Ottawa councillors approve $40M loan for soundstage campus

The soundstage and creative hub, which was proposed by the Ottawa Film Office and TriBro in 2018, is expected to begin operations in late 2021.

Ottawa councillors have approved a $40-million loan toward the construction of a soundstage and creative hub in the west end in an agreement with the Ottawa Film Office (OFO) and TriBro Studios.

The facility was first proposed by the OFO and TriBro in 2018 and will generate roughly $40 million in economic activity within its first three years, creating more than 400 full-time jobs. The loan, which was approved unanimously by the Finance and Economic Development Committee, will allow the hub to be constructed by the third or fourth quarter of 2021. The loan must still be approved by city council at a meeting on March 25.

Once completed, the 8.4 hectare hub will house four 20,000-square-foot sound stages, 25,000 square-feet of workshop space and 50,000 square-feet of office space for long-term leases. Algonquin College is among the potential tenants for the new space, which will be located on the former site of the National Capital Commission’s Greenbelt Research Farm, about 10 minutes from the Ottawa International Airport.

Once operations begin, the OFO will sub-lease the facility to TriBro, with the studio responsible for all operating costs and handle the long-term leases and other space rentals.

The Federal Cabinet Treasury Board approved a 66-year lease between the OFO and the National Capital Commission – which approved the facility in November 2018 – at the commercial rate, with the option for a 33-year extension.

Ottawa film commissioner Bruce Harvey told Playback Daily that, as part of the agreement, the OFO will receive a percentage of the facility’s revenue and reduce its funding from the city of Ottawa. Within five years, the OFO will be able to operate without government funding. “It makes it tough when a change in government may change your financing,” says Harvey. “This way we’re not taking taxpayer dollars.”

Without the loan, Harvey says the hub would have been constructed by 2022 or later, making an positive impact on the OFO’s timeframe. “Even one season of a TV series that we would lose because of that is tens of millions of dollars in economic activity and hundreds of jobs,” he says.

“Our plans to build stages in Ottawa weren’t determined by the approval but it does offer us a competitive financing option when compared to our traditional business model,” said TriBro president Peter Apostolopolous. “We look at this as a win-win-win for everyone.”

The studio is currently working on the final design for the hub, with site plan approval slated for March and April.

TriBro has previously broken ground on a studio in Pickering, which is expected to open by the end of 2020.

Total production spend in Ontario hit a record-breaking $2.16 billion in 2019, a 14.5% increase from 2019. A number of studio spaces have been announced in Ontario in the face of increasing demand, including new Whites studio in Mississauga and an additional 100,000 square-feet of space in Hamilton. However, a study commissioned by the City of Toronto’s Economic Development and Culture Division has suggested that despite development in the GTA, the supply will not be able to meet demand.

Updated with a statement from TriBro Studios president Peter Apostolopolous

Pictured: a rendering of the front of the soundstage and creative hub