Centretown house OK'd for demolition

The City of Ottawa has wrapped up an exhaustive inventory of vacant heritage buildings, but that won't save one such structure in Centretown from the wrecking ball.

The boarded-up, brick house at 234 O'Connor St. has sat vacant since a fire in 2005. It was constructed between 1879 and 1901, and sits within the Centretown heritage conservation district.

Its current owner, Gemstone Developments, applied to demolish the building.

After putting off a decision last fall, the city's planning committee decided Tuesday to allow the house to be torn down, provided the owner builds and maintains a temporary public parkette until it redevelops the site.

Couns. Jeff Leiper and Tobi Nussbaum, who chairs the city's built heritage subcommittee, dissented.

Staff objected to demolition

City staff had advised against demolition after heritage masonry experts concluded the building could be repaired and preserved. Neither Heritage Ottawa nor the councillor for Somerset ward, Catherine McKenney, supported demolition.

"At some point we just have to say, enough. It's not okay to lose heritage structures and it's not okay to leave our neighbourhoods with gaps in our streetscapes, interrupted by empty parking lots," said McKenney.

She didn't blame the building's current owner for letting the house fall into disrepair, but a previous owner.

The demolition still needs the approval of full city council. 

Heritage inventory complete

The vote came as city staff updated the committee on the completion of an inventory of vacant heritage sites.

The city has been issuing orders to landlords who aren't keeping their buildings up to standard, according to Court Curry, Ottawa's manager in charge of heritage files. 

The inventory was one of the tasks assigned to a heritage task force struck by Mayor Jim Watson in July 2016, partly in response to the long deterioration of Somerset House on Bank Street, and is part of an effort to avoid so-called "demolition by neglect."

A report with more information about protecting heritage buildings will go before the city's planning committee and built heritage subcommittee in May, said Curry.