Local Infrastructure Booms
Many local infrastructure projects in recent years have served notice that the National Capital Region has become an urban force to be reckoned with.
“I think Ottawa is going through a really interesting period. It’s growing up, and particularly with the LRT and other projects like the Canadian War Museum and the Bruyere Hospital Village project, we are seeing the face of our city change right before our eyes. As these projects are developed, that’s also going to lead to other development opportunities. It’s really exciting to be part of that process at this time,” says Jessica Sheridan, a senior associate with Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG).
Sheridan is part of the legal team responsible for acquiring all of the property interests for the City of Ottawa for Stage Two of the LRT project.
BLG has worked on several key infrastructure and development projects in recent years. In addition to the LRT, they include the Lansdowne Park redevelopment, Arts Court Theatre, Richcraft Sensplex (Ottawa East), Bruyere Hospital Village project, Montfort Hospital Orleans Health Hub, and Canadian War Museum, among others.
“I’ve been involved in a number of local projects that I think are transformative,” says BLG partner Kasim Salim. “This includes the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park into its current mixed use development—mixing retail, residential, commercial, public space, and the sporting element.
“The scale and nature of these large infrastructure projects means that they don’t often come around, and so to be involved in them is certainly exciting,” Salim adds.
There are various legal complexities that both public and private companies participating in major development projects need assistance with, not just during the construction phase, but also on a long-term basis with the maintenance and operations required following construction.
“These projects are becoming increasingly complex, and there are also increasing public expectations for visibility,” Salim adds.
For example, the public sector has become more involved in public-private partnerships (P3s) designed to develop infrastructure and other major projects in recent years.
Oftentimes P3s involve new concepts that require expertise in a variety of disciplines, including financing, construction and procurement. “We have lawyer expertise in all of these fields, so we’re able to bring to the table a team that has experience,” stresses BLG partner Yves Ménard.
Another aspect of working on major infrastructure and development projects that Salim enjoys is that these efforts are ultimately aimed at social improvements with a goal towards providing or enhancing services to the public.
“I also enjoy the collaborative nature of these projects. From the big picture perspective, there’s an alignment—everyone from the owner, to funders, to constructors, to maintainers. They share a common interest in the success of the project,” he says.
Legal professionals provide a lot to help to make large-scale city projects succeed, notes Sheridan. “We get to know our clients very well. We get to know our clients’ objectives, and we understand the practicalities of the project. Then we help to troubleshoot, problem solve and mitigate risk, amongst other things,” she elaborates.
BLG must also be fast on its feet to assist its clients navigate unforeseen, time-sensitive events that often arise, Sheridan notes.
“It’s really fun being part of those projects, helping them get off the ground, and plan and organize, and ensure that we facilitate them all the way through to completion,” she stresses.
“We stand out because we have a good nucleus of lawyers who specialize in infrastructure work, and we bring our experience throughout the country,” says Ménard.