Union du Canada Building
07 . 04 . 2013

Claridge asks to demolish Union du Canada building rather than renovating it

AUTHOR David Reevely

Having received permission for a major renovation to turn the Union du Canada headquarters on the edge of the ByWard Market into a hotel, Claridge Homes is instead asking to tear it down.

The developer hopes to squeeze about the same number of rooms into a shorter building and head off an appeal of the project from neighbours angry that it’s too tall, according to a report bound for the city’s committee on heritage buildings.

The stark concrete-and-glass office tower at 325 Dalhousie St. was the monumental home to an icon of French-Canadian finance, until the Union du Canada insurance company went bust in 2012. The building itself is undeniably unique in its neighbourhood, though it is a matter of opinion whether it’s a charming and historic oddity in the Market district or an eyesore that looms menacingly over the area.

Either way, Claridge received approvals this spring to “re-clad” the 11-storey building and add four storeys to turn it into a luxury hotel, part of a two-building project that includes a condo tower on the same block. But nearby residents appealed the city council decision to the Ontario Municipal Board, at least partly on the grounds that the proposal is too tall and out of keeping with other buildings on Dalhousie.

“The project architect analysed the programming requirements and existing heights of the building, and concluded that, because the floor-to-ceiling heights required for an office building are higher than those required for a hotel, the height of the proposed building could be reduced and the needs of its clients met, if an entirely new building were to be constructed,” the new heritage report says. The current building tops out at 45.8 metres, it says, and a brand-new one would rise to 52.4 metres. Claridge’s approved renovation would take it to 67 metres, so the difference is four to five storeys.

Otherwise, the report says, the architectural style would be similar to the version city council has already approved. And the 22-storey condo building would remain unchanged.

Officially, the Union du Canada building is of negligible heritage value, interesting only because the whole ByWard Market is a heritage conservation district, so the city’s heritage staff have no problem with Claridge tearing it down.

The city council committee, a mixed group of councillors and heritage experts, is to vote on the idea July 11.

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