New student housing planned for Rideau Street in 2019

John Cockburn

You may have noticed the signage popping up in Sandy Hill about a new student housing project called Théo.

Located in the former Constitution Building, which prior to that was called the Bourque Building, at 305 Rideau, Théo will provide housing services for over 500 students in 326 one- to four-bedroom units. These will be independent one-bedroom units at $1500/month or shared kitchen and common area units for multiple-bedroom suites at $675/occupant. Amenities offered include all utilities, WIFI, monthly cleaning, sports and arts facilities, guest suites for parents and visitors. Prospective tenants can submit personal information such as hobbies, entertainment preferences and fields of study to Théo’s matching software program and the building rental agents will attempt to put together convivial housing arrangements in the multiple-bedroom units.

As Théo lease advisor Cora Wallace-Wade puts it, “Théo is a housing service provider rather than just a landlord.” Security is provided for the building 24/7 and access is by FOBs, the number of which are limited to one per tenant. Limited parking, 40 underground spaces, is contemplated with a further 20 above ground slated for staff and servicing.

Théo is owned by the Katasa Group which is wholly owned by Gatineau developer Sam Chowieri. Katasa has been active in condominium and retirement home developments on the Quebec side for over 30 years and has recently started condo and retirement home projects in Ottawa. Total renovation of the building, purchased in 2017, is underway with Doran Construction as the prime contractor. They have committed to eight of the 11 floors being completed by September and the remaining three soon thereafter.

Interest in the project is building and a kickoff party at the Happy Goat in late November drew 150 people. As university attendance decisions are made in the prospective first year cohort, a prime market segment for Théo, expectations are for 20% to be subscribed by January. Théo staff are well aware they are competing with the recently expanded offerings from the university both on Rideau and the newly opened Annex. Relations with the University have been described as frosty by Théo but they are confident that with their competitive rates and the enhanced amenities they will do well.

So what does it all mean for Sandy Hillers? Increasing housing options for university students away from Sandy Hill’s residential areas can only be viewed as a positive. Five hundred students translates roughly to 16 bunkhouses. Similarly for Rideau St., refurbishing and repurposing an empty and derelict office building for one with a human presence can only be considered a plus. Wish them luck.