Federal offices could become homes

The federal government is considering converting some of its downtown office space into living space, as it shifts to hybrid work and needs less real estate.

Robert Hiltz
13 Apr

Good morning!

I took my skateboard out yesterday after 10 years — maybe even 15 — since the last time I rode it. And, let me tell you, my legs knew it had been at least a decade since I had ridden the thing. Was it as easy a way for me to go for lunch as I remembered? No. Did I seriously injure myself? Also no. I might actually try it again. 

A quick bit of housekeeping: Next Monday there will be no newsletter because of the Easter long weekend. But, fear not, you’ll still get a newsletter this Friday, and we’ll return to regular service next Wednesday.

Finally, we’re really excited to announce our Ottawa Community Heroes, the people who stood up for our community during the convoy occupation. The list includes regular locals, politicians and and local organisations. See all the heroes here.

On with the show.

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Friday: +10 🌡️ +1 | 🌧

Office Living Without The Work

From offices to housing? With hybrid work sticking around after the pandemic, the federal government is looking at converting some of its downtown office real estate into housing, according to CTV. The idea is on the table as the feds begin a review of the public service to find $6 billion in savings in five years.

The government is examining how to manage the transition to permanent hybrid work. “I think that we also have to strengthen our downtown cores and make these offices … available maybe for community living. … We have to make sure that we have a downtown core that is very strong,” Treasury Board President Mona Fortier told CTV.

The effect for Ottawa: Mayor Jim Watson has been pushing the federal government to bring people back to work to help businesses struggling through the pandemic. Watson told CTV converting federal buildings to housing would be just as good as bringing workers back.

It’s not a crazy idea: Ottawa Community Housing said turning the office space into homes could work. Not all of the buildings would be suitable for conversion, but similar plans were used in Calgary to some success, according to CityNews. But a real estate expert told the news outlet it could also require fully gutting and redesigning the buildings.

Meet Ottawa’s Community Heroes

February was a hard month. The city was paralyzed with a protest that didn’t end, and didn’t respect the people of Ottawa. The people of this town lost a lot of faith in our official institutions as trucks took over the downtown, and other parts of the city, and no one seemed willing or able to do anything about it. But while much of official Ottawa sat frozen, people across town stood up to be the heroes we needed.

We asked Lookout readers to nominate who they felt did their part to bring Ottawa together in a time of crisis. Now, we’re happy to present the Community Heroes.

Ottawa By The Numbers

  • $4.8 million: The amount former Ottawa resident Charles Shaker allegedly owes the Canadian Revenue Agency in unpaid back taxes, with interest. [CBC]
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OCDSB Votes For New Mask Mandate

Masking is back: The city's biggest public school board voted late yesterday to bring back mask mandates to Ottawa-Carleton District School Board classrooms. The motion to bring the mandate passed 8-3, with three abstentions, according to CTV's Josh Pringle. It's not clear yet when the mandate will go into effect, or how it will be enforced, so stay tuned in the coming days for details.

Teachers across the country are stretched thin as the sixth wave of the pandemic carries on. One Ottawa teacher told CBC schools are calling in substitute teachers less often, and instead, the classes are covered by other teachers. Those teachers then lose class prep time. It also affects students, who have a rotating cast of teachers.

Other COVID headlines:

PCR testing expanded: More people are now eligible for PCR COVID testing. Who’s eligible: Anyone who is over 18 and immunocompromised, anyone who is 70 and older, anyone with fewer than three doses and older than 60, and anyone 18 and up with fewer than three doses and an underlying health condition. COVID antiviral treatments like Paxlovid for those who do get the disease are also open to the same people as the new PCR rules. Check if you’re eligible for antivirals with this provincial tool. [CTV] 

Moore on vacation: Dr. Kieran Moore was unavailable to brief the public on the sixth wave last week because he was in the Caribbean on vacation. Last week, when asked why Moore wasn’t giving a briefing, Premier Doug Ford said last week Moore “is on the job 24/7” and had just had a meeting with officials. At his return press conference, Moore recommended masking, but not the return of a mandate. [CityNews]

Green Bins For Bin-less Apartments

What’s happening: City staff want to force large apartments to use green bins if they want to continue having the city pick up their residential waste. A new recommendation going to council will start with a study to understand the cost to bring more than 1,000 large apartment buildings in the city into the program, the Ottawa Citizen reports.

  • Only 43 percent of large apartment buildings in the city participate in the green bin program. About 1,200 buildings within the city do not.

Not as easy as it sounds: Most buildings aren’t set up for green-bin collection. Typically, buildings have single garbage chutes and don’t have space on each floor to sort between garbage, compost and recycling. There are also concerns about pest control and the extra cleaning required.

Tradition, Integrity, Quality and Oh-So-Delicious Food At This Ottawa Italian Restaurant

Donuts and pizza

“Leaden pies sodden with under-cooked veg and steamed meats buried under gobs of molten second rate cheese” is how our food editor Ralf describes some Ottawa pizza. But fear not friends — our city is full of delightful Neapolitan pizza options.

Ralf’s latest review goes behind the scenes at one of Ottawa’s top Italian restaurants. Pizza, gelato, fritti, arancini and the best cannoli in the city… trust us when we say you won’t want to miss this one. But unlike our last newsletter, tomorrow’s Insider newsletter is only for members.

Become a member to unlock the best restaurants, date night locations and events in the city. You’ll also get access to our entire archive of restaurant recommendations and reviews.

  • Member will be entered to win a gift card to Le St Laurent, a place our food editor Ralf calls a perfect place for date night

Stories You Might Have Missed

Pembroke hospital closed to visitors: Pembroke Regional Hospital is closed to visitors until further notice due to a COVID outbreak, with four patients testing positive. There are special exceptions to the visitor ban, like being with a dying patient. [CityNews]

Physical abuse at city LTC home: A staff member at the city-run Peter D. Clark long-term care home was reported for resident abuse and removed from their job while the city investigates. Staff at the home are cooperating with a provincial investigation into the incident, the city said. [Ottawa Citizen]

Local lawyer representing Lich: Ottawa power lawyer Lawrence Greenspon is representing convoy leader Tamara Lich. Greenspon won’t say whether he is paid to represent her. He said he’s received plenty of blowback from the community for representing her — despite many controversial clients in the past — but believes strongly that everyone deserves a strong defence. [CBC]

Shopify makes controversial share changes: Ottawa e-commerce giant Shopify is changing its share structure to give founder and CEO Tobi Lütke a “founder share” to make sure he holds onto voting power within the company. It would preserve for Lütke 40 percent of the votes. The founder share would sunset if Lütke left the business. [The Canadian Press]

17 charged with DUI over the weekend: There were 17 impaired driving charges over the weekend, with five of those stemming from collisions. Police called it “disturbing.” This year there is one impaired crash an average of every 1.3 days. DUI charges are returning to pre-pandemic levels. [Ottawa Citizen]

Home Of The Week

A picture of a gymnasium? That’s right, this dream home in Beacon Hill not only has a basketball gymnasium designed by the same company who did the Toronto Raptors’, but a mini home cinema, a massive patio and something called Brazilian Tiger hardwood (it sounds fancy!). Other features include:

  • 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms
  • Beautiful interior staircase
  • 10 parking spaces

At this price, it might be a while before it sells. 

Are you a realtor or developer who wants to reach almost 20,000 connected locals? Reply to this email and find out how to list your place in our newsletter. 

Stories You Might Have Missed

  • There’s nothing quite like a good spring roll to get you through hump day. Our food editor Ralf highly recommends you try Kitchen Maroo for Ottawa’s best shrimp spring rolls
  • Is your clutter making you stressed and overwhelmed? Declutter4Good is Ottawa's top-rated Organizing & Decluttering company. Book a free consultation today.*
  • Good news, royal watchers! Prince Charles and Camilla are coming to town this May as part of a three-day Canadian royal tour. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Do you have Kinder Easter chocolates? Better check the dates on them. A recall because of possible salmonella contamination has been expanded. [CTV]
  • For the fish and chips lovers out there, Narcity has 11 restaurants you should try to get some of that breaded goodness.
  • The indie theatre festival Undercurrents, put on by Ottawa Fringe, is coming back! The 10-day festival will run from April 20-30 at Arts Court. [Apt613]
  • Want to get involved in the community? The Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation is holding elections for its board soon. Become a CCOC member by April 19 to be eligible.
  • The ever-popular 613flea returns this weekend April 16 from 10 am to 4 pm at the Aberdeen Pavillion.
  • Do you know a student who could use a helping hand? Students who have struggled with their mental health are eligible for the Jamie Hubley Memorial Scholarship worth $2,000 for their post-secondary education.
  • Excited for Tulip Festival? Narcity has a map of nine beautiful places to get the tulip Instagram shots you’re looking for.

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Today's Top Photo

Is this your cat? Reddit user milxcute found this orange and white little guy in the Pineview area near the Queensway. Contact them on Reddit if you think it might be yours!

Have photos you’d like to share with Lookout readers? Send them in! We’re always looking to run photos from our community.

Daily COVID Stats

All infection and vaccination data via Ottawa Public Health. You can find the status of the wastewater tracking here. And you can find vaccination stats here.

  • Active Cases: 1,762 (+109)
  • Deaths: 766 (+1)
  • Ottawans In Hospital: 16
  • Ottawans In ICU: 1
  • Acute Beds Occupied: 96% 
  • ICU Beds Occupied: 71% 
  • ICU Ventilator Beds Occupied: 30% 

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Written by managing editor Robert Hiltz and food and wine editor Ralf Joneikies

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