Ottawa locals know: The LRT is here! In light of the recent launch of the Confederation Line, key questions remain. Our friends, clients, and collaborators are all curious about the ways in which the LRT will influence property values and other trends in real estate. We sat down with Blue Panda agents Will Beaugé, Krystal Hess, Steve Peippo, and Thomas Desjardins to discuss the ins and outs of the LRT and its future impact on local markets.

Enjoy Part 2 of the roundtable below. For Part 1, please click here

Which of the neighbourhoods located along the Confederation Line will be affected the most – and how?

Will Beaugé: LeBreton Flats will likely be one of those most affected areas. There have been big promises for new developments recently and, more importantly, there is the physical room for growth there. Centretown and Elgin may also benefit from a decrease in local traffic.

Stephen Peippo: I believe neighbourhoods towards the end of the lines will be affected most since they’ll be taking advantage of the full LRT line. Phase 1: Hintonburg/Wellington West, Beacon Hill/ Carson Grove/Pineview. Phase 2: Nepean, Convent Glen/Chatelaine Village, Cardinal Creek, Fallingbrook.

Thomas Desjardins: I think we will see continued densification along the rail lines which will bring more people to the core, but I think the greater impact will be felt near the outer stations where there isn’t a lot of existing development. This includes areas to to be serviced in Phase 2, such as east to Orleans, west to Bayshore and south to Leitrim. These are interesting places to invest in since they are likely to see value escalation with the addition of the train station and mixed-used development in the future.

Are we overstating the impact of the LRT? What questions and challenges remain unanswered?

WB: I don’t believe that the impact of the LRT is being overstated. However, that impact may not be seen or felt immediately. Adapting to such a large initiative takes time and changes won’t be made overnight. In a similar fashion to population growth, it is a slow and steady process, but it happens. One of the remaining challenges is to get everyone on board with the entire initiative, particularly given some of the controversy and accountability issues that have followed the LRT since its conception.

Krystal Hess: I don’t think we are overstating any of this. This system is long overdue. In fact, the city should have had a subway line decades ago. Most major cities have it.

In terms of remaining questions, the city needs to make sure that they have crossed their T’s and dotted their I’s in terms of construction. We need to make sure that these systems are -40C friendly and +40C friendly.

SP: No, we aren’t overstating the impact of the LRT. Ottawa is growing at a rapid rate with many positive catalysts. Reliability will be a challenge throughout the first year, especially getting through the first Ottawa winter with minimal downtime.

TD: I can see why people would say that the LRT’s impact is overblown. Afterall, the LRT occupies roughly the same arteries that were previously occupied by busses, and I know people are concerned about recent media coverage surrounding commute times actually increasing for some riders. That being said, one of the greatest benefits of the LRT is the fact that these lines are being taken underground in the core. This should improve congestion and air quality in the city.

There is still an obvious elephant in the room related to the reliability of the LRT. People are already frustrated by bus delays. Making sure that the system works in the winter is a big one, particularly given the lackluster performance achieved during testing in 2018. I’m cautiously optimistic that the minds behind the train will be able to resolve this in time for the coming winter.

What are you hearing from your clients? Do you see it influencing their decision-making in the short term?

KH: Many of my younger clients (under 35) foresee the new LRT as having a positive impact on their investments – and I do agree.

SP: Pricing around the LRT has already been increasing several years prior to completion. This has already priced many out of the area. Other clients looking at investment properties with the intention of finding tenants are particularly interested in LRT-adjacent locations. Higher resale value upon completion of the LRT has also been a consideration for some clients. It’s a point of conversation whether they’re personally interested in using public transportation or not.

TD: We’re finding that people are increasingly looking for a car-free lifestyle and efficient, reliable public transit is certainly a main factor. It isn’t just millennials who value proximity to transit either. I’m seeing that my downsizer buyers are also looking to be close to transit and the vibrant communities that accompany transit nodes. Since transit hubs come with lots of retail, restaurants, grocery stores and public space, you get a significant boost in quality of life along with access to convenient public transportation.

It isn’t just residential investment that seems to be attracted to improved transit. Employers are also sensitive to market demand in this respect. The transition of high-tech to downtown is a prime example of how companies like Shopify and Open Text are investing in locations that are more accessible in order to attract the most talented minds of tomorrow.