Coun­cil eyes build­ings for ‘Dis­tillery District’

Booth Street com­plex part of the plan

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - NECO COCKBURN

Nat­u­ral Re­sources Canada’s plans to get rid of part of its huge build­ing com­plex on Booth Street is adding to hopes that the area could be­come Ot­tawa’s ver­sion of Toronto’s pop­u­lar Dis­tillery District.

The idea of cre­at­ing a shop­ping and en­ter­tain­ment area out of re­pur­posed brick government build­ings on the land north of Car­ling Av­enue near Pre­ston Street has been kicked around for some time, but would re­quire NRCan to give up the prop­erty.

The de­part­ment said late last week that it is now “in dis­cus­sions” to trans­fer own­er­ship of a piece of land bound by Norman, Booth, Orangeville and Rochester streets to the Canada Lands Com­pany, which would then de­cide what to do with it.

Canada Lands man­ages, re­de­vel­ops or sells fed­eral government prop­er­ties that are no longer needed.

Build­ings on the quad­rant are al­most com­pletely va­cant, wrote NRCan spokes­woman Jacinthe Perras in an email, and a “small re­main­der of ac­tiv­i­ties” are to be moved into other de­part­ment build­ings over coming months.

The prop­erty may be trans­ferred to Canada Lands by next year, Perras wrote. It was de­clared sur­plus to NRCan’s needs in 2011.

With the city look­ing at how it wants the Pre­ston-Car­ling neigh­bour­hood to de­velop, some say it’s the per­fect time to let Canada Lands know what would be pre­ferred.

Ur­ban de­sign con­sul­tant Ge­orge Dark has rec­om­mended that the city should do its best to save some of the his­toric build­ings, said Coun­cil­lor Peter Hume, chair­man of coun­cil’s plan­ning com­mit­tee.

“What his pro­posal was is that we start to de­velop the plan­ning frame­work around what he calls our ver­sion of the Dis­tillery District,” said Hume.

The well-at­tended district in Toronto is a col­lec­tion of re­stored in­dus­trial build­ings that con­tain stu­dios, shops, gal­leries, cafés and restau­rants.

Dark’s pro­posed model for the Pre­ston-Car­ling area is be­ing cir­cu­lated for pub­lic com­ment be­fore city staff re­view it and come up with rec­om­men­da­tions.

If the Dis­tillery District-type idea goes ahead for the NRCan land, the city would make clear its ex­pec­ta­tions for the prop­erty so that it plays a role in Canada Lands’ de­ci­sions, Hume said.

Draft draw­ings in Dark’s plan in­di­cate a build­ing height of up to 18 storeys be­ing al­lowed at the north­east cor­ner of Norman and Rochester, but the rest of the prop­erty left at its ex­ist­ing height. Most of the build­ings there now are around four storeys.

With a condo boom al­ready hap­pen­ing in the area and much of nearby Pre­ston Street de­voted to restau­rants, a new re­tail district could be a “great at­trac­tion,” said Lori Mel­lor, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Pre­ston Street Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Area.

“It’s just off the Queensway. It would be within easy walking dis­tance of thou­sands of new res­i­dents. It could really be a success if we can save some of those great build­ings in there,” she said.

The build­ings’ con­di­tions ap­pear to vary. Though 568 Booth, for ex­am­ple, was rated as fair to good in an as­sess­ment de­tailed by the Cit­i­zen in 2011, two smaller build­ings at 556 and 562 Booth were rated poor. Soil re­me­di­a­tion has been com­pleted on the prop­erty.

Michael Pow­ell of the Dal­housie Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion said NRCan’s move is hap­pen­ing at a good time with the city con­sid­er­ing how the com­mu­nity should grow.

“There are lot of in­ter­est­ing build­ings there that could be adapted for dif­fer­ent uses that keep a feel of that part of the neigh­bour­hood,” Pow­ell said. He noted there’s also a need for pub­lic green space and the neigh­bour­hood lacks a gro­cery store.

Although Canada Lands can be ex­pected to try to sell the prop­erty to the high­est bid­der, “sig­nalling now what we ex­pect from those ar­eas as much as we can is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant step,” said Pow­ell.

“There’s a lot of ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties there, but the key is to make sure we get it right.”

Manon Lapen­sée, a spokes­woman for the Canada Lands Com­pany, re­ferred ques­tions to NRCan, say­ing Canada Lands doesn’t own the Booth Street com­plex. Canada Lands states on its web­site that it “op­ti­mizes the fi­nan­cial and com­mu­nity value of strate­gic Government of Canada prop­er­ties.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.