The Horticultural Building at Lansdowne Park, which currently sits unused, is at the centre of a debate that could spark provincial intervention into the development.
GLEBE - With so much change proposed for the redevelopment of
Lansdowne Park, some critics are asking the city to look to the past before it
looks into the future.
The public finally got a look at plans for the site during
the Stage 1 site plan meeting on Oct. 14, and while the proposed retail and
condo buildings drew a lot of attention, Heritage Ottawa is hoping to spread
the word about how the changes will impact the historic value of the site.
There are two heritage buildings at Lansdowne; the most
recognizable is the Victorian architecture of Aberdeen Pavilion, known as the
But the second structure – the more humble Horticultural
Building – could prove to be a sticking point for the whole development.
Plans released on Oct. 14 show the Horticultural Building
moved to the north side of the Aberdeen Pavilion to make way for a series of
gardens and orchards planned for the site. Even if the building was not
relocated, it would have to be moved in order to allow construction of the
underground parking lot that would hold 1,100 cars for the retail and stadium
section of Lansdowne, along with 250 spaces allotted for the residential
section of the development.
Heritage advocates say they don’t want the building moved
and they will ask Toronto-area MPP Michael Chan, the minister in charge of
culture, to place a stop-work order on the project.
“This is our line in the sand,” said David Flemming,
president of Heritage Ottawa.
Under provincial legislation, the minister has the authority
to stop work on a culturally significant building if alteration or removal is
likely to damage it.
“In any other place in the world, you don’t move a
(heritage) building to build a parking lot,” said Flemming.
Representatives from Philips Farevaag Smallenberg Landscape
Architects, the group that is working on the urban park section of Lansdowne
that encompasses the Horticultural Building, said that the decision to move it
“There is no question that it is not the best heritage
practice to move a building,” said Marta Farevaag during an Oct. 14 site plan
A historical overview prepared by Commonwealth Historic
Management Ltd. last February falls short of what is needed to really assess
the potential impact of moving the building, says Heritage Ottawa.
“Heritage Ottawa urges the disclosure and public discussion
of the Cultural Heritage Impact Statement before any discussion of rezoning, in
conformity with the legislation and principles of transparency,” the group said
in a statement released in September.
Another issue is the cost of moving such a delicate
building, Flemming said. The city has pegged the potential relocation cost at
about $3 million, which would be taken out of the $35-million budget for the
urban park at Lansdowne.
“They are taking (almost) 10 per cent of that budget to move
a building so a developer can build a parking garage,” Flemming said. “That’s
pretty weak, as far as the justification goes.”
Even though the Horticultural Building would be relocated to
benefit site developer Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), that
$3-million cost will be paid by the city, Flemming said.
“I think it’s scandalous,” he said.
The city’s heritage committee will review the matter on Nov.
4. It then heads to the committee of the whole on Nov. 19, and council will
vote on it on Nov. 24.
Flemming said he isn’t holding out hope that councillors
will change their minds and refuse to allow the building’s relocation.
The final plans for Lansdowne won’t be approved until June
of 2011, after the second stage of the site plan process.
With regards to the Aberdeen Pavilion, the Ontario Heritage
Trust has told the city and developers they must maintain sightlines to
Aberdeen from Bank Street. The provincial heritage organization has a say in
the development because it contributed about $2 million towards the building’s
In August, the Heritage Canada Foundation named Lansdowne as
one of Canada’s 10 most endangered heritage sites.
That danger increases if changes like the relocation of the 96-year-old
Horticultural Building are permitted, Flemming said.
Even if the building does end up being moved and remains
intact, part of its heritage value will be lost.
“It takes it out of context,” Flemming said of moving the
building. “Part of what makes it a heritage building is not just the bricks and
mortar – it’s what it represents.”
Flemming said Heritage Ottawa has historical evidence that
shows the Horticultural Building was constructed in that location because of its
relationship to the Aberdeen Pavilion. The only reason to move a heritage
building is to protect it if the safety of the building is threatened, he said.
Moving the building without a safety reason compromises its
heritage value, Flemming said.
According to a history of the building prepared by Heritage
Ottawa member Andrew Elliot, the Horticultural Building was designed in the
Prairie style by Francis Conroy Sullivan, the only Canadian pupil of Frank
The two-storey front section at one time housed an entrance
hall and banquet room. The back section served as both an exhibition area and
Currently, the building’s rear space is used to store
equipment and the front area is largely unused.
It was designated in 1994 under Part IV of the Ontario