Board Chair Jim Durrell said the dynamic new plan would triple the floor space of the current facility but maintain the same footprint in its location between the Westin Hotel and a Department of National Defense building on Colonel By Drive. It will also change the urban landscape of this area by increasing foliage and green space, improving pedestrian flow, and providing a park-like setting in front of the new facility, along the Rideau Canal and at the foot of Daly Avenue.
The plan was commissioned by the Board and completed by GBA, an Ottawa-based development firm led by Graham Bird. The plan included a feasibility study, which outlined a number of major obstacles facing the possibility of expansion on the current site but also a business plan that produced recommendations to overcome these obstacles.
“The Ottawa Convention Centre will be the finest convention facility in Canada, offering a world class meeting experience for its clients and stakeholders,” said Mr. Durrell. “With a minimum of 200,000 square feet including 100, 000 of continuous column-free space, we will be able to target large events from around the world that yield the highest economic benefits to the region.”
The total capital cost for the new facility will be $159 million including project management, design, engineering, legal, financial and construction services. The cost also covers the provision of state-of-the-art furniture, fixtures and convention facility equipment.
Contributions of $50 million each are being sought from the federal and provincial governments, and a request to the City of Ottawa for $40 million, means that approximately $35 million will be debt financed but paid off through increased revenue generated through higher yield convention and trade show activity.
The procurement process will begin shortly by the Ottawa Convention Centre Project Team who along with the Board are committed to a development and construction process that ensures the new facility is completed on time and within budget.
Construction is expected to take 25 months following a six-month long demolition of the existing building, beginning on August 31, 2008. Doors of the facility will open on April 1, 2011. During this time period, from demolition to construction, the operations of the Ottawa Convention Centre will shut down.
“The Ottawa Convention Centre will initiate an outplacement program for staff to move to other areas in the hospitality and tourism sector during the redevelopment phase,” said Patrick Kelly, President of the Ottawa Convention Centre. “Hiring for resumed operations will commence in January 2011 to allow for a ramp up and training period for new and returning employees. Our marketing staff will focus on securing a full program of events and conventions so we are at full operating capacity when we open on April 1, 2011.”
The key design features of the new convention facility will create an elegant and resourceful congress centre, realign Colonel By Drive as an urban renewal solution, and revitalize the urban environment for pedestrians, cyclists and tourists. The facility will improve the linkages to the Government Conference Centre and the National Arts Centre. The main convention floor will line up with the roof top park above the Rideau Centre allowing for breathtaking views of the Chateau Laurier and Parliament Hill.
The new facility will be a leading example of environmental innovation and sustainability by ensuring it is certified to meet the standards set out in the ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’ (LEED) process. This means that site planning, safe water and water efficiency, energy efficiency and renewable energy, conservation of materials and resources, and the indoor environmental quality will be managed and measured as a ‘green’ component of the redevelopment program.
“One of the key strengths of the new plan is our ability to set aside a portion of our revenue to keep the building refurbished through its life cycle,” Mr. Durrell added. “Historically the Ottawa Convention Centre has not generated sufficient cash flow from operations to fund these costs, and the result today is a facility that is losing bookings due to its inadequate size and state of disrepair.”
The new concept for the Ottawa Convention Centre will allow for an unprecedented 113,010 out-of-town guests to the region annually who will rent 500,000 hotel room nights, and generate $82.4 million in revenues, as well as 2000 full time jobs in the local hotel industry. This increase in visitors will also generate $14.2 million in sales and 118 full time jobs in the local retail industry as well as $11.3 million in revenues and 141 fulltime jobs in local restaurants and bars.
The construction and labour project will provide one-time federal and provincial income taxes totaling $51 million, and ongoing tax contributions annually of $28 million. The transportation sector will also experience a significant boost in revenues through increased airport activity, taxi, car and shuttle rentals, and gasoline sales, estimated annually at $6.1 million.
“We had to turn away 2,564 events over the last five years because we simply were not big enough,” said Mr. Kelly. “This represented a loss of event revenues of $22 million. With the new centre, and expanded facilities, we conservatively expect to be able to host an additional 1,282 events could have hosted 1,282 of these events. The strength of the new plan is that we can hold events, conventions and trade shows concurrently because of the expanded size of the facility”.
The Ottawa Convention Centre and its landlord, Viking Rideau Corporation have agreed to an 80-year long term land lease. The new lease arrangement will provide for greater autonomy and decision-making by the Board in terms of facility refurbishment, complementary business activity on site, and strategic development.