Friday, April 07, 2006

Commercial Building Permits in Ottawa Going Through the Roof

The City of Ottawa issued building permits totaling $1.8 billion last year, a record high for the city in a year of slowed residential construction.

According to the Ottawa Construction Association the numbers represent a transition period for many heavyweight developers, of whom many identified a potential residential downturn and commercial upswing months ago.

The year in construction will be high on the agenda for the OCA's annual general meeting taking place Thursday evening at the Centurion Centre on Colonnade Road. The business portion of the OCA's annual meeting will culminate with the election of Bert Hendricks, executive VP of R.W. Thomlinson Ltd., as the association's chairman for 2006-07.

"The big story of 2005 is the shift in construction activity from the residential sector to the industrial, commercial and institutional sector," said OCA president and GM John DeVries. "As housing is cooling off, the non-residential sector is stepping in to fill the void and that is good news for our industry and our members."

The residential sector, which has driven the city's construction growth rates for years, took a back seat last year thanks to a sharp spike in institutional building construction ranging from schools, to hospitals, to new museums.

"It's the first time in years the commercial buildings has outstripped the residential sector," said Construction Comment magazine editor James Raiswell.

"Having said all that though, one of the biggest factors of growth in the city in 2005 was the Royal Ottawa Hospital. Building permits for that alone came in at around $110 million."

Raiswell says a whopping $970.5 million in commercial projects were sunk into the ground last year, compared to $821.5 million for residential projects.

He concedes the commercial numbers were padded by institutional investments like the ROH, the new war museum, the Ottawa General Hospital, the Civic Hospital, Algonquin College, the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, but maintains that even without institutional investment, the commercial sector still outperformed residential on a noticeable scale.

And with the tech sector heating up – 2005 featured the construction of Ottawa's first private-sector office tower since the downturn, in the Adobe Tower – many developers are banking on a new wave of commercial investment stretching into 2006.


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