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Ottawa developer buys 189 acres in Pembroke, plans new community

Three-phase Urban Edge development by Creative Dev Ventures to prioritize entry-level housing

The plan for Urban Edge, situated on a 189-acre tract of land. (Courtesy Creative Dev Ventures)

Ottawa developer Creative Dev Ventures plans to focus on entry-level housing, innovation and social connections at Urban Edge, a housing community it proposes on 189 acres of newly acquired land at the Township of Laurentian Valley adjacent to Pembroke.

Creative Dev Ventures announced the acquisition and its concept for Urban Edge earlier this month.

The company was founded in 2014 as a transit-oriented and infill developer as these types of projects flourished around the early phases of Ottawa's light-rail transit system.

CEO Carina Guzman said the COVID-19 pandemic gave her time to reflect on the importance of personal connections, which led Creative Dev to switch its focus to subdivisions and community development.

“With COVID, it was almost the perfect amalgamation of events that occurred within Creative Dev Ventures’ experience in infill development, but also my own personal desire to build communities,” Guzman said in an interview with RENX Homes. “It was a natural progression to do that during COVID time, because people were craving more connection.”

As Ottawa’s population grows more rapidly due to immigration and an influx of students, Guzman said more homebuyers are considering the periphery of the National Capital Region. Pembroke is about 90 minutes northeast of Ottawa along the Highway 17/TransCanada Highway corridor.

From infills and transit developments to communities

Guzman, a Carleton University graduate, started her professional life in the mapping and geographic information systems field. As she balanced real estate investing and a management position at NAV Canada, she met Dave Wallace, a military-engineer-turned-manager at the air navigation service firm.

They eventually founded Creative Dev Ventures, a developer behind projects such as Labrie and Montreal Road purpose-built rentals in Ottawa. Wallace is now the chief operating officer of Creative Dev Ventures.

Investing in the Laurentian Valley region is “an obvious decision” based on the company's philosophy and current housing trends, according to Guzman. She listed rising housing costs in Ottawa pushing people to neighbouring areas such as Renfrew County, and the ongoing expansion of Highway 17 toward the nearby Town of Renfrew (it is being widened to four lanes) to bring Pembroke “that much more closer” to Ottawa.

The acquisition of the 189 acres of land was first explored in July 2023 and the transaction closed in October. It was bought from a private owner.

There was an “extensive” diligence process, according to Guzman, followed by a pre-consultation period with the Township of Laurentian Valley. Creative Dev Ventures pitched its ideas and its vision for Urban Edge, and found a receptive audience.

“We’ve been able to create some really good relationships with the community and the mayor and city planners as well,” she explained.

There are numerous benefits to developing in a secondary market, Wallace said. Creative Dev Ventures can acquire larger parcels of land in areas that are “ready and excited to have new development.”

Renfrew County is “very excited” to collaborate with developers on solutions to address housing concerns, he added. There is more flexibility and fewer layers of bureaucracy compared to bigger markets; Wallace finds he can talk directly to planners, mayors and the various municipal councils in Renfrew County.

Plans for Urban Edge

The concept for Urban Edge is a three-phased subdivision based around “live, work, thrive” values with plans for 1,100 to 1,300 housing units.

The plan for Phase 1 is a 27-acre community of entry-level housing off Jean Avenue: townhouses, semi-detached houses, detached houses and purpose-built rental apartments. Guzman anticipates 300 to 400 housing units in Phase 1.

Creative Dev Ventures is partnering with Ottawa-based Small Living Company to explore an economic model of bringing starter homes to Phase 1, including units that can accommodate home-operated businesses, Guzman said. Such a model could also be replicated for future phases or developments.

Urban Edge is also interested in serving as a laboratory of sorts for housing innovation. Wallace said the company is exploring built forms that can bring down per-unit prices for the homes, such as modular housing and 3D printing.

Creative Dev Ventures is also working with local governments to explore incentives including grants and other government programs.

There is also interest for commercial and retail spaces at Urban Edge, according to Guzman, including in Phase 1.

To facilitate connection among its residents, Guzman wants to see community gardens planted and community hubs built. Well-being will be supported with trails that connect to lakes, a neighbouring wetland and parks, Wallace said.

Future phases, and other projects

While it is too early to discuss many specifics for Phase 2 and 3 of Urban Edge, Guzman said approvals for Phase 1 are expected to take approximately two years, with its builder partners interested in moving as soon as possible.

Phase 2 she anticipates could take two to four years while Phase 3, which will incorporate redevelopment of a sandpit that Laurentian Valley Township hopes to see turned into housing, could take four to six years. Market conditions and sales will also be factors in the speed of the developments.

Another subdivision project in Renfrew County in the works from Creative Dev Ventures is its 89-acre Tatty Hill project in Calabogie, Ont. Zoning is complete for that residential project, which borders the Calabogie Highlands golf club, Wallace said.

Creative Dev Ventures plans to expand in secondary markets as more infrastructure connects them to larger cities, particularly in Renfrew County, Guzman said.

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