The Skyline: Controlled demolitions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Robert Smythe

Three historic Centretown buildings have been in the news involving demolition of one sort or another.

After standing as an empty ruin for almost 10 years, the City of Ottawa has granted the owner of the Somerset House at Bank and Somerset permission to reincorporate the surviving walls into a new structure. With a decade of inaction so far, skeptics may wonder whether this will actually happen.

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The 110-year old house at 234 O’Connor Street, despite its designation in 1998 by the City as a heritage building under the Centretown Heritage Conservation District, has been approved for demolition. It was purchased along with the adjacent parking lot from the family that operated the Green Dragon Gift Shop on the mall, and its new owners had asserted that it would cost over $1 million to renovate the 1,100 square foot house. They have promised to convert the land on which the house now stands into a park.

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The 49-unit London Arms at 151 Metcalfe Street is slated for demolition. It was bought some time ago by Morguard, the developers of the adjacent 150 Elgin Street tower. The London Arms was built in 1938 for the apartment king Harold Shenkman. This will be the largest residential building demolition that Centretown has seen in decades.

However, the Building Property Condition Assessment report prepared by Morguard’s consultant states, “The site building appears to be in fair condition, commensurate with its age and in comparable standing to other similar residential properties in the area.”

Based on their assessment, “it appears to have been constructed in general accordance with standard building practices in place at the time of construction.” The purpose of the demolition is summarized in the applicant’s proposal: “The building will not be renovated to full occupancy due to the degraded physical condition and life cycle repairs that are required for continued operation of the building.”

The developer is seeking a demolition approval to prepare the site to be “constuction-ready for future development.” No specific redevelopment plans or applications are in place. In the interim the land will be fenced, with landscaping along the Metcalfe and Gloucester Street edges.