancouver have been hellish for prospective homeowners. Soaring property prices in these two cities and hefty taxes mean most adults who live in either city can only dream of having a place they can call their own. Those who persevere are often priced out of the city and are forced to make long commutes to their businesses and families elsewhere.

Enter the Nations Capital

In comparison, Ottawa’s market seems like a calm oasis. And it keeps getting better. House and condo sales are on a steady rise, increasing year over year in the city. In 2017, there were 17,803 home sold. That’s a 10 percent increase. Condo sales also saw a 22 percent sales gain.

The fact that residents are scrambling to own their own homes in Ottawa is due to a myriad of factors.

Light rail train image

Light rail has added the additional boost Ottawa needed to push the market up

 

What is Drawing Buyers In

While Ottawa does provide some of the big city life, it has managed to preserve the small town feel that makes people so comfortable settling down here. At the same time, the city is welcoming exciting changes like a new light rail system which will make it possible to reach opposite sides of town in under 30 minutes. Residents are also earning steady wages as a result of a booming economy, and big businesses that balk at Toronto’s eye-watering rent prices are setting up shop here.

It also means longtime Ottawa based corporations are expanding as a result of the economic stability they are enjoying. For instance, the online retail software company, Shopify, recently tripled the size of its Ottawa headquarters and major retailers like Tiffany and Nordstrom are planning major expansions in the downtown core.

Stability and Affordability

Although property sales in the city are increasing, the prices have remained relatively stable, meaning individuals who could not dream of owning homes in cities like Toronto and Vancouver actually have a chance to do so here.

25-year-old Alyssa spoke to us about her plans to own a house. Working a steady job, she says, “My partner and I are thinking about moving out. But we don’t want to rent anymore. We’ve been looking around for real estate to buy.”

Likewise, 22-year-old Maya is also encouraged by Ottawa’s housing prices and believes you’re never too young to be a homeowner. “I’ve been looking at houses in the Riverside area,” she tells us, “They’re fairly affordable and I have enough savings for a down payment. I think I’ll be buying a piece of real estate soon.”

With choices at every budget, the future looks bright

If you’re a prospective buyer with deeper pockets, Ottawa still has the home for you. With an astonishing number of millionaires living in the city, it’s no surprise that luxury properties in exclusive areas have sprung up to meet the demand. Individuals hoping to purchase homes valued at $1 million or more will find they’re spoiled with choice.

According to economists, Ottawa’s real estate market won’t be slowing down anytime soon. With a strong economy and steady prices, we’re bound to enjoy Ottawa’s steady growth for years to come.

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New DND Headquarters

Most of us are familiar with the landmark “needlepoint building” that once housed Ottawa’s largest tech company, the now fallen Nortel, located just off Moodie Drive right near the 417 Highway. This iconic building sat empty for several years after the Nortel collapse, until the Department of National Defense (DND) finally made a successful bid to revamp this large 370-acre campus into their new DND headquarters. – Ottawa Community News 

As with many major retrofit projects, delays were inevitable. Nearly a decade into this 800-million-dollar project, it is running almost two years behind. The end result of this three-phase shift will see 8,500 Civilian and Military personnel being transferred to the old Nortel campus, with the end target being March 31, 2020. – Ottawa Citizen

One area that is seeing significant growth from the first phase of 3,500 workers being transferred is real estate in Ottawa’s west end. Month after month the west end districts have seen the majority of price hike growth on properties, according to the Ottawa Real Estate Board. Coincidentally, the bottom 10 districts are located around the current DND Headquarters located at 101 Colonel By Drive, which will be shutting it’s doors once the new DND headquarters is staffed. – Ottawa Citizen

Although it is still too early to determine exactly the influence that the new DND headquarters will have, this early evidence is a strong indicator that prices will continue to grow in the clustered communities surrounding this major new employment hub.

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A major announcement on the new Lebreton Flats Development

A major announcement on the new Lebreton Flats Development is expected according to sources involved in the talks between the RendezVous LeBreton Group and the NCC, a tentative land deal has been reached over the future development of Lebreton Flats – ottawacitizen.com. The Lebreton Flats Development, which is planned to have over 4,000 housing units, a major public square, and a landmark new hockey arena, has an estimated price tag of over $3 billion and will without a doubt have a huge impact on the City of Ottawa.

Some may question the significance of this project and whether it’s the best use for this highly coveted piece of Ottawa real estate, as well as whether taxpayer dollars should be spent on the infrastructure to support its build out. I stand to argue that this project is one of, if not the most important development projects needed for the City of Ottawa in recent years.

Let’s think BIG PICTURE. What is it about a centrally located arena that adds value to a community? – The Economic Case for a Downtown Event Centre. For starters, having an event centre that is located in an area that is equally accessible to those in both the West AND East ends of Ottawa improves the quality of entertainment and ensures a strong fan base for attendance at the games. Yes, this is a money-making entertainment business and in order to deliver a high-quality entertainment product, a revenue stream from a strong fan base must exist. Locating the hockey arena on Lebreton Flats Development will create equal accessibility for Ottawa area residence and along with the restaurants, shops, and more expected to be built alongside the arena, create a more appealing atmosphere of complimentary service businesses to attract a larger fan base to games.

My second point surrounds the issue of smart urban planning and efficient use of taxpayer dollars. A city cannot be sustained by spending endless sums of money building new infrastructure further and further out into untouched farmland, which is what Ottawa has seen for far too long now. Urban intensification is now a widespread phenomenon across North America, and it’s happening to lessen the burden on cash-strapped municipalities.

Yes, there will be those who protest “not in my backyard” but the reality is, development always occurs in someone’s “backyard”. Another positive outcome from this development will be the 1,100 affordable housing units that will be integrated into the RVL project and will help lessen the burden on the cities 10,000+ waiting list for affordable housing. Ottawa’s new LRT line will also play a huge factor in creating and sustaining this new community –  the Lebreton Flats Development will attract big Ottawa commercial real estate investments. With the line running directly through Lebreton Flats, residents will have a  very convenient alternative method of transportation to get around, and with that creating an overall healthier environmental footprint for the city.

The upside of RendezVous LeBreton and the number of Ottawians that will gain enjoyment from its new urban housing options, entertainment offerings and commercial spaces, far outweigh any downside. With a major announcement on the new Le coming, let’s be of the mindset of one wanting to continue to grow into a world class city and to welcome RendezVous LeBreton as the next step on this path.

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Rental Fairness Act

The Ontario rental market is on fire. Rental properties, yes rentals, are going into multiple offer scenarios and have been renting for above-asking rents. In cities like Toronto, Landlords have been benefiting from the increase in rental prices. Due to the massive price increases on properties in the last 18 months, rents have been steadily climbing to the Landlords benefit.  Some Tenants have suffered by being served abnormally high rental increases and have been forced to move due to rising housing costs.

In April, the Ontario Government announced the Fair Housing Plan, a 16-point plan to help regulate the Ontario real estate market. Some of these points were implemented immediately, while others are still being formulated. As of September 1st, 2017, the Rental Fairness Act has been passed into legislation. There are Four major changes that Landlords and Tenants need to be aware of:

  1. Rent Control

In 1991 a previous Ontario government passed a bill to spur the development of residential rental units by allowing all rental units built after November 1, 1991, to not be subject to rent control. This created more rental inventory and helped the overall rental market.  Landlords were free to raise the rents on these units as they saw fit, which wasn’t a problem until recently. Toronto is the main reason for this law coming into effect. Landlords were able to use this rule to raise rents to any desired rate. Landlords would do this to either bring the rental rate up to market rent, force a Tenant to vacate so they could sell the unit, turn the unit into an Airbnb rental, or any other reason they saw fit. As a result, any unit built after November 1, 1991, is now subject to rent control.

  1. Formal Leases

This one is a little surprising. You would think that most Landlords and Tenants have a formal lease in place, but this isn’t always the case. This law is easily the most obvious and necessary to protect both parties. All Tenants now have the right to demand that a formal lease is signed. If the Landlord doesn’t comply with the request of a formal lease within 21 days, the Tenant can legally withhold rent until a lease is provided. Should the lease be provided, the Tenant must repay the withheld rent in full. Should the Tenant not receive the lease after 30 days, they have the right to terminate the lease.

  1. Termination of a Lease by a Landlord

This new law has been the biggest talking point of the Fair Housing Plan. Previously, Landlords had the right to evict a Tenant when the Landlord or the Landlords family needed to move into the unit, the unit was undergoing extensive renovations, or the unit was being demolished. With the new laws, there are two new rules to consider. First, Tenants must be given compensation of one month’s rent if the Landlord terminates their lease. This compensation must be paid before the Tenant vacates the unit. Second, if the Landlord takes back the unit for themselves to inhabit, they must live in the unit for a minimum term of one year before they are able to re-rent it, renovate it, or demolish it. If the Landlord does any of this before the one-year period they can be subject to a fine.

  1. Key, Fob & Utility Deposits

Previously, Landlords would occasionally require Tenants to pay additional deposits for keys, fobs, or utilities. Under the new laws, this is strictly prohibited. It is illegal for Landlords to request a deposit for anything other than the first and last months rent.

Overall, the Rental Fairness Act is designed to bring a greater balance between Landlords and Tenants. Only time will tell if this Act benefits both parties.

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Southminster Condos

Church and Developer partnerships are becoming the norm. Many religious congregations are facing dwindling memberships, high operating costs, and major deferred maintenance bills. Some congregations are questioning their short-term cash crunches and long-term viability. The silver lining for most congregations is their primary asset, their land. Built generations ago, some churches are to be located in mature neighbourhoods and congregations were able to purchase large parcels of land at a relatively low cost.

Developers, on the other hand, are primarily concerned with finding land. Without a significant supply of quality land, developers are unable to build. Typically, developers buy land for 5-10 years down the road to have inventory; commonly known as land banking. Seems simple enough; buy land and build for today and have additional land to build on after. Right? Wrong! As cities continue to grow, the urban land becomes more valuable and harder to find.

With separate yet interdependent problems, both parties have to become willing partners. Windmill Developments have successfully proven their ability to partner with the Anglican Church to develop its site in the downtown core, Cathedral Hill, located on the corner of Sparks St and Bronson Ave. They struck a land-lease with the Church and built a luxury 21 story condo building with unprecedented views of Parliament, The Ottawa River, and The Gatineau Hills.

Fast forward to today, Windmill Developments are working with Southminster United Church to develop another parcel of land. Ideally located, Southminster United sits in the historic neighbourhood of Old Ottawa South. Southminster Condos will be only the second condominium development in the neighbourhood. What makes Old Ottawa South such an interesting neighbourhood from a land perspective is that it’s partially landlocked. The Rideau Canal borders the northern part of the neighbourhood, while the Rideau River borders the southern part. Due to this, it’s land value is vastly increased.

Southminster Condos itself is quite small with only 4 town-homes and 14 residential condo units proposed. This would be a perfect fit for the streetscape of the neighbourhood and would keep the charm and feel of Old Ottawa South intact. However, the project faces a zoning change, heritage overlays, and potential community push back.

Overall, Southminster Condos has the potential to become a landmark site in Old Ottawa South as Cathedral Hill has in Centretown. With city and community approval, continued collaboration between Churches and Developers can continue and they can create a rich piece of history in the process. Finally, something the whole community can be proud of.

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Illumination LeBreton: LeBreton Flats In The Making

In April 2016 it was announced that the much-anticipated bid to redevelop LeBreton Flats was won by RendezVous LeBreton Group’s Illumination LeBreton. It’s hard to believe that after decades of near-vacancy and intense competition between developers a plan has been made for the land’s future. So, what is Illumination LeBreton and what does the RendezVous LeBreton Group promise that is more favourable than the opposing developer Devcore Canderel DLS Group proposal? 

Illumination LeBreton Visionary

The development slogan boasts of “Linking, Connecting and Completing” and it promises to celebrate the past while inspiring a bright future. Illumination LeBreton’s main design principles are Heritage, Connectivity, Vibrancy, Sustainability and Place-making. RendezVous LeBreton promises to harness LeBreton Flats and the city of Ottawa’s cultural, political, economic and entrepreneurial spirit which was originally fostered by the industrialists of Chaudière Falls over a century ago.

As a central region, Illumination LeBreton will also strive to connect each adjacent neighbourhood, from downtown near Parliament Hill to the west’s Nepean Bay Inlet as well as Gatineau across the river. RendezVous LeBreton describes the area as “the final linking piece of a great puzzle”, creating an infused dynamic between the joining historic regions. Illumination LeBreton will embellish Ottawa’s personality and energy through innovative urban space, districts and street activity. Optimizing the region’s varying climates, the development will focus on maintaining sunlight, both indoors and outdoors, and introducing seasonal activities like outdoor festivals in the summertime and a skating canal in the winter.

Consequentially to the location of LeBreton Flats, Illumination LeBreton will focus on long-term sustainability for the 21-hectare region. 1.2 million cubic meters of contaminated land will be treated and revitalized while environmental stewardship and sustainable living will be avidly promoted by residential and commercial stakeholders alike. The “One Planet Action Plan” devised for Illumination LeBreton actually has ten principles with aspiring and attainable goals aiming for long-term environmental and social improvements in all aspects of an everyday lifestyle.

The fifth and final intent for Illumination LeBreton lies within Place-making. As RendezVous LeBreton Group puts it, “the greatest urban environments around the world are places – neighbourhoods that have memorable characteristics and identifiable personalities. These places are an energized blend of iconic architectures, sublime public spaces and exciting or pleasing activities. They are places where people are proud to live, where people are drawn to and where the cities’ identities are framed and formed.” This is the primary end goal of Illumination LeBreton and it plans to be executed in three phases over 10 years.

How? Illumination LeBreton’s Public and Non-Public Anchors

What exactly will Illumination LeBreton incorporate to create such innovation, connectivity and distinction in the City of Ottawa? RendezVous LeBreton’s proposal includes public anchors like the Major Event Centre, Sensplex and Abilities Centre and non-public anchors like commercial, retail and residential components, including affordable housing.

The biggest draw is the 18,000-seat Major Event Centre (MEC) which joins the adjacent LeBreton Square capable of holding a whopping 28,000 more civilians. The MEC will be an incredible facility and a new capital landmark for the city of Ottawa. With year-round public access and events catered to the entire city demographics, the Major Event Centre and LeBreton Square have the potential to restore civic life in the remarkable district. Furthermore, the MEC promises new views of the city, including Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River, from its glass-walled exterior and groundbreaking green roof project.

However, the most important and enticing aspect of the MEC is its proposed tenant: the Ottawa Senators. In a country like Canada, the capital’s National Hockey League is quite the rage and fuels the city’s spirit. However, their current home is a 30-kilometre drive outside the city center. During peak events like Senator games and popular music tours, the trek out to the Canadian Tire Center can be slow, aggravating, and to some locals, sadly not worth it.

Illumination LeBreton will have a community-use ice rink facility a few steps from Ottawa’s downtown core. It will consist of two NHL-sized hockey rinks, being the Ottawa Senator’s home for practice and games and is a viable place to host national and international hockey tournaments. The potential for local spirit and economic growth is not only exciting but exactly what Canada’s capital needs. Attached to the Sensplex will be an Abilities Centre, the second of its kind in Canada. It will be a community centre that focuses on sports, recreation, arts, music, dance and life skills improvements. It will also incorporate a centre of excellence for people with disabilities.

Furthermore, the MEC is expected to bring 175 events per year, roughly 30 more than the current Canadian Tire Centre. Only 30% of these events are hockey related, leaving room for many more performances catering people of all ages and interests. The MEC and joining Sensplex and Abilities Centre will be located directly between the Pimisi and Bayview LRT Stations. Walkways both on and above ground will connect the three important landmarks, making every aspect of the surrounding area easily accessible to the public. 80% of the expected crowd will arrive by public transit, bike or foot, however, there will also be over 8,000 underground parking spots in the area. 

Another unifying aspect is the LeBreton Flats aqueduct that has been so sadly neglected over the years. It will become a historic anchor in Illumination LeBreton and will transform the water channel in an iconic new public space with a boardwalk, cafes and retail space. In the winter the aqueduct will become a public area of outdoor skating, similar to the Rideau Canal.

Other public anchors within Illumination LeBreton includes a Multimedia Nightwalk,  Canadian Science and Technology Museum, a new home for the permanent installation of the Governor General’s prestigious National Honours Awards and a revamped home base for popular events like Ottawa Bluesfest and the Ottawa Race Weekend. Lastly, the proposal includes a new Ottawa Central Library which will sit on the corner of Albert and Booth Street which will become a new and beautiful destination in of itself.

Although commercial and residential plans aren’t concrete, the Illumination LeBreton proposal includes a hotel with 800 suites as well as 4,400 residential units. An impressive portion will be dedicated to affordable housing thanks to RendezVous LeBreton’s partnership with the not-for-organization Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation. After reaching full completion of the project by the planned date of 2026, Illumination LeBreton will have up to 12,000 citizens working there and around 7,000 residing in the area.

The Losing Bid: LeBreton Re-Imagined

The runner-up in the LeBreton Flats redevelopment bid was LeBreton Re-Imagined by the DCDLS Group. It included a Canadian Communication Centre and Ottawa Public Library, both similar to Illumination LeBreton, as well as a Canadensis Walk acting as a uniting feature to enrich the social and cultural draws for visitors. However, the main difference was a proposed “World Automotive Experience” Museum. This was instead of the NHL Sens headquarters and a lot less exciting than a new home for the locally praised hockey team.

The main issue with the LeBreton Re-Imagined redevelopment plan was its lack of confirmed tenants. The selection committee was worried about minimal support and information for the financial viability of the public anchors. Although Illumination LeBreton also lacked concrete investors, the committee knew that a Sensplex arena and similar ventures were successful from previous models established in the region, such as the current Canadian Tire Centre. Not only was an automotive museum a whole new idea, but it lacked the lustre that the Sens would definitely bring downtown.

Another important advantage the Illumination LeBreton had was better overall planning. The MEC’s location is perfectly placed between the Pimisi and Bayview LRT Stations near LeBreton which supports their “connectivity” design principle. The selection committee also preferred the divided districts of Illumination LeBreton and plans to cover the LRT tracks, making the area walker and biker friendly. They felt the opposing LeBreton Re-imagined lacked innovation and that the use of big city blocks would minimize the “walkability” flow of the area. The “social sustainability” of Illumination LeBreton was an easy winner in contrast.

Nevertheless, there is still uncertainty about the redevelopment as a whole. Officials speculate that Illumination LeBreton’s original proposal is expected to change as planning moves forward. There are also many questions about overall cost, somewhere around $3.5 billion, and the timeline of the entire project from start to completion. The NCC and RendezVous LeBreton Group must still get together and negotiate. With a piece of land that has taken so long to even reach this point, one can assume that negotiation will not be a short and easy process. Only time will tell so stay tuned as more details regarding Illumination LeBreton unfold!

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LeBreton Flats Are First Nations Coming Second

In late January, it was announced that Illumination LeBreton was the highest ranking proposal for the LeBreton Flats redevelopment. Favoured by most, RendezVous LeBreton Group will proceed in their 3-phase expansion of the massive plot of land. However, there is still one stakeholder that needs to be consulted: The First Nations people.

LeBreton Flats has a deep connection with the Indigenous people of the region who first discovered, used and cared for the land before industrialists took over. In the present day, the Flats are regarded as traditional Algonquin territory and any use of the land must be negotiated and approved by First Nation officials. There have already been two meetings in late January and early February between the First Nations, the NCC and developers. Chiefs and other ambassadors from ten different Algonquin communities gathered to discuss the future plans for their sacred land.

Of course, with consultation comes some controversy. The first meeting was scheduled to be a presentation by promoters for the development, however, things took a defensive turn. Algonquin representatives told the presenters to leave. They wanted to discuss the plans alone with just the Nation Capital Commission. Chief Lance Haymond of the Kebaowek community voiced his displeasure with RendezVous LeBreton and their failure to collaborate with the Algonquin people given the sacredness of the land.

Chief Haymond states that “[the developers] have failed in the duty to consult and accommodate [us] given it is a sacred site for the Algonquin.” Still, he made it clear that all blame should not be placed on RendezVous LeBreton Group. He reminded “[the NCC that] it is not the promoter’s responsibility to consult, it is the federal government’s responsibility.” Both parties, being the developers as well as the government of Canada, are at fault here and the Indigenous community must stand up for their rights.

It is not the first time they have failed to include the First Nations in major plans. Previous developments at the Chaudière Falls by Windmill Development Group lacked consultation. Furthermore, a November 19, 2015 resolution was passed by the Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador that deemed all levels of government are violating Canadian law by changing the status of land without meaningful dialogue and acculturation of the Algonquin communities.

However, the road goes both ways. Even though First Nations feel overlooked, an effort has been made both federally by the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and municipally by the country’s capital to recognize that the “land within the boundaries of the City of Ottawa lies within the history Algonquin Territory.” This was both outlined in the city’s “Official Plan” document of 2011 as well as at the December 2015 Assembly of First Nations held by Justin Trudeau.

With all this in mind, the Indigenous community is not against redevelopment. They simply want to ensure that the incentive behind LeBreton’s regrowth will also benefit the Algonquin communities. Chief of Pikawakanagan First Nation is seeking meaning and innovation in LeBreton Flats. This means “not just street signs and some plaques… We’re looking for and seeking some significant benefits” he states firmly.

Months after the controversial gathering with the NCC and First Nations, the City of Ottawa announced that the first Light Rail Transit stop west from downtown will be named Pimisi. Extremely well received by Indigenous representatives and communities alike, Pimisi means eel in the Algonquin language, with sacred significance being a source of spirituality, medicine and food. Public murals and mosaics will be created by Algonquin artists and an authentic eel statue will also be incorporated in the station.

In terms of LeBreton Flats, long-term strategy and economic development are amongst the opportunities the city can provide First Nations people. They’re hoping for relevant benefits beyond generic employment and training, however further consultation and negotiation is necessary. The NCC and RendezVous LeBreton Group have tentative meetings with First Nations scheduled on the LeBreton Flats development timeline before anything is finalized. The Algonquin community may be cautious for now but there is plenty of time to incorporate their history and needs into Illumination LeBreton.

References

Most facts and dates extracted from Leveller.ca’s article Ten Algonquin Chiefs Meet With NCC Over LeBreton Flats and Zibi Project.

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LeBreton Flats Redevelopment

The LeBreton Flats redevelopment has been quite the topic of conversation in Ottawa’s municipal news. Something exceptional is about to hit the 84-hectare region that sits a mere 20-minute walk from Parliament Hill, and it is about time! The majority of LeBreton Flats’ sprawl has sat virtually empty for decades. Why? Let’s take a look at the rich history buried beneath the soil of Ottawa’s most talked-about land.

The Early Years

Much before hockey stadiums and condo towers were in demand, sacred ceremonies were performed at the Chaudière Falls by the First Nation people. Indigenous groups including the Algonquin, Huron and Iroquois would conveniently set up camp around the corner on LeBreton Flats. Nevertheless, the harmless and pure nature of the First Nations could only last for so long.

Both Europeans and Americans started setting foot near the grounds in the early 1800’s and it wasn’t long until industrialists decided to capitalize on the powerful Chaudière Falls. Robert Randal of Maryland, USA, purchased the Flats, known as Lot 40 at the time, in 1809 for paper milling purposes. Soon after, he went bankrupt and his land, full of potential, sadly sat empty for the next few years.

During the War of 1812, plans were made to connect the Ottawa River and the lower Saint Laurence River with a military canal. Royal Engineer and British Surveyor-General Joshua Jebb gathered that a canal was achievable once improvements were made to the Ottawa River in order to direct it toward the Chaudière Falls.

Construction began in 1818 and in 1820 George Ramsey, the Earl of Dalhousie, toured the area with the idea of the canal addition in mind. He knew that the Richmond military settlement officers needed a place to safely store their cargo and equipment away from the weather, wildlife, and burglars. Shortly after noticing the potential of all the empty land, he publicized his idea to purchase Lot 40 at an officer’s dinner. Captain John LeBreton was in attendance that evening.

Captain John LeBreton was England-born but raised in Newfoundland and at the time was residing in the Nepean Township of Britannia, Ottawa. Living so close to Lot 40, LeBreton decided to pursue the lucrative plot of land without Dalhousie knowing. In 1820, he discovered Lot 40 was being sold in Brockville at a sheriff’s sale. Needing more capital to invest, LeBreton teamed up with a Brockville lawyer named Livius Sherwood. They purchased the land for £499 (approx. $835 CAN) from the newly-released but severely in-debt Robert Randall. Lot 40 was understandably renamed LeBreton Flats and Sherwood Heights.

The cheeky LeBreton then went to Dalhousie and the government and offered to sell his eponymous piece of land for £3000 (approx. $5,024 CAN). Absolutely infuriated, Dalhousie rejected his offer after realizing the man had scammed him. An intense feud began and Dalhousie assured LeBreton that the government would never purchase the Flats; Dalhousie took this grudge to his grave.

As a result, the canal was hastily moved to Entrance Bay, the current location where the Rideau Canal joins the Ottawa River. The overall cost of construction was significantly higher as extra locks and a longer route for the canal was necessary. To further redeem himself, Dalhousie also purchased a piece of land called Fraser Parcel which soon became the village of Bytown and Barracks Hill, the future location for Parliament Hill.

LeBreton earned a notorious reputation in the region, however, he is said to be one of the only people to fully recognize the land’s potential and future commercial value. Over the years, LeBreton and Sherwood began dividing their land into smaller portions and selling them to reap huge profits.

The Great Fire of 1900

By the mid-1800’s, LeBreton Flats was a fully functioning and well-established lumber mill community. While there was residential housing for workers and owners alike, a rail line including a station and yards were built to fuel industrial development. Hotels, taverns and other community-oriented stores were also open for business to the local population of LeBreton Flats, Chaudière Falls and Victoria Islands. Sawmills were established at the falls and the land encompassing Chaudière became lumber yards with a plethora of wood piled up to dry out.

On April 26, 1900, there was a defective chimney that caught fire across the Ottawa River in the heart of Hull, Quebec. Although fires were common and manageable, an intense wind began causing incurable problems. Soon half of Hull was burning and the south-travelling fire was rapidly heading toward Ottawa. Once it reached the E.B. Eddy Pulp and Paper Plant there was no point of return. Flames spread across the Chaudière Falls to the numerous lumber yards set on both sides of the Ottawa River. Stacks of lumber transformed into one huge bonfire.

The wind died down by midnight, but 14 hours of fire had done irreversible damage. Two-thirds of Hull was burnt to the ground and 440 acres sprawling from the Chaudière Falls to Carling Avenue on the Ottawa side was destroyed. Although only seven civilians were killed, 15,000 were left homeless as 3,000 buildings from Hull to Ottawa became piles of rubble, splintered wood and melted steel. The regions suffered an estimated $10 million in damage.

LeBreton Flats was once an endearing community to build a home and set up shop in. After the devastating fire of 1900, the region was rebuilt but locals were scared of repeating events. The Flats became a purely industrial area and the only residents living there were workers with nowhere else to reside.

The Tear Down and Current LeBreton Flats Redevelopment

LeBreton Flats became an industrial desert of train yards and lumber production for decades. Fast forward to 1962, the Diefenbaker government was working on gentrifying the area, which didn’t fit into the prestige of Canada’s capital. Officials planned to spruce up the area with a new defence headquarters and offices for the Government of Canada.

On April 19, 1962, all residents of LeBreton Flats and the direct surrounding area received notice of expropriation to beautify Ottawa’s central area. Roughly 2,800 residents in the 150-200 acres were forced to vacate their homes and make way for demolition. By 1965 the last of the houses and small businesses were gone, with the teardown costing a total of $15 million.

However, there were many conflicting viewpoints on the use of the land and soil contamination from the stakeholders of the redevelopment. Intense disputes between the National Capital Commission and the municipal government lead to figuratively demolished plans. For over four decades, LeBreton Flats lay vacant. It was primarily used as a snow dump during Ottawa’s brutal winters, while runoffs from the excess snow caused further contamination to the land.

Fast forward again to the 2000’s. The Canadian War Museum opened on a northern section of the LeBreton Flats redevelopment in 2005, the first actual initiative of the LeBreton Flats redevelopment that the city had seen in years. It is currently home to a multi-residential development, Mill Street Brew Pub and a connection of pathways for buses, bikes and cars. Ottawa’s popular 12 day Bluesfest festival grounds are also located at the LeBreton Flats redevelopment site. Furthermore, Canada’s National Holocaust Monument and the city’s first Light Rail Transit System will be situated there as well.

So, with all this in mind, 2016 will be one for the books with the LeBreton Flats redevelopment! The NCC accepted applications for the LeBreton Flats redevelopment in the area in December 2015 and the RendezVous LeBreton proposal won the hearts of officials. The three-phase development will take years, even decades, to complete but for the first time in centuries, the LeBreton Flats redevelopment has concrete plans to finally live up to its original potential.

Historical facts and dates extracted from Leveller.ca’s Article The Ugly History of LeBreton Flats Article and NCCWatch.org’s The Blunder: LeBreton Flats article.

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B.C. Has Imposed a 15% Foreign Buyer's Tax on Housing in Metro Vancouver

On Monday, July 25 the B.C. legislature convened to discuss alterations to Vancouver’s charter that will allow them to impose a tax on empty houses. Although the parameters of the vacant home tax are still up for discussion, the province announced one significant change in policy: a 15% foreign buyer’s tax in the Metro Vancouver region.

Started on August 2, non-Canadian purchasers and foreign-controlled firms will now see an extra 15% property transfer tax applied on all residential real estate investments in Vancouver. The purpose of this tax is to lower foreign demand and increase local supply, a looming issue that Metro Vancouver has been suffering from in the past year or so.

Vancouver’s housing bubble has been pumped with overseas investors, while the local population continually struggles to find affordable housing. Premier Christy Clark expressed her concerns of the issue on Monday, stating “we are taking measures to ensure that homeownership remains in reach of the middle class and that we continue to put British Columbians first.”

Data accumulated by the provincial government shows that there has already been over $1 billion in BC property investment by foreigners from June 10 to July 14 alone, of which 86% were in the surrounding Vancouver region. So, in a city where an average single-detached home sells for a whopping $1.56 million, a foreign buyer’s tax might actually deter offshore investment. For example, a $2 million property now has an additional tax of $300,000. Furthermore, fines for offences include the amount of unpaid tax and interest plus an additional $100,000 on individuals and $200,000 for corporations. This tax could result in a high penalty that not all investors are willing to fork out.

Although revenue is not the incentive for imposing the new foreign buyer’s tax, it definitely generates a good amount of money for the provincial government. The proceeds are said to go towards further restoring housing supply and affordability. Economists believe other provinces should lead by example and impose a similar tax to protect their housing markets. Ontario would be particularly wise to do since they are experiencing similar issues with Toronto’s real estate market. Furthermore, revenue could easily be put toward offsetting the eastern province’s budgetary deficit.

On the contrary, British Columbia is in no need of the financial incentive and locals have voiced their concern 0ver the negative impact this tax could have on the provincial economy. Foreigners who have lived in Vancouver for years now fear that they will also be taxed despite being a fully assimilated “local” in British Columbian society. Furthermore, an estimated 2,300 pre-sale properties in the Metro Vancouver region are connected to foreign buyers who scrambled to close the deals before the implementation date of the tax on August 2.

Of course, the foreign buyer’s tax is in its infant stages. There are still countless kinks to iron out since it’s announcement. For one, the government’s legislation will accommodate for flexibility in the 15% tax, increasing or decreasing it by 5% as it sees fit in the future. Still, there is certainly no way to predict how Vancouver’s housing market will react to the extra toll in the short and long run. Nevertheless, the municipal and provincial government has begun to address the housing bubble, hopefully taking a step or two closer to increasing supply and deflating outrageously high prices.

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