Only a year after moving to Little Italy, the City of Ottawa’s arms-length economic development partner is planning to pack its bags and move to a bigger space.
Invest Ottawa, which provides economic development programming and initiatives for local entrepreneurs and is primarily funded by the city, will be part of an “innovation complex” the city plans to build as part of the Bayview Yards Redevelopment Project. The complex will include space for private sector and non-profit use and is due to be completed in 2016.
Invest Ottawa president and CEO Bruce Lazenby says Centretown has been a great home, but it is time to move on.
“We always considered our situation here at 80 Aberdeen (St.) to be an interim solution.”
The organization moved from its west end location to Centretown in December 2011 and opened for business in February 2012. But Lazenby says the organization has expanded too much to stay put.
“After only 10 months of operations we’re full and we’ve got people wanting to move in and we have to say no,” Lazenby says.
The Aberdeen location currently houses 36 companies and 100 entrepreneurs. Lazenby says the new space should help Invest Ottawa host twice as many
Entrepreneurs do not currently pay rent at Invest Ottawa, but they are required to enlist in one of the centre’s programs, which cost $300 per person, per month. Lazenby says it's too early to tell but he hopes to continue offering space in the new building for free, with rent offset by program fees.
Lori Mellor, executive director of the Preston Street BIA, says having Invest Ottawa in Little Italy helped raise the community’s profile. She says she will be sad to see it leave, but understands the motive behind the move.
“It’s good for all Ottawa business if we have a thriving innovation centre,” she says.
Mellor adds that she hopes some of the entrepreneurs in the business accelerator program will choose to stay in the neighbourhood after the move.
Kitchissippi Ward Coun. Katherine Hobbs says the city hopes to finish construction on the Bayview Yards innovation complex by the time Invest Ottawa’s current lease is up in 2016.
The city has already received $15 million from the province toward the innovation complex and will add $15 million itself in in-kind contributions, such as donating 14,150 square metres of the 67,300 square metre lot.
“It’s an economic boost for Ottawa,” Hobbs says. “If you can generate jobs and interest people in an area, perhaps this is where they will set up their business. There’s room there to do it, as well.”
Hobbs says she is thrilled the innovation hub will be developed near Mechanicsville, a more industrial and less densely populated part of Kitchissippi.
“Once you have a critical mass of people where there haven’t been any, you can support the associated services that you need when you have a good, viable mixed-use area,” she explains. “It’s wonderful for Kitchissippi.”
The location is perfect for a business centre because of the light rail transit station to be developed nearby and the Bayview O-Train station, says Hobbs. Lazenby says the transit is a substantial perk because many of his entrepreneurs do not own cars and will appreciate the easy access to Carleton University and the University of Ottawa.