Dan Oakes Solution to Inadequate Commercial Building Supply

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Jan 18

A REALTOR friend of mine, a creative guy by the name of Dan Oakes, had a big insight last year. There is a shortage of commercial condos and buildings in Ottawa—if you want to own
your own place of business–whether it is for office retail or industrial use–it isn’t easy to do it here. So Dan was driving around
one day on one of Ottawa’s main streets, and he noticed how many private residences
there are on major arteries like Carling Avenue, Maitland
 Avenue, St Joseph
Blvd, Churchill, Woodroffe, etc.

He thought: “Hmm, if the City of Ottawa got their act
together, they could rezone all these homes for commercial/residential purposes
and, in one fell swoop, create a huge increase in inventory for would-be
owners.” These potential future buyers are entrepreneurs who would rather own than rent, in part, because they have (most of them) no pension plan other than owning some real property. 

This initiative would have some spectacular results:

1. More business owners could actually own their own
place. They would no longer be subject to rental increases set by landlords,
they would have security of tenure, they would have some diversification of
risk by owning some real estate in addition to their operating business, they
could renovate their premises to their requirements, they could benefit from
property value increases and mortgage principal payments.

2. Residents on these main arteries, many of them elderly, would have more buyers to sell to and at higher prices. I mean who really wants to live on
Maitland with more than 20,000 cars a day buzzing by your living room at more than 60 kph
less than 20 feet away? If people still want to live there, no problem, since these properties would be zoned for both residential and commercial uses.

3. The City of Ottawa, which is suffering its own financial problems, would get a
large increase in their municipal tax assessment base and a huge increase in realty
taxes (commercial rates are around four times the residential rate) while city costs
associated with commercial assessment are much lower (very few city services are extended
to commercial establishments, who must, for example, pay for their own garbage
removal and don’t need schools, playgrounds or libraries built for them).

4. Many of these properties are in need of significant repair—their foundations
are failing, their roofs need replacing, their facades need refacing, their
building envelopes are not weather-proof, their interiors are shabby and so
forth. It probably isn’t worth doing if they are used for residential purposes
but almost certainly would get done if they were used by a dentist, a CA, a law
office, etc.

5. Many of these buildings will be multi-use with second floor apartments or
maybe basement apartments with the ground floor being used for commercial uses.
So some affordable housing may also come out of this initiative.

6. No doubt, where expansion is doable, some requiring minor variances, additions will be built.

7. I think people will also make better use of their subterranean rights as well–excavating below grade to expand their building’s footprint inside setbacks for a myriad of potential uses.

8. REALTORS would make more money too. And that surely is a good thing!

Now this makes a lot of sense, but first it will require planning staff to become less bureaucratic, more creative and, above all, pro-active.

@ profbruce 

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.