City committee rejects NCC plan

By Melanie Richmond

Ottawa’s planning committee has passed a staff report that “strongly objects” to the expansion of Metcalfe Street.

On Sept. 29, the committee voted 3-1 in favour of passing the staff report which included two recommendations that objected to the National Capital Commission’s proposal to turn Metcalfe Street into a grand boulevard leading to Parliament Hill.

The main concern of the report is the possible destruction of heritage buildings that predate Canada.
Curry Wood, vice-president of real estate for the NCC, said they’re considering moving the heritage buildings so they won’t be destroyed. But in response to questions put forth by committee chairwoman Elisabeth Arnold, Wood said the NCC has no plans regarding where heritage buildings could be moved to and no estimation of the potential cost of the entire project.

Wood said the NCC is considering modifying their vision. One option being considered is to focus development north of Laurier Avenue to minimize the impact on heritage buildings.

He said the NCC is also considering the effect Metcalfe Street expansion may have on the residential area south of Laurier. But it would be premature to say whether the NCC would drop the proposal, he said.

“We’ll have to take into consideration all the consultations, but no decisions have been made and no firm options have been developed,” he said.

“However, I do expect that there will be a significant rethinking of the Metcalfe expansion.”

Coun. Ron Kolbus called the Metcalfe proposal a “waste of time” and said the NCC should focus on other ways to revitalize Ottawa’s downtown core.

“You’ve got Sparks Street to work on to try and improve business down there, you’ve got the waterfront to work on and Lebreton Flats has been sitting around for 20 years now,” he said.

“Where did this idea about Metcalfe Street come from? That’s not something we’ve been talking about for years in this community. You’ve got all these other projects to work on.”

Coun. Richard Cannings asked if the NCC would proceed even if council voted against the proposal.
Wood couldn’t guarantee the NCC would do this. “We’ll have to see,” he told the committee.

Public consultations regarding the Metcalfe proposal ended last month.

Wood says an analysis of the consultations will be made public in late October or early November and a revised plan based on these consultations should be ready by January 1999.

He said the second phase of consultations will begin at that time.

Coun. Shawn Little put forward a motion asking the planning committee to wait to vote on the proposal until the NCC has had time to revise it.