New Lease on Life for Confederation Heights

By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, February 2022)

Canada Lands Company (Canada Lands) has recently kicked off the first phase of the master plan process for Confederation Heights through a collaboration with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). While slightly out of our immediate area, the sheer size of the study area may be of interest to Glebe Report readers. Confederation Heights consists of 465 acres of land that is bounded by the Rideau River to the north and west, Data Centre Road and Sawmill Creek (just touching the west side of Bank St.) to the east, and Brookfield Road to the south. It includes some well-known and historic buildings such as the Canada Post headquarters, the v-shaped, iconic former CBC Headquarters at 1500 Bronson, and the RA Centre.

The project’s online engagement site was launched in November and will remain open for the duration of the project for those interested to participate or stay informed (https://engage.clc-sic.ca/realize-the-potential). The planning is complex – the majority of land is currently owned by PSPC, but the site includes lands owned by other federal agencies such as Health Canada and Canada Post, as well as the National Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa.

This site is larger than what we’ve seen from Canada Lands in Ottawa in projects such as the Booth Street Complex and 299 Carling Avenue. The master plan will outline future land uses, built form, heritage and commemoration elements, servicing, as well as infrastructure. It will also establish a framework for space in the public realm, as well as amenities. Canada Lands will be responsible for the development of land that it will own (those that will be declared surplus to the government’s needs), and PSPC will be responsible for the federal employment portion. Office space on the site is generally expected to remain as such, though some buildings may be renovated, and some may be torn down, such as those that have outlived their usefulness or no longer meet present day safety standards.

Fortunately, the adjacent NCC parks, Vincent Massey and Hogsback, will remain as park space, although the master plan will look to improve connections through and between the parks to better connect them to the community. The RA Centre, whose life started as a federal office building, is also expected to remain a recreational complex.

On the issue of connections, the site is currently very much vehicle-based, with large, through-way roads and little in the way of public transit. While the transitway runs along the eastern edge of the area with stations at Billings Bridge and Heron, future transit stations are planned for the site. This includes a Light Rail Transit station near Heron Rd. and Bronson Ave., as the O-Train line currently runs through the site. There are plans to implement a Bus Rapid Transit route along Heron Road, as well to improve pedestrian and cycling connectivity throughout the site and to surrounding areas.

Canada Lands intends to consult widely to develop the master plan, which will guide the development of the campus into what it describes as a “sustainable, transit-oriented, urban mixed-use community that will also serve as a federal employment hub over the next 25 years.”

The concept for the site seems to be aligned with the City’s vision for it. In the new Official Plan, this area is designated as a “hub” and is within an “evolving overlay”, signalling the city’s desire to change the character of the area to feature denser and more mixed-use development.

As this is such a large and complicated project, it’s expected to take 25 years to complete the build-out. However, planning is progressing at full steam with a number of public engagements events planned for this year. These will help inform the concept plans to be developed, leading to a final master plan in 2023. The goal is to obtain all the necessary approvals, land transfers and regulatory approvals in time for shovels to hit the ground in 2026.

Photos: The planned Confederation Heights redevelopment by Canada Lands will cover some 365 acres. Photos by Canada Lands