By Anita Grace –
Municipal Works Building #4 in Mechanicsville’s Bayview Yards is a 1940s-era industrial warehouse made of brick and steel. Its interior walls are covered with graffiti. Pigeons roost in the exposed rafters.
But plans are underway to transform this building into a world-class Innovation Centre. The proposed 46,000 square foot space will house offices, training facilities and a digital lab, as well as public meeting and event spaces.
“This is one of the most exciting things to happen in Ottawa,” says Councillor Katherine Hobbs. She was one of many people who toured the building on April 26. “We just thrilled to have it here in Kitchissippi.”
On May 6, the city’s finance and economic development committee approved a $30-million development plan for the site – one that is jointly funded by the Province of Ontario and the City of Ottawa. Contributions from the city are in-kind, such as resources and land. For example, the city is leasing the $8-million property to the project for 99 years at the bargain rate of $1 a year.
“This will be one of the premier destinations for entrepreneurs and innovators in the entire city,” says Mayor Jim Watson.
The Centre is designed to help start-up companies, especially those developing new technologies. Offices will be occupied by private companies and entrepreneurs, and by Invest Ottawa, the city’s arm’s length economic development corporation. The project is run by a non-profit entity whose board members include Mayor Watson.
Some of the interesting features of the proposed building include a living wall, a rooftop garden, a digital lab and a sunken courtyard garden.
“It’s a very, very bright building,” says Janak Alford, Head of Design at Prototype D, the company which is designing the Innovation Centre.
Many heritage elements will be preserved and the whole building will be an open-concept design. Some areas such as the café and gardens will be accessible to the public, while other areas will be reserved for clients and tenants. The building’s location will be close to the axis of the existing O-Train and the future Confederation light rail lines.
“It’s going to be top-notch,” says Alford.
The new development is being heralded by many as a boon to the surrounding community that will breathe new life into this area.
“It opens the doors to future rejuvenation of the community of Mechanicsville,” says MPP Yasir Naqvi.
Jeff Leiper, former president of the Hintonburg Community Association, has some reservations.
“One of the likely impacts of the Innovation Centre will be the perpetuation of the rising property prices we are seeing in this area,” says Leiper. He hopes the city will take steps to ensure that “as Kitchissippi develops, it will continue to be inclusive and diverse.”