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Military OKs plan to sell base for $27M

Canada Lands wants to turn Rockcliffe site into 'urban village'

David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, 26 Sept 05

 

The Defence Department has accepted a plan to sell its former base at Rockcliffe for $27 million, but the federal government has yet to give final approval for the project.

 

Defence officials decided in August 2004 to accept a proposal from Canada Lands Company that would see that agency, responsible for disposing of surplus government property, pay $27.2 million for the Rockcliffe site. Canada Lands Company wants to develop the location into a "mixed-use urban village," according to documents obtained by the Citizen.

 

When the deal closes, the department would receive an immediate payment of $5 million that it would then reinvest in upgrading military housing across the country.

 

Defence spokesman Doug Drever said the government has not yet decided on the future of Rockcliffe. That decision was supposed to be made sometime in the summer.

 

Asked about the $27-million purchase price, Mr. Drever responded: "Certainly Canada Lands through their business planning process has options in mind. Those options are of course contingent upon the government's decision with respect to the project as a whole and that's yet to be decided."

 

There is still the possibility the federal government could reject the proposal.

 

Canada Lands presented the Defence Department with two options for the base, according to the Aug. 17, 2004 briefing report. One was to acquire Rockcliffe's 126 hectares for close to $22 million with a provision to lease back existing military housing and related facilities to the department. The second was the offer of $27 million for the entire site, including the military housing and buildings. Under that deal, the military presence would be phased out over a five-year period.

 

The $27-million offer is the upper end of what the land is thought to be worth. "In accordance with the strategic disposal policy, DND obtained an independent third-party appraisal, overseen by Public Works and Government Services Canada, which established an estimated value range for the entire site of between $23,380,000 and $27,580,000," the report noted.

 

"By redeveloping the site as a mixed-use urban village, CLC expects it can create enhanced value in the range of $11.2 million to $12.4 million," it added.

 

Rockcliffe has been surplus to the department's needs for more than a decade, with the exception of some military housing. One hundred and twenty-eight houses are still being used by the military , said Mr. Drever. Twenty housing units have been provided to the City of Ottawa to be used for disadvantaged families.

 

In 2002, the National Capital Commission indicated its interest in acquiring 10.2 hectares at Rockcliffe as a site for a future national cultural institution, possibly a museum. Under the Canada Lands proposal, that land would still be set aside for the NCC.

 

Canada Lands has big plans for Rockcliffe and predicts it will be one of the largest land-development deals in Ottawa's history. A business plan developed by Canada Lands in 2003 notes that all roads, sidewalks, water, sewer and hydro infrastructure on the site will have to be removed as they are too old to continue in use.

 

"The resulting community will be a permanent legacy by the federal government to the City of Ottawa, one with the potential to set a new standard and form for future communities in this city and across the country," according to the plan produced in October 2003.

 

Once ownership of the base is transferred to Canada Lands, the Crown corporation would produce a land-use plan in conjunction with the City of Ottawa and the community.

 

The company also intends to commemorate the base's military legacy, but the business plan did not go into detail on how that would be done.

 

Development of Rockcliffe will be a lengthy process even after the federal government decides how to proceed. Some estimates have put the time needed from start to finish at up to six years.

 

The City of Ottawa's official plan has designated Rockcliffe as a "developing community."

 

Under the developing community designation, there would be a range of choice in housing, commercial and institutional and leisure activities, as well as an emphasis on walking, cycling and transit over the use of automobiles.

 

As far as residential housing goes, 60 per would be either single-detached, semi-detached and duplex dwellings.

 

Forty per cent would be multiple dwellings, the Canada Lands Company business plan adds.


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