It was November 2018, and our search for suitable space was more than frustrating. Most of the locations we had found were too large or too small. Some were too remote, and almost all of them were crazy expensive. What we really needed didn’t seem to exist. How do you find affordable commercial warehouse type space in a predominantly residential area that features storefront main streets? Oh, and just for good measure, could you throw in some really great traffic volume numbers and plant it close to home? As if.
It was about a week later that I figured out how we could pull it off. There was a new listing on Heron Rd. that might just do the trick. It ticked off all the boxes but one, its size. There was too much space for what we could possibly aim at. The location was an eight minute drive from the house, and on a very busy street. It was a big open space, with a 25ft. high ceiling. Not much in the way of amenities, but that worked in our favour. Residential properties were walking distance away. Two new apartment buildings were being constructed across the street.
But the total space was just under 3,000 sq. feet. So I approached a business friend that is also a client with this proposal. They could take two thirds of the space for their commercial kitchen meal prep business, leaving 890 sq. ft. for Microgreens Ottawa. We could throw up a wall between the two parts, run a couple of electrical circuits for the lighting and fans I’d need, and we’d be “off to the races” for under $10,000. in modifications.
We had visions of being up and running quickly … that, at the time, was our only focus. We signed the Lease Agreement without fully working out the details and costs of the fit up. I mean, how much could a simple wall between spaces, with a few circuits for lighting and fans cost, anyway? You know that little voice that occasionally speaks up and warns you of impending dangers, well, it doesn’t always make an appearance. To be totally honest, I probably wasn’t listening too well either.
Our first meetings with the property manager and the landlord did not go as smoothly as we had hoped. We were informed of their expectations and requirements for the fit up.
Building a wall between our spaces wouldn’t be a simple matter of hiring some labourers to do the work. Getting this done in a commercial setting would also require an architect, mechanical engineer, and an electrician. A simple separating wall became a demising wall. Here, for reference sake, is the definition of a demising wall: “… is the partition wall that separates one tenant’s space from another tenant’s space or from the building’s common areas such as a public corridor, hallway or restroom. Ideally, demising walls will go up to the next floor or roof deck and be sealed at all connection points.” We ended up spending more on the architect and mechanical engineer than our initial estimate for the entire build!
The height of the wall was an issue all to itself. At 25 feet, special ordered heavy duty studs were required, and lateral support at the ceiling would be required for stabilization. It took several weeks for the custom studs to arrive, which also gave us time to hire a welder to anchor square tube steel to the underside of the roof deck. Fire rated insulation and drywall was also required.
Running a few electrical circuits from the existing panel couldn’t be done because it can’t legally run through the aforementioned demising wall. A separate 3 phase electrical service with a 75kvA transformer had to be installed. There weren’t enough plugs in the existing walls so more circuits were added. Overhead lighting, and circulation fans, wall mounted fans, exhaust fans; custom wiring for the rolling rack system, it didn’t seem to end…
We hired someone to cut the concrete floor so that plumbing could be run for the commercial kitchen. The poor guy gave us a quote to cut a 1 ft. wide by 26 ft. long trench through the concrete, but none of us were aware that the floors had been over engineered to accommodate the battle tanks that were customarily driven into the building by its original owner in 1958. The rebar in the foot thick concrete was extreme! A four hour side job turned into 14 hours of torture.
With the other unit’s plumbing roughed in, and our custom heavy duty steel studs delivered, we brought in a framing contractor to build the wall. Unfortunately we quickly ran into some issues with the contractor. It turned out they didn’t have the commercial experience they had claimed. My business associates brought in an experienced relative to try and offer the contractor advice, but he was rebuffed on every point. Fearing a delay in the project due to failed construction inspections, we made the difficult decision to fire the contractor and hire the relative’s crew to finish the wall. I’m happy to say it turned out to be the right choice.