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
“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
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.
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