Thursday, July 18, 2024

Former downtown Ottawa Chapters to be live music venue

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The new mid-size venue is expected to open in late 2025, after renovations.

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A live-music venue to be developed by Live Nation Canada in the heart of downtown Ottawa has music fans cheering, although independent promoters are wondering if they will be able to book shows in the new space. 

“More live music is always good,” said Geoff Cass, owner of the cozy Red Bird room on Bank Street, who’s also planning some bigger outdoor shows this summer. “But I don’t know if I’d be welcome to put on a show there or not.”

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A Toronto-based Live Nation spokesperson, Tonisha Bath, said the company was not providing further details on the venue, or its booking policy, at this time, but local observers expect the new spot will fill a long-identified gap in Ottawa’s music scene, with a capacity greater than Bronson Centre’s 800-1,000 and less than TD Place’s 5,000-7,000.

It’s also likely to be a concert hall, not a soft-seat theatre like the National Arts Centre’s Southam Hall, which has nearly 2,000 seats. It will be the first Live Nation-owned venue in Ottawa. The mid-size venue is expected to open in late 2025, after renovations. 

“It’s a big deal,” said Susan Odle, president of the board of directors of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition. “My gut feeling is it’s going to be a casual spot north of what Bronson Centre can accommodate.”

While it may not be available to independent promoters, Live Nation is in the best position to book major acts on a regular basis, she noted, generating a level of economic activity that will help revitalize Ottawa’s downtown core.

Chapters Rideau Sussex
A side view of the former Chapters bookstore in downtown Ottawa. Photo by Julie Oliver /Postmedia

The new venue will occupy the commercial space at Rideau Street and Confederation Boulevard that formerly housed a Chapters bookstore. Empty since 2022, it’s located next to the Rideau Centre and the ByWard Market, and is easily accessible by public transit. 

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Live Nation Canada reached a deal to lease the space from the National Capital Commission, which purchased the property earlier this year for more than $20 million, as reported by CTV. 

NCC specifications peg the size at 3,805 square metres of space above ground, with an additional 2,230 square metres of basement space.

“A venue of that nature is going to generate more foot traffic in the area, and jobs, both in the venue and nearby businesses,” Odle said. “The more people view things positively downtown, the less crime there’s going to be.”

The ByWard Market area has been plagued by safety concerns and crime in recent years, especially since the departure of the daytime workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, when businesses were closed and employees were sent home to work.

Odle says Ottawa still needs to work on the social challenges posed by poverty, homelessness and the opioid epidemic, but to have a high-traffic new business in the area is a good start. 

“It’s all helpful to the local economy and will help bring the Market back to where it was 20 years ago, when it was fun and safe with tons of stuff going on,” she said. 

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In a statement, NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum underscored the notion that the venue would help revitalize the downtown core. 

“This new state-of-the-art live music and entertainment venue in the heart of downtown will be a great destination for residents and visitors, contribute to increased economic activity for local restaurants and shops, and generate vibrancy and excitement for the National Capital Region as a whole,” Nussbaum said.  

The statement also quoted Wayne Zronik, Live Nation Canada’s Toronto-based president of business operations, who described Ottawa as “one of the country’s most important markets for live music.” He predicted a vibrant future for the new space, which has yet to be named.

“This new establishment will undoubtedly become a cornerstone of the local entertainment scene and a beloved destination for years to come,” Zronik said.

The Chapters/Indigo bookstore occupied the space for 26 years until 2022, when it moved to a smaller space inside the Rideau Centre.

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