Proposal to demolish heritage building approved

A controversial proposal to demolish a protected heritage building on Sparks Street has been approved.

Ottawa’s sub-committee on heritage buildings met Feb. 13 to discuss the replacement of the historic commercial structure with an 18-storey highrise.  

Last updated in the 1890s, the building’s façade is beyond repair, agreed the committee.  

“This building has been neglected so much,” says David Jeanes, vice-president of Heritage Ottawa. “I think the last businesses moved out of there around 2005 or 2006, so it’s really been neglected and boarded up and an eyesore.” `

Located at  106-116 Sparks St., the building is right at the heart of Ottawa’s business centre.

The proposed building will replace the current one with an 18-storey building complex facing Queen Street.

“This will be a game changer,” said Coun. Jan Harder, head of the committee. “We are working towards building something quite attractive.”

The highrise will include commercial space on the ground floor, with the rest of the space being allocated to a hotel and condo space.

Only the characteristic door and window frames are to be preserved.

It was originally thought parts of the building could be restored, but further research showed extensive damage to the outside of the building, according to Harder.

Not only has the roof collapsed, but the building has extensive water damage, said Jeanes.

“It hasn’t been safe for many years to even go inside the building.”

The National Capital Commission owns the building, but the property is currently leased to Ashcroft Homes, which will revitalize the site.

“The NCC will continue to work with Ashcroft Homes to ensure that the redevelopment of the site will allow an architectural design worthy of the Parliamentary Hill area with appropriate and meaningful heritage preservation elements,” said Cedric Pelletier, communications officer at the NCC.

According to Jeanes, it was under the ownership of the NCC that the building was neglected.

“At this point there is very little that can be done other than preserve the key elements of the façade.”

Built between 1870 and 1875, the building has immense historical value, says Jeanes.

It’s been home to some of Ottawa’s most successful businesses, including the the Ottawa Citizen, Byson’s department store (once the largest department store in Centretown), and a jewelry store owned by Jack Snow, who sponsored the annual Panda Game between Carleton University and the University of Ottawa.

“It’s been there for so long and so many businesses have cycled through it that I think it really represents the whole essence of what retail on Sparks Street is all about,” says Jeanes.

Although the proposed demolition was backed by the heritage committee, the overall plan for the Ashcroft project still has to be approved by the city’s planning committee and full council.