The city of Ottawa continues to look toward the water when it comes to future development.
Discussions are ongoing about the city’s effort to extend the downtown to the waterfront, a plan that was put together in 2013 and approved the following year, but the interim time has been spent fine-tuning the project at the former Central School site and the surrounding area, which includes a harbor and amphitheater.
“I’m really excited,” said Mayor Bob Eschbach on Wednesday. “This is a wonderful plan but it takes the private investment as well as the public.”
It may soon pay off as the city has been working with CL Real Estate, the same company involved in the Jackson Street and Woolworth building projects, to bring the first portions of the plan to life.
Eschbach said the project will require the work of both the city and private developers.
“And they both depend on each other,” Eschbach said. “No one will spend millions to build unless there’s this wonderful attraction (referencing the harbor and amphitheater) and that can’t be built without private developments.”
CL Real Estate is particularly interested in parcels of land to the north of Central School site, which are currently listed on the waterfront master plan as being future “mixed-use development.”
A more formal design plan will likely be made public soon as the city also works on what sort of agreement it will make with the third-party developer to get development moving.
Until then, the area has already seen some interest from the Ottawa Y, which is considering a new facility at the former Central School track to the south of the Knights of Columbus, 401 W. Main St.
Ottawa Y Executive Director Joe Capece previously told The Times that being a part of the city’s waterfront development plan was a key incentive of the new location and also fits in with the city’s desire of having a “community facility” west of the green space and harbor.
The project is expected to cost around $6 million in total, which includes digging out the harbor and raising the ground enough to avoid flooding concerns.
Decontamination work is also expected to be done just east of the Central School track.
The track was cleaned in the late 1990s after coal tar was likely deposited after the operations of a coal gasification plant decades ago, but the area to the east where the market street is planned will require cleanup.
Decontamination is expected to begin in the spring and continue into 2020.
Other components of the plan such as the conservatory, play area, northeastern hotel and restaurants remain potential future additions if the project is successful and generates increased interest in the area.
The specifics of the plan remain in flux as the city council determines the final specifications and cost-saving changes.
Eschbach said he looks forward to seeing future momentum on the project.
“It’s an economic development driver. It’s not just a pretty thing and something to enjoy,” Eschbach said. “To have that kind of investment is really important.”
“And it’s all a part of the revitalization of downtown and I think it’s an appreciation people are having for downtowns and to get away from the cookie-cutter,” he added.