A 5.7 acre property in Sandy Hill for sale?

Well, it’s too late to buy it because it was just sold. A brokerage firm, Cushman & Wakefield, had advertised that bids would be accepted on January 10, 2019 for this large property at 2 Robinson Avenue. It has a single building on it that has been referred to as the Iranian Cultural Centre.

I called the Cushman & Wakefield, Capital Markets Group broker to ask who bought the property and how much was paid. Would you believe that he wouldn’t tell me anything? These people from New York!

I should have asked why it was being sold. The answer might have led to the interesting story pointed out to me by Jeremy Silburt, a Sandy Hill developer.

The story starts in 1986 in Beirut, Lebanon. Two Americans, Joseph Cicippio and Edward Tracy were kidnapped and tortured by Hezbollah, the Lebanese paramilitary and political group sponsored by Iran. They were released in 1991. Since that time, both men have sued Iran in a U.S. court and received multi-million dollar judgments. However, they had not been able to collect on these judgments.

These men then took advantage of a 2012 Canadian law called Justice for the Victims of Terrorism and sued Iran, including the Revolutionary Guard, for the kidnapping and torture they experienced. Canadian law allowed this suit because the Iranian accounts and the properties that were identified by the plaintiffs were found not to have diplomatic status. In fact, they were disguised by the Iranian government in holding companies not easily identified with Iran, apparently to avoid sanctions.

In 2014, an Ontario judge ordered the seizure of more than $7 million worth of these Iranian assets. The specific language of the court “resulted in the granting of a Mareva injunction to restrain Iran/MIS from dissipating two properties: 290 Sheppard Avenue West, Toronto and 2 Robinson Avenue, Ottawa.” In this Canadian judgment, Tracy and Cicippio as well as other victims of the Iranian regime were awarded substantial settlements resulting from the Ontario judgment.

So now we know why the property is being sold. We still don’t know to whom but we know something about how it was advertised. It is “…a dynamic 5.7-acre development site strategically located in the University of Ottawa Robinson/Station Precinct, between the University’s main campus and Lees campus. The Property is zoned Transit-Oriented Development, steps from Lees LRT Station, and features +/-900,000 square feet of as-of-right development capacity in the Lees Station/ University of Ottawa node.” The advertising brochure also says, “Transit- Oriented Development Opportunity on the Apron of the University of Ottawa.” I like the apron part.

What is transit-oriented development? The City says, “In anticipation of land development pressure in proximity to the LRT stations, City Council has established priority areas for the creation of transit-oriented development (TOD) plans.” That means high rises near the LRT stations and very little parking within 600 metres of the station. Everyone is expected to walk to the LRT, as if the LRT will go everywhere one needs to go.

As a comparison to #2 Robinson’s development capacity of 900,000 sq. ft., the Rideau Centre advertises 1,500,000 sq. ft. of retail space and the St. Laurent Shopping Centre describes its capacity as 971,000 sq. ft. It’s unclear whether that includes parking.

It is also unclear what plans the buyer of the property has for it. But I’ll keep digging—stay tuned.