Union du Canada Building
03 . 18 . 2013

Union of Canada building already tall and ugly, might as well get taller and prettier, heritage experts say

AUTHOR David Reevely

The plans call for adding 17.5 metres, or more than 50 feet, to the existing 11-storey concrete and glass building on Dalhousie Street, in addition to re-cladding the outside and renovating the inside. Claridge needs permission from the city’s committee on heritage buildings because the tower is in a heritage conservation district, where individual projects get reviewed to make sure they don’t wreck the neighbourhood.

The original building did quite enough damage, so that’s not something anybody really has to worry about, the heritage report says. It’s “completely out of context in terms of scale, design, materials (and) detailing” and it’s a landmark “only because of its size.” It is one of several towers in the area whose “enormous vertical and horizontal dimension, their siting and their materials and detailing, have in many cases destroyed the continuity that existed earlier.”

So go ahead and let Claridge put a new outside on it and add some storeys on top, the experts advise the heritage-building committee. The new form should be more attractive at street level and from a distance, they say.

Both the Lowertown Community Association and Heritage Ottawa say the building would be better if it were kept the same height, though neither has much problem with the other changes. It was too tall in the first place, wrote Heritage Ottawa’s president Leslie Maitland in a letter to the city, and letting Claridge add to it “compounds one fault upon another.”

The committee, in its first meeting after being disbanded and re-formed last fall, is to vote on Wednesday.

Claridge’s plan is to combine a 15-storey luxury hotel on Dalhousie with a 23-storey condo in a separate but connected building with its main entrance on George Street. The Union of Canada building went on the market after the 148-year-old insurance company went bust last year.

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