A Gatineau real estate company that previously submitted a bid to redevelop LeBreton Flats has unveiled plans to invest up to $1 billion over the next decade in a new hotel and thousands of residential units on the site from Cornwall’s main convention centre.
Devcore said last week it had finalized an agreement to buy the Nav Centre, a 630,000 square foot conference, hotel and training center overlooking the St. Lawrence River in Cornwall, from Nav Canada. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Nav Canada will remain the main tenant of the complex – which has been renamed Dev Hotel and Conference Center – under a sale-leaseback agreement with Devcore. Earlier this year, Nav Canada – a private, not-for-profit company that oversees Canada’s air traffic control system – said it was selling the 43-year-old facility after taking a closer look at its investments to “assess their viability and earning potential.
Devcore President Jean-Pierre Poulin told OBJ he sees huge untapped potential at the 75-acre Nav Center site, which drew around 35,000 visitors a year before the pandemic.
“All the cool stuff we wanted to do…on LeBreton, we’re going to do it here in Cornwall.”
Poulin – whose company was part of a multi-partner bid in 2015 to redevelop a 55-acre parcel of land at LeBreton Flats – said his long-term plan for the property includes up to 2,000 residential units, a new hotel with 150 rooms and a botanical garden.
“All the cool stuff we wanted to do…on LeBreton, we’re going to do it here in Cornwall,” he said.
Other tenants include the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Control Operations. While the complex was once Nav Canada’s main training facility, the agency decentralized its operations about 15 years ago and began to focus more on transforming the building into a meeting and convention center.
The facility currently includes a 535-room hotel and approximately 70,000 square feet of meeting space, making it one of the largest convention centers in the province with on-site accommodations. According to its website, the property also offers amenities such as a gym, sauna, and double gymnasium as well as outdoor tennis, volleyball, baseball, and soccer facilities.
In addition to expanding overall operations, Devcore plans to revamp existing facilities. Poulin said the company hopes to convert some hotel suites into student apartments and forge partnerships with post-secondary institutions such as St. Lawrence College and La Cité in Ottawa that would see the colleges offer courses at the Development Center.
The Devcore boss said he hoped to make the site “the smartest and most sustainable village in the world”.
Green energy technology
To that end, the company plans to implement a new green energy technology to heat and cool buildings without burning fossil fuels, similar to that used in the waterfront community of Zibi in Ottawa.
For example, chilled water from the St. Lawrence would be piped to cool the hotel, residential units, and convention center in the summer. In the winter, methanol from the city’s sewage treatment plant would be used to heat buildings, potentially generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual energy savings, Poulin said.
Meanwhile, Devcore plans to install a platform from proptech start-up 1Valet that would allow hotel guests and housing estate residents to access smart home features like reserving amenities like fitness facilities on their smartphones or food delivery from the convention center kitchen via drones.
The facility is also under new management. Atlific Hotels, which currently oversees operations for 40 accommodations across the country, will now assume the same role at the Development Center, replacing Nav Canada and French hotel company Sodexo as property manager.
Meanwhile, Kim Coe-Turner, who was previously the complex’s general manager, has joined Devcore as vice president of business development and government relations.
Coe-Turner said the new management team is working closely with Cornwall Tourism to attract more meetings, conventions and events such as weddings to the site. She said she hoped to regain some of the momentum that stalled when the pandemic halted virtually all recreation and convention activities.
“It was in a very exciting place before COVID, and we were starting to get our name out on the map in Eastern Canada and across Canada,” Coe-Turner explained, adding that she sees opportunities. “significant” to increase the volume of visitors. to the property.
Poulin, who met with Cornwall officials to present the plan on Friday, said he expects the whole project to take up to 10 years. Devcore hopes to launch the first phase of the development – which would include the hotel, student accommodation and other elements like a beach on the St. Lawrence – by the end of next year pending the city hall approval.