Ottawa’s Built Heritage Committee has unanimously endorsed a report urging a heritage designation for the exterior of the Hudson’s Bay store on Rideau Street.

City council will make a final determination of the building’s status.

The building at 73 Rideau is east of the Chateau Laurier hotel on the north side of the street. 

In a committee meeting in April, councillors received a designation report seeking to declare the building as a heritage site. 

The report detailed the building’s exterior as an exemplary 20th-Century Beaux-Arts structure. It also notes that the building was the only department store designed by the Canadian architect, John A. Ewart, whose other works include Knox Presbyterian Church and the Wellington Building.

The end of the Statement of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest report reads, “the building is historically and functionally linked (to) the surrounding commercial area.”

As only the exterior of the building is to be designated, meaning the interior of the building can be redeveloped as desired by the owner. A heritage designation would require permits prior to any construction or modifications of the exterior of the building. 

In response to the April decision, Franco Perugini, who is the senior vice-president of real estate for the Hudson’s Bay Company sent a letter of objection to the city, citing financial concerns in having to maintain a heritage building. 

The letter outlines higher maintenance costs for a designated building, less flexibility in redevelopment and a loss of marketability in the event of a sale or lease. Perugini also wrote that the $25,000 available in matching grants — municipal funding to offset the cost of heritage maintenance — would need to be “substantially higher”.

The end of the letter notes that, “Rideau Street, formerly Ottawa’s ‘High Street’” is now very much an arterial road with intensive transit services, and not the same character street as when the original buildings were constructed.”

In the committee meeting Monday, heritage staff defended the recommendation for 73 Rideau and recommended it not be withdrawn.

The staff report went on to relay that the factors listed by Perugini such as marketability and flexibility in the event of sale or lease are “not a consideration when evaluating a property for designation” under provincial law.

In the end, committee members unanimously carried the report’s recommendations –– sending the final decision to council.

The objection will be taken up at council on June 26, which has until Aug. 17 to arrive at a decision on the designation of the building.

The Hudson’s Bay building is not the only Rideau Street building to get a heritage designation. Committee members also voted to designate 149, 156-58, 198 and 217 Rideau Street, which were constructed between the 1870s and 1920s.