In many fields, a university education is a prerequisite to a successful career. In Ontario, university enrolment has grown 69% since 2000, indicating a strong demand for higher education despite increasing tuition rates. Although the province's 21 universities provide plenty of choice for the hundreds of thousands of youth interested in pursuing their passion, the lack of housing on many Ontario campuses has relegated students to long and often stressful commutes. In an effort to address these concerns, several student housing developments in the Greater Toronto Area and elsewhere have been proposed. From Academy Condos in Scarborough to University Suites in Kingston, real estate investors have shown interest in capitalizing on the pressing housing need. Toronto's hot condominium market has investors excited, but those hoping to diversify their portfolio can now do so with a new development launching further afield this month, in Ottawa.

Carleton Station on the O-Train Trillium Line, image by Marcus MitanisCarleton Station on the O-Train Trillium Line, image by Marcus Mitanis

With a population of nearly 28,000 students, Ottawa's Carleton University is a growing campus in need of diverse housing options. Enrolment has increased 18% in the past decade, and during the same period, the international student population has increased by a whopping 43%. Despite this rapid growth, there are just over 3,600 beds available at the university. The 87% of students who live off campus face an average 25 minute commute, a situation many enrolees will find themselves in if the demand for new housing isn't soon met. 

The softening of Ottawa's condominium market has meant many developers are looking elsewhere to invest. The stable and predictable influx of new students is the target of Ashcroft Homes, one of that city's most active builders. The first phase of Ashcroft's answer to that demand, the 28-storey Envie, is nearly topped out. A short walk from the O-Train's Carling Station—which provides quick service to Carleton—means students will soon be able to live one stop away from school. The Envie tower's suites will be rented directly to students when it opens its doors in time for the 2016 school year. 

The second tower, Capital Hall Condominiums, image courtesy of Ashcroft HomesThe second tower, Capital Hall Condominiums, image courtesy of Ashcroft Homes

Located just west of the Preston Street shops of Ottawa's popular Little Italy neighbourhood, the towering student residence of 156 suites is a significant new build for the area. But Ashcroft has more in store. A second tower, Capital Hall Condominiums, will contain 329 investor-owned units who will then rent them to students. 

Greenspace just north of the Envie Student towers, image by Ashcroft HomesGreenspace just north of the Envie Student towers, image courtesy of Ashcroft Homes

The 25-storey tower, joined by its sister building Envie, will form an off campus community dubbed Envie Student. Offering Capital Hall purchasers a leaseback option, Envie Student will rent some units on behalf of the buyer for three years.

One of many student lounging areas, image courtesy of Ashcroft HomesOne of many student lounging areas, image courtesy of Ashcroft Homes

A grocery store and coffee shop are the expected tenants of the ground floor retail that will undoubtedly be a hit with students. In addition, over 8,000 square feet of amenities are planned, including a gym, party room, private study lounges and an outdoor landscaped courtyard. The fully furnished suites come with beds, a television, stainless steel appliances, laminate flooring and a range of kitchen cabinetry options. Turnkey ready, units range in size from 317 to 647 square feet and start at $179,900. 

Capital Hall suites will be fully furnished, image courtesy of Ashcroft HomesCapital Hall suites will be fully furnished, image courtesy of Ashcroft Homes

Envie is well under construction and on its way to topping out. UrbanToronto had the opportunity to tour the site and take in the views from the 20th storey of the building just as the concrete flooring was poured six levels above. 

The first tower, Envie, under construction, image by Marcus MitanisThe first tower, Envie, under construction, image by Marcus Mitanis

Capital Hall Condominiums will occupy the space pictured below, which is currently being used to store construction materials as work progresses on Envie. 

Capital Hall Condos will occupy this space, image by Marcus MitanisCapital Hall Condos will occupy this space, image by Marcus Mitanis

The buildings will offer tremendous views of Little Italy, Dow's Lake and Downtown Ottawa. The image below depicts Dow's Lake and Carleton University in the distance. Sitting on an island, Carleton is surrounded by heritage protected greenspace, which contributes to the long commuting times many students endure. 

Beyond Dow's Lake lies Carleton University, image by Marcus MitanisBeyond Dow's Lake lies Carleton University, image by Marcus Mitanis

Below, the vibrant low-rise character of Little Italy lies to the east, with the Downtown Ottawa skyline and Parliament Hill perched above. 

Little Italy and downtown Ottawa in the distance, image by Marcus MitanisLittle Italy and downtown Ottawa in the distance, image by Marcus Mitanis

To the north, the cityscape of Gatineau, Quebec and its majestic hills can be seen. 

Looking north towards Gatineau, Quebec, image by Marcus MitanisLooking north towards Gatineau, Quebec, image by Marcus Mitanis

The 20th floor of the M. David Blakely-designed building is not yet clad in the glass, stone and brick that will comprise its exterior. Now very much a concrete shell, Envie will become a hub for students in one short year. Capital Hall is due to be ready in 2018, joining what should already be an energetic young community. 

Looking north from the 20th floor, image by Marcus MitanisLooking north from the 20th floor, image by Marcus Mitanis

Ashcroft, who has also developed several condominium and retirement communities in Ottawa, has aspirations of taking the Envie brand across the country. If the strength in post-secondary enrolment continues and housing is unable to keep up, the investor-geared model of student residences may prove successful in all provinces. 

Additional information and renderings can be found in our dataBase page for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment using the space provided at the bottom of this page.