Twenty Questions With David Kardish

Regional Group VP David Kardish is a man with a mission: transform the Oblates property, one of the most coveted infill development sites in Canada.  Photo by Peter Croal


David Kardish comes across as humble and unassuming. This is in stark contrast to the job he has before him, which is grand and hyper-dramatic.

Kardish, 64, vice-president of Land for The Regional Group of Companies, is in charge of developing the area surrounding Saint Paul University – from Oblates Avenue to Clegg  Street, from the Rideau River to Main Street, into one of the city’s most awaited developments: an eclectic mix of single-family dwellings, townhouses, condominiums and shops.

The Mainstreeter asked Kardish to describe the  yet-to-be-named project. (Regional  ran a naming contest this summer but did not choose a winner.) One sunny Friday morning in July, we walked with Kardish up and down the driveway leading from Main to the Deschatelets Building, a road Kardish referred to as the Grande Allée. Above the din of lawnmowers and grounds crews, he described how he saw the transformation of the heart of Old Ottawa East.

When did you want to buy this property? 

Let me put it this way: I have grown up in Sandy Hill, I have lived in Old Ottawa South all my life, I’ve been going by this property all my life. My parents used to take me to Brighton Beach, so we went by it. As a developer I realized this is a beautiful property and at some point in time, when the time was right, if I had an opportunity I would love to go after it. That opportunity came available, formally, October of last year. It’s been talked about for years and people were chasing the fathers with unsolicited offers. I don’t like wasting my time doing those things. When the property formally became available, I went after it.

How many units will the development encompass (single-family dwellings, condos and townhouses) in total when it’s done?

Approximately 1000 units, including about 150 units in the Deschatelets building.

When will construction actually begin?

We hope to start construction, servicing sites, in the fall of 2015, probably with our first houses being occupied by summer of 2016. The development will start from Clegg and move (northward) because the fathers are staying in residence for two and maybe three years. They are looking for alternative accomodations and part of the deal was to allow them to stay until they found that alternative accomodation.

So, what will start near Clegg Street?

Probably singles (single-family dwellings) and some townhouses and maybe one of the four or five towers we have on the site. And by towers I mean six to nine storeys.

How many of those do you want to build?

Well, on the plan that we have now before the community association, I think there is something in the range of 34 singles, about 150 townhouses and then we have a product called a Foxwood, which is a stick-built condominium, three storeys, we have 60 of those. But then we have concrete condo towers as well.

So, on Clegg, how many single-family dwellings?

On Clegg, probably in the range of let’s say 10 to 15 units.

And the townhouses would be further north?

The townhouses will actually be up, up on the plateau. So, what you have is a situation on Clegg where you have single-family homes. Down by the waterfront you’ll have single-family homes.

Big ones?

That’s what we’re just studying now. We’re studying the market. We’re looking at product and we’re trying to design the right product. Because the price of the land was very expensive. And we have to make sure what we’re providing is affordable.

So, you’ll build the singles and the townhouses and then work your way north on the property?

That’s correct. That’s the plan.

Ending when?

It all depends how buoyant the condo market is. Right now, the condo market in Ottawa is somewhat flat after two or three years of extensive growth. But we’re looking at this as being about a 10-year project before everything’s built. Which includes the restoration of the Deschatelets building.

Into what?

That we don’t know yet. We’re currently exploring it. We have several options. One, at the top of the list, is a seniors’ residence.

And the condos will be in one tower?

No, no. The condos will be spread out over several towers.

And where will those towers be?

The largest ones, the tallest ones, will be right behind Saint Paul University, so they’re pretty much blocked from view from Main Street. You have to get way into the development to see them. There will be another three six-storey condo buildings here, along the grande allee, which stretches from Main to the festival plaza. Underneath those six storeys will be space for hopefully about 40-50,000 square feet of commercial space. That’s another priority of the community association. We’re trying very hard to get a grocery store in here.

So, on the main floor of those buildings …

On the main floor of those buildings will be a grocery store, it will be animated with other retail space. I’ve had calls from coffee shops, restaurants. They really like the idea of the animation because there really isn’t much commercial use on Main Street.

And this grande allee will be pedestrian-only?

It will be primarily pedestrian. Pedestrians and bicycles will have priority. It will be somewhat like the mall. It will be open in the evenings for vehicles to service the commercial uses, but by and large the idea is to animate the space for the public. So, the whole space in front of the Deschatelets building on the grande allee will be a public space opening up into a festival plaza, which we’re negotiating with the city to take as a park space. And hopefully (in the) long term, that will be the location of the farmers’ market and any other community activities, right in front of the Deschatelets building.

How soon do you think the condos and the commercial space will come in?

That’s a good question. I would think that we would launch the first condo building at the same time we launch the Clegg Street stuff because it’s attached to that corner, the first building. So, we would launch that one at the same time, which would hopefully be, we would like to be going to market summer of next year, have our sales office up, start our marketing. But we have a lot of work ahead.

How much will Main Street reconstruction help or hinder your work?

That’s a good question. I don’t know. I mean, it’s obviously going to be difficult to get here during the two-year period. However, one year of that we will be doing the planning process. The impact will be the second year when we’re out trying to sell the units. Hopefully by the time we’re turning the first units over, the construction will be over.

Where would the parking be for the grocery store?

Underneath. Underground parking. The three (condo buildings) will have underground parking. So you’ll have underground parking, one and maybe, if you have excess demand, maybe a little bit of second-floor commercial and then you’ll have five storeys of residential. So, envision this as very animated: with people sitting out and having coffee and despite the fact they’re off Main Street, you come in here and see how idyllic it is.

What is the crown jewel of this development?

The location.This, in my mind, is the best infill site in Ottawa and it might be one of the best infill sites in Canada. It’s part of the community. The community’s here. You’re having the opportunity to introduce uses that the community wants. That’s our challenge and that’s the thing that drives me: to make sure all the bits and pieces fall together properly.

Did the naming contest yield a winner?

The contest yielded some interesting names but we are leaving that decision up to our new marketing company, which we are just bringing on stream now. We hope to have a name and a logo for the site in early fall.

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