Heritage committee rejects Horticulture Building...
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Nov 11, 2010  |  Vote 0    0

Heritage committee rejects Horticulture Building move

Ottawa East News

The city’s heritage advisory committee voted unanimously to send a strong message to Ottawa council: Don’t move the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne.

The vote on Thursday Nov. 4 was greeted by a round of applause from the 20 or so audience members who came to hear why the city wants to move the designated heritage building.

However, the committee’s decision is not binding on council, which will vote on the issue when it addresses the Lansdowne Park site plan at its Nov. 19 meeting.

David Flemming, president of Heritage Ottawa, said the Ottawa Built Heritage Advisory Committee’s recommendation against moving the structure likely won’t have much of an impact on council.

“I can’t see, given the current composition of council, that they’d vote against it,” Flemming said.

Flemming was one of several community members who spoke against the plan to move the building 120 metres directly east. The city wants to re-position the building to make way for a retail and residential development along Holmwood Avenue as part of the Lansdowne revitalization. Moving the structure would allow it to once again become a publically-used building with the option of housing part of the Ottawa Farmers’ Market and other activities. Re-positioning the building would place it closer to the Rideau Canal and the urban park portion of Lansdowne.

Committee members questioned why the building needed to be moved. Under the city’s official plan, designated heritage buildings can be moved if it is the last possible option.

Committee member Scott Whammond asked what part of the proposal looked at other alternatives that would both allow the building to be kept in place and still revitalized for public use.

John Stewart, whose company, Commonwealth Heritage Management, prepared the heritage impact study, said that was “not part of his mandate.”

“It was the only practical solution within the design parameters we were given,” Stewart said, adding that he spent three weeks going back and forth with the developers looking for a solution.

“Quite honestly, I firmly believe, as a heritage consultant, and as somebody who is fervently involved in this commitment, that the move of this building is only going to benefit the building and the community it will be able serve. I think it would be an unfortunate situation to have that building kept in place and turned into a Shoppers’ Drug Mart or a food store or whatever else.”

Another option would be to make it possible to walk or drive through the building, so it becomes a pathway or roadway – a result that would be even more unfortunate, Stewart said.

“Do you allowed the building top be destroyed under the principle of maintaining its position, or do you look at options for moving the building?” Stewart said.

Flemming said he and Heritage Ottawa would not have a problem with the building being renovated and adapted for commercial use, which has been done successfully and thoughtfully in other areas, Flemming said.

“What’s wrong with adapting it to be used for commercial purposes?” he asked.

City planner John Smit said moving the building will help “recapture a sense of place” at the site and re-orient the park.

“We’re looking not only to reflect what was, but what it continues to be and what it will be for the future,” Smit said.

“City and staff are pandering to the wishes of the developer,” said committee member Vinni Sahni. “This process has paid lip service to the heritage elements.”

“Overall this project has suggested a lack of respect to this committee, and thus us just another example of that,” he said.

Committee member Murray McGregor called it a “failure of design” and a “lost opportunity” that heritage wasn’t put front and centre from the beginning of the design process.

Flemming expressed concern that the city never directed the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) to work around the heritage buildings (the Horticulture Building and the Aberdeen Pavilion) when the group was developing its plans. The city even told landscape architects to design park proposals assuming the Horticulture Building would be moved, Flemming said. (The winning urban park proposal from Philips Farevaag Smallenberg Landscape Architects initially proposed keeping the building where it is currently located.)

Only one committee member, Elizabeth Eagen, said she was conflicted about the decision, because moving the building could improve the building’s maintenance and use.

“If it were moved, it has a lot to gain … however, I believe the principle is to leave it intact,” she said, eventually voting to reject city staff’s recommendation to move the building.

When asked how much of a role the need to construct a parking garage played in the staff recommendation to move the building, Stewart said, “It had a major role.

“The fact of the matter is that it has to be moved,” he said. The options presented were either to move the building twice (once to move it away to allow the parking garage to be built, and again to put it back in place) or just once, to a new permanent location. The second option would have less risk of damage, Stewart said.

The potential cost to relocate the building is around $2 million, Smit said.

The Horticulture Building was built in 1914 and is an example of prairie-style architecture. It was designed by Francis Sullivan, who was a student of famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was slated for demolition in the early 1990s but was saved when it was designated under Part 4 of the Ontario Heritage Act in 1994. Currently, it is not open to the public and has fallen into disrepair, but it is structurally sound.

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