Ottawa Citizen: Subcommittee likes heritage protection plan for major redevelopment of Booth Street complex

By Jon Willing

Canada Lands Company must be doing something right when it comes to redeveloping a major federal property near Ottawa’s downtown.

The heritage protection plan for the former Natural Resources Canada complex on Booth Street received unanimous support from the city’s built-heritage subcommittee on Monday as the federal Crown corporation moves closer to accepting development proposals from the private sector.

CLC has been working on a vision for the 6.5-acre block in Little Italy, bounded by Rochester, Orangeville, Booth and Norman streets. The agency has been consulting the community and city hall and is now ready to finalize the land-use approvals before decontaminating buildings, demolishing the unwanted structures and turning the land over to the private sector to build its vision.

The built-heritage subcommittee heard the city is recommending heritage protection for most of the complex because of its historical significance as a major federal research facility and one that was crucial in the development of the Canadian mining and energy industries. CLC has worked with the city to sort out the heritage protection.

The first laboratory building on the site was constructed in 1909 and the research campus grew through to the 1950s, all largely under the supervision of local architect W.E. Noffke. It was an active federal research site until the early 2000s.

The central heating plant, which has a 39-metre-tall brick smokestack, is part of the recommended heritage protection. The smokestack is a neighbourhood landmark.

The areas of the complex set for demolition include the physical metallurgy research laboratories on the southern part of the site and the T-shaped mechanical shops and stores building in the middle of the site.

CLC’s development plan calls for five new high-rise buildings and it earmarks portions of the site for parks.

The project is already drawing comparisons to Toronto’s Distillery District since it will showcase Ottawa’s architectural history in a modern mixed-use community.

The strongest indication of the existing community’s support might have been its absence during the public delegation part of the subcommittee meeting. No resident raised a concern with the city’s heritage watchdogs, although the zoning and official plan applications go to planning committee later this month.

CLC has had a significant public consultation program on the project. The agency held three public open houses and two meetings of a public advisory committee.

City heritage staff lauded the consultation process by CLC, and so did Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, who mused about putting the agency on the LeBreton Flats redevelopment.

While McKenney said she’s recommended that the agency work on the LeBreton Flats project, which is being led by the National Capital Commission, CLC has indicated it has no involvement in the development process.

Catherine McKenney