NCC Watch

Working to consign the NCC to oblivion

Search string: "chaudiere"

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

NCC wants to pay off its 'ethical debt'

Another ten years, and another call for a 'signature development' of 'national significance' for the LeBreton Flats from the NCC. Considering the last fiasco, could anyone possibly be interested? From the Citizen:

The National Capital Commission wants the private sector to come up with some ideas for developing the long-empty lands on LeBreton Flats - anchoring those suggestions with a new "landmark" building of national significance.

Mark Kristmanson, the NCC's chief executive officer, spoke about the plan during a breakfast address to the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

Creating a new "signature development" on LeBreton Flats, he told the business audience, is a top priority for the NCC's board of directors and for the commission's political minister, Ottawa West-Nepean MP John Baird.

Kristmanson said staff will present a recommendation to the NCC's board at its meeting next Tuesday to seek proposals "based on a major public institution or an attraction of regional or national significance, supported by a complementary development scheme."

In an interview with the Citizen, Kristmanson said the NCC needs to move ahead with development on LeBreton Flats, still largely vacant since the federal government expropriated and demolished homes there as part of a stillborn redevelopment project more than half a century ago.

"The NCC has a kind of ethical debt to the city to get this done," he said. "It has sat there for a long time."

While he declined to assign blame for LeBreton's lengthy tenure as the city's most valuable vacant lot, he said the property is "under the NCC's watch. It's our responsibility, and I really want to see it done."

[...]Kristmanson cited the "evolution" of the surrounding area - particularly Windmill Development's plans for the former Domtar lands and Chaudiere Island - as one key reason for a major new building on LeBreton.

"With the Windmill development bringing in about three million square feet, mostly residential, to the north of the site, it makes a lot of sense to bring in some major attraction or institution to balance the War Museum," he said.

Such a building would also create "an attractive place" for people arriving at the city's future Pimisi light rail transit station at LeBreton Flats, he said. "It makes a lot of sense to do that rather than just let the whole thing go as a mixed-use development."

Kristmanson, who called LeBreton Flats "immensely valuable," said he's had numerous meetings with private sector developers "to get their advice on how to do this - what was done right in the past, what was done wrong. So we're going forward on that basis."

Diane Holmes, the outgoing councillor for Somerset ward, which includes LeBreton Flats, said the most important thing the NCC should do with the LeBreton redevelopment is to break up the land into smaller parcels, each with its own architect and developer.

The condos on the eastern part of LeBreton built by Claridge Homes have "resulted in a development that looks institutional, like a hospital, instead of a mixed-used residential community," Holmes said.

So it's back to the submitting recommendations to seek proposals stage. Letting the whole thing go for mixed use development is exactly what they should do. But the new CEO does admit the NCC has some sort of debt to the city for screwing the Flats up so egregiously for the past 60 years, which is sort of unprecedented.

At the same talk, the new CEO also trotted out some numbers related to the NCC's 'footprint' - 53 millions of dollars in contracts awarded every year, 1600 properties owned, that sort of thing - as though without the dead hand of the NCC doling out money on ridiculous pet projects and stifling development, the city would somehow be worse off.

Citizen: NCC eyeing major new capital landmark on LeBreton Flats [11 September 2014]
Citizen: By the numbers: The NCC's economic footprint [11 September 2014]
Citizen: Imagining what Ottawa's prime real estate could look like [12 September 2014]

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dodging a bullet at Chaudiere

Mark Sutcliffe notes how the city dodged a bullet when the NCC wasn't given the cash to buy more of the Chaudiere lands. From the Citizen:

Meanwhile, Windmill Developments is working on a breathtakingly ambitious project centred on historic Chaudiere Island. Windmill is aspiring to the highest standards for sustainable development; the result will likely transform industrial land in the heart of the city into a model of modern urban development.

The potential impact of the project can't be overstated. The development land is uniquely situated on the doorstep of downtown, straddling two cities in two provinces and surrounded by the Ottawa River. Based on its location and Windmill's lofty ambitions, the mixed-use development will draw national and international attention and could be the start of a new era for Ottawa's chronically underused waterfront.

[...]It's a stroke of incredibly good fortune that the National Capital Commission was denied the funds to bid on Chaudiere Island. In all likelihood the Windmill project will be finished by the time the NCC finally makes its next move on LeBreton Flats.

Citizen: Movie theatres or not, downtown Ottawa is doing just fine [10 October 2013]

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Whither Ottawa

The Citizen's long-suffering Mohammed Adam has penned another of their occasional sprawling 'whither Ottawa' series. This one prompted ostensibly by another of the NCC's 50 year plans. And while everyone is relieved that the NCC has got plans to ensure sufficient parking for the flying cars driven by the hordes of tourists forecasted to visit Ottawa by 2067 (we made that up - ed.), in the here and now, the NCC comes in for a fair amount of criticism from just about everyone. As one might expect. But the NCC takes exception (we've cherry-picked the following, but there's lots more, by all means read the entire series, linked below):

Patrick Kelly, president of the Ottawa Convention Centre, says that Ottawa is probably the least known of the G8 capitals, and in many places around the world, the name draws a yawn. Architect and urban planner Barry Padolsky agrees, saying that if he were to write a book about Ottawa, it would be a lament for missed opportunities on everything from light rail to waterfront development and LeBreton Flats.

A lot has been said about LeBreton, the decades-old mess on King Edward Avenue and Rideau Street, and the off-again, on-again light-rail project. But even something as simple as rebuilding Wellington Street appears to be beyond us. Wellington has the War Memorial, Parliament Hill, the Supreme Court, Bank of Canada and the National Library and Archives. It defines the very essence of our nation, and anywhere else it would be a grand and stately boulevard. In Ottawa, however, Wellington is a drab bus route - and no one seems to care.

For the most part, critics blame the National Capital Commission. Nothing gets built on federal land without the NCC's design approval and critics say if the agency did its job properly, the city would be a much better place.

NCC officials, however, dismiss any suggestion that they've presided over bland planning and design in the capital. They point to the "urban dynamism" the agency has created with many of its revitalization projects from LeBreton Flats to Sparks Street, the ByWard Market and Confederation Boulevard.

"People say that when it comes to planning and design decisions, the NCC is bland, not bold - does not think outside the box. We disagree," says chief planner Pierre Dubé.

He says that when the NCC first proposed Confederation Boulevard, critics slammed it as a "silly idea," but today, standing at the intersection of St. Patrick and Sussex, and looking toward the Astrolabe, the Library of Parliament, the Peacekeeping monument and the Chateau Laurier, "the amazing piece of streetscape and urban design that now graces our capital" is unmistakable.

"We tend to dream big, but we are practical people, aware of the limitations of available resources," says Dubé.

So the NCC stands behind the drab, sterile bus route that is Confederation Boulevard as its most notable success.

Most experts understand that money constrains the Commission, but they also say that there is a fundamental lack of boldness and risk-taking in planning that has fostered bland design.

The LeBreton Flats development was a defining moment for the NCC, a unique opportunity to do something memorable, the critics say. Instead, as former governor general Adrienne Clarkson so forcefully noted, LeBreton became a metaphor for NCC underachievement.

Waterfront development is another issue of contention. The Rideau and Ottawa Rivers and the Rideau Canal, along with the Gatineau River, offer a waterfront that other cities will die for.

But it is all of little consequence to residents because most of it is inaccessible. The NCC has plans galore for every part of the shoreline from Bate to Chaudiere and Victoria islands, with artistic renditions of spectacular waterfront parks, but nothing ever gets done. Experts agree there might not be money to develop say, waterfront villages and parks along the shoreline, but with a little bit ingenuity and imagination, a lot could be done to open up much of it and the Rideau Canal for people to enjoy.

Ah yes, the waterfront - such potential:

[Lemay] says the NCC is as eager as everyone else to develop the Ottawa River shoreline but the principal problem is that the federal government doesn't own it all. The missing link is the Domtar lands on the Gatineau side, which the private owner has refused to sell. If those lands were in government hands, the shoreline could be turned into "an absolute gem" in the heart of the capital.

"Our greatest hope is, and has been for many decades, that the islands around the Chaudière Falls and the Hull shore, would come into public ownership," adds Dubé, the chief planner.

"Then the capital could start to envision the prospects of creating our own unique waterfront destination …"

Shucks, if they just had control of that last little two per cent of the waterfront - out of endless kilometres of waterfront they now control absolutely - why, then, watch out.

The series also features architecture critic Rhys Phillips, who had this to say about the NCC:

Frankly, the NCC is beyond repair. Its celebration component should be moved in Canadian Heritage and the rest replaced with a small office headed by a recognized designer. This new group should then have the say over all new government buildings and work with the city.

We'll give the last word to Kate Heartfield, who expresses skepticism at the very idea that Ottawa needs grand visions to succeed:

The insistence that Ottawa must be a proper, pretty G8 capital might actually be the thing that's holding us back. Imagine what LeBreton Flats might be today, if the National Capital Commission hadn't razed it a half-century ago. It might be a gradually gentrifying old working-class neighbourhood in the lee of Parliament Hill, with restaurants and studios and mechanics and theatres; instead, it's a field with a museum on it. Imagine an Ottawa River that had shops and restaurants along it, not a freeway where commuters whiz by and occasionally admire the scenery. Imagine if the downtown train station still had trains arriving at it.

Every time someone comes up with a vision statement or grand plan, Ottawa gets a little more bland. There are smart, creative people here. Ottawa might evolve in all kinds of unpredictable and exciting directions, if nobody gets in its way.

C'mon Kate - if you don't have a vision for the flying cars, where they gonna park?

Citizen: Building a better Ottawa [13 August 2011]
Citizen: It ain't easy being a developer [14 August 2011]
Citizen: Live Chat: Building a better Ottawa [15 August 2011]
Citizen: Wanted: Private money for public dreams [15 August 2011]
Citizen: In the shadow of the Hill [15 August 2011]
Citizen: Drafting a new blueprint [17 August 2011]
Citizen: Mayor ready to 'dream big' [18 August 2011]
Citizen: The trouble with Ottawa is Ottawans [18 August 2011]
Citizen: The real Ottawa is in the shadows of the monuments [23 August 2011]
Citizen: Great notions [26 August 2011]

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chaudiere Island for sale

It appears Domtar is looking for a buyer for Chaudiere Island. From the Ottawa Business Journal:

Most of Chaudière Island is for sale. Its owner, Domtar, the Montreal-based paper manufacturing company, says it has no further use for it following the closure of its mill there in 2007.

The NCC, a federal government agency, says it would like to acquire much of Chaudière Island, and then decide what would be the best use of it. But Marie Lemay, the NCC's chief executive officer, says the agency does not have the estimated $100 million required to buy the land, clean up more than a century's industrial pollution, and stabilize the buildings.

The NCC gets a lot of criticism - some of it richly deserved - for timidity. It is funded by the taxpayers of Canada, essentially to make the nation's capital a better place to live and to visit.

The NCC dilly-dallied for decades over what to do with LeBreton Flats, a former industrial area on the Ottawa River shoreline just west of Parliament Hill. Finally, it decided to turn over the land to private developers for apartment building construction.Most recently, the NCC spent several years searching for a tenant for the former Mill Restaurant on the shoreline of the Ottawa River, just across from Chaudière Island. It eventually leased the property to Toronto's Mill Street Brewery, which plans to open a brew pub there.

[…]For decades, the federal government agency has been doing occasional studies on what might become of Chaudière and Victoria islands. The most recent study, updated in 2008, embraced the idea of an Aboriginal centre on Victoria Island, celebrating the culture of Canada's native peoples.

The NCC study also suggested the two islands could be connected by footbridges. It foresees "a vital mix of restaurants and shops, with adaptive reuse of existing buildings." The study included no price tag or timeline.

The NCC has long coveted the remaining industrial land on Chaudière and Victoria islands that it doesn't already own, but has done exactly nothing with the land it does own - there is simply no reason to believe that the NCC might suddenly reverse its spotty redevelopment record, here or anywhere else in the city.

OBJ: A chance to reverse the NCC's spotty redevelopment record [8 June 2011]
Open File: Chaudière Falls: The anchor of Ottawa's waterfront [6 June 2011]
NCC Watch: Chaudière Falls archive

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chaudiere Island: "big plans"

Mind you, these aren't recent big plans, these are the same big plans the NCC has been touting for more than a decade:

Now, the National Capital Commission is preparing a plan to transform Chaudiere Falls and Island, as well as the nearby Victoria Island, to make them more accessible to the public.

The plan still faces a hurdle, because much of the land is owned by the paper manufacturer, Domtar, which while not using the land, has yet to agree to sell it.

"[The site is] extremely important for the capital, Canada's capital. This site, it's crucial. It holds tremendous opportunity," said Marie Lemay, CEO of the NCC.

"The vision of the NCC is to be able to bring the public to the river and the riverfront. The concept...was developed back in 2005, [when we] talked about a vibrant island with mixed use, and a lively development, mixing residential and commercial, and bringing [the area] to life," Lemay said.

Who knows, maybe if the NCC actually did something with all that land they control on Victoria Island, someone would give them two cents for their plans for Chaudiere Island.

CBC: NCC has big plans for 'hidden jewels' on Ottawa River [24 October 2008]
NCC Watch: Chaudiere Island news

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hull's parking lots

The Spacing Wire is running a feature on Hull's parking lots and the destruction of Hull's urban fabric. Historical consultant Michelle Guitard gives them a tour:

We sought out Guitard to find out exactly what used to be where the parking lots are now. As we had suspected, buildings had been there; but it was more lucrative for property owners to tear them down and build parking lots or to lease the land to parking lot entrepreneurs than to maintain the old buildings. Guitard walked us through the streets and pointed to the ghosts of homes, restaurants, cinemas, and hotels.

[...]Which brings us to the obvious reason why Hull has as many parking lots as it does; thousands of people who are not residents of Hull work in the massive brown and grey government buildings, and probably the majority of them bring their cars with them.

Of course, when it comes to urban destruction in the capital region, the NCC has to be involved somehow - and so they were. The lots were a natural consequence of the NCC's expropriation and destruction of large areas of downtown Hull to make way for the massive Place du Portage and Les Terraces de la Chaudiere office complexes - part of the NCC's building dispersal programme. Mission accomplished.

Portage and Laurier

Guitard has contributed to an interesting site on the architecture of old Hull, Remember When?, by Harry Foster, Manager of the Photographic Services section of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

The Spacing Wire: The 1970 Architectural Concept [24 Aug 2007]
Museum of Civilization: Remember When? The architecture of old Hull
Citizen: Greater Ottawa: The Gatineau parking-lot project continues [24 Aug 2007]
NCC Watch: Blunders - Hull

Thursday, December 1, 2005

NCC denies role in closing Domtar plant

Domtar has announced it will be closing two paper machines on Chaudiere Island, cutting 185 jobs. Giants of real estate dealing that they are, the NCC has long made known to one and all its desire for Domtar's land on the island, but has been reluctant to act while there were still jobs to be had. While the NCC denies having anything to do with the Domtar layoff, look for Domtar to walk away with a very nice payday for the land.

Of course, considering the great things the NCC has done with the portion of the island it already owns (it's another classic NCC wasteland), its plans for the rest amount to little more than empire building for its own sake. The NCC wants the land because the federal government will give them the money to get it.

CBC: NCC denies role in closing Domtar plant [1 Dec 2005]

Friday, January 14, 2005

NCC's Scott Paper site oozes chemicals

The Citizen reports today that cleaning up the Scott Paper land could cost the NCC $34 million:

To fix environmental problems at the site, the consultants proposed two solutions, the less costly of which includes soil capping, a groundwater barrier and on-site groundwater treatment over five years. This measure would meet federal standards for an urban park and cost $3.8 million.

The other proposal is a full cleanup that involves digging up the site and clearing the contaminants, at a cost of $33.7 million. The land won't be developed for a park for at least 25 years and NCC spokeswoman Eva Schacherl said a decision would be made at that time.

The federal agency acquired the land in 2003 as part of its grand vision to transform the Ottawa River shoreline and beautify the nation's capital. The plan includes an aboriginal centre on the east end of Victoria Island and a string of waterfront shops and restaurants on the west end. An urban park, museum and federal office building on Chaudiere Island would round out the rebuilding.

The NCC bought the site "as is" for $36 million from George Weston Limited and leased it back to the company for $29 million over 25 years. According to documents obtained for the Citizen by researcher Ken Rubin under the Access to Information legislation, George Weston, in turn, leased the land back to Scott Paper for more than $70 million over 25 years.

The NCC also agreed to commemorate the role of the Weston family at the site, possibly with a plaque. In 2028, Scott Paper would have to demolish its buildings and hand over the site to the NCC. However, George Weston turned down an NCC request to guarantee that Scott Paper will leave the site as required, suggesting the agency might have to "enlist the assistance of the courts to obtain possession of the site."

Ms. Schacherl said the NCC considers the purchase of such an important urban site a good deal for taxpayers. She said Treasury Board and the auditor general approved the deal.

Citizen: NCC's Scott Paper site oozes chemicals [14 Jan 2005]

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Arrogant NCC now targets key islands

Researcher Ken Rubin critiques the NCC's development projects in the Citizen:

As the luxury condo slab on the Daly Building site rises and the start of the LeBreton Freeway sends cars speeding on their way, we are being saddled with expensive developments that are neither balanced nor attractive.

They benefit a few, ignore the environment and cater to the well off.

Even the crazy car drive down Island Park Drive isn't good enough for the NCC, so it's putting roadway markers and a new traffic divider along the way to remind taxpayers that it can do as it pleases. Their power is evident too in their cutting several new roads in or through the Gatineau Park that will further carve up the capital's only wilderness park.

The recent NCC announcement that it is spending millions of dollars to acquire the Scott Paper land on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River (with the actual transfer date being 25 years from now), may, on the surface, seem out of character. But don't expect that riverside land to be developed as one big green space beyond 2028, or to be without significant development projects. They could include more of the same type of tacky sightseeing pavilions as the Canada and the World one spoiling the Ontario side of the river next to Rideau Falls.

Let's also not forget that it was the NCC that adamantly resolved to sell off a large chunk of riverside green space, the Moffatt Farm, along the Rideau River, so that now, despite opposition, a mundane housing development is proceeding.

Indeed, it's the NCC's penchant to plan intensive development for the capital's three tiny islands in the Ottawa River that symbolizes just how out of control the NCC now is. Declassified NCC documents that I've obtained under the Access to Information Act show how the natural environmental settings of these islands takes second place to seeing how many structures with commercial payoffs can be stuffed in.

Take the four-hectare Bates Island, located off the Champlain Bridge. The NCC is not content to enhance the island's focus point for strolling, kayaking and fishing. Instead, it has pre- development infrastructure plans that call for spending millions of dollars for building, with a private developer, a hotel of up to 60 rooms that will occupy both sides of the bridge roadway.

Filling in the island space would also cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring in cable and natural-gas lines. In addition, there would be increased traffic and up to 53 new parking spaces.

Similarly, Victoria and Chaudiere Islands, off the Chaudiere Bridge near Parliament Hill, would be overdeveloped.

The recent NCC studies there envisage not just a long-promised aboriginal centre, but possibly a hotel, government office space, recreation complex, and even a junior college. Again, there would be increased traffic flows and costly infrastructure installed, such as new water mains and sewage pipes. Even the proposed aboriginal centre would be a large structure and is slated to be more of an institutional social-service building than a meeting place.

Citizen: Arrogant NCC now targets key islands [8 Oct 2003]

Wednesday, July 29, 2003

NCC plans for Ottawa River islands

More plans were extracted from the NCC via an access to information request (reported in The Citizen today), this time involving Bates, Chaudiere and Victoria islands. Apparently they are considering such things as an aboriginal centre, tourist-oriented inn, condos, restaurants, housing, offices and parks:

The plans for Chaudiere and Victoria islands, the jewels in the NCC's grand vision for waterfront improvement, are more elaborate. One of the NCC documents, a traffic impact study, shows a 137,000- square-foot aboriginal centre anchoring the east side of Victoria Island, east of Portage Bridge.

The centre would include office space, child care centre, an education centre including a small museum and a recreation centre. On the west side, between Portage and Chaudiere Bridge, a number of proposals, including one for 50 condo apartments, restaurant, about 49,000 square feet of office space and convenience market, are under consideration.

A second option for the west side of Victoria Island would include about 260,000 square feet of offices, a pub, two restaurants and retail space.

The NCC document lists two development scenarios for the seven- hectare Chaudiere Island, the first of which includes 75 homes, a convenience market and more than 50,000 square feet of office space. The second scenario has no homes on the island, but 140,000 square feet of office space, stores and restaurant.

In response to the revelation of their plans, the NCC was careful to insist that there are no immediate plans for development. No change there then -- much like the LeBreton Flats, the NCC has been sitting on these properties for decades, seemingly with no other goal than to keep them as empty and banal as possible. (See NCC Wastelands for a look at the property rotting in the care of the NCC on Bates Island.)

Citizen: Hotel highlights NCC plans for islands [29 Jul 2003]
Radio-Canada: La CCN veut développer les îles de la rivière des Outaouais [29 Jul 2003]
Radio-Canada: Le restaurant pourrait revivre a l'ile Bates [4 Aug 2003]

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Domtar flattens NCC plan for 'marvellous' plant

From the Citizen:

Just a month after NCC chairman Marcel Beaudry revealed the agency's interest in purchasing and renovating a vacant paper mill on Chaudiere Island for a new Parks Canada headquarters, Domtar has announced it plans to demolish the historic building as part of a $7- million modernization of its Ottawa-Gatineau facilities.

Domtar's announcement yesterday clearly took the NCC by surprise. Spokeswoman Laurie Peters said the Crown corporation -- which is responsible for planning waterfront development in a way befitting a national capital -- will have to learn more about the demolition proposal before reacting.

[...]Martin Lorrion, general manager of Domtar's operations in Ottawa, said the NCC is free to dream about the future of the capital and the eventual acquisition of industrial sites for its beautification and nation-building agenda. But he said Domtar's Chaudiere Island complex "is a profitable mill and we want to be there long-term."

The company said its Ottawa-Gatineau operation provides 450 jobs and pumps $40 million a year into the region's economy. Domtar has already invested $50 million in the paper-making plant since acquiring it in 1998, Mr. Lorrion said, and the latest plans also involve upgrading a number of industrial buildings in ways that would preserve their historical value.

"This project will enable us to significantly improve all facilities and optimize the use of available space," he added. "This means that the buildings housing operations will be better suited to our industrial requirements as well as permit us to remove infrastructures that present, over the long term, safety risks to the operations of the site."

A second significant impact on the city's skyline would be Domtar's planned demolition of an unused, 80-metre-high smokestack on the west side of the island.

"It's an eyesore, and same with the board mill," said Mr. Lorrion. He said the mill building poses "a safety risk" because of a "collapsing" roof. Domtar doesn't believe it is suitable for refurbishment as an office building or any other use.

"This building is not safe and sound," he insisted, adding that it is situated at the river's edge and that crumbling walls could create an environmental problem.

Asked if the company is simply exploiting the NCC's interest in the site to drive up the price in a potential sale, Mr. Lorrion denied that was a motive. But he added that any piece of real estate can be bought for the right amount.

"That's how the world turns."

Citizen: Domtar flattens NCC plan for 'marvellous' plant [16 Jan 2003]


Saturday, December 14, 2002

NCC floats Chaudiere Island plans again

Every few years, the NCC mentions how much they'd like to do something with Chaudiere Island. Thus:

Mr. Beaudry noted during a speech in September that the NCC has been in discussions for two years with paper manufacturer Domtar Inc. about acquiring property on the eastern end of Chaudiere Island and converting the former Booth Board Mill into a federal government building.

Built in 1912 but unused since 1980, the former cardboard factory has been described by one heritage architect as a stunning candidate for "adaptive re-use" as an office building.

During an interview with the Citizen, Mr. Beaudry revealed that the NCC and Public Works are, in fact, interested in creating an office building at the site to serve as a new home for Parks Canada, which currently shares space with its parent department, Canadian Heritage, and several other federal agencies at Les Terrasses de la Chaudiere complex in Gatineau.

And, as usual, Domtar notes its disinterest in the whole business:

[...]Domtar spokesman Patrice Bourgoin said the company hadn't heard of the Parks Canada idea but is familiar with the NCC's determination to purchase all or part of Chaudiere Island and other industrial lands along the waterfront.

He said that although discussions occur from time to time with the federal government about Domtar's properties, the company's active paper-making operation on Chaudiere Island is "very profitable." And while Domtar has no immediate plans for the abandoned cardboard mill, he said, the company is inclined to maintain ownership in the event of a possible business expansion.

Mr. Beaudry said there's no urgency about deciding what should become of either Victoria or Chaudiere, but added it makes sense to consider extending services to the islands now as part of the LeBreton Flats redevelopment rather than doing it as a separate project in the future.

Mr. Bourgoin added that selling the eastern part of the island for an office building would probably lead to conflicts between the paper plant and its new neighbour. He said Domtar would prefer to retain the entire island to help maintain a "buffer" between industrial operations and other public or commercial activities.

So, as usual, nothing is happening.

Citizen: NCC eager to move into old mill [14 Dec 2002]

Friday, July 13, 2001

The National Capital Commission's planning disasters through time

The NCC has redone its web site ( Fear not, the site is still rich with irony, and apparently they still can't get enough of themselves, particularly their own special brand of planning genius. In a new section Planning Canada's Capital Region, they go on at length about their perceived planning victories. As a public service, NCC Watch offers this alternate planning time line:

"Stalinist Planning Writ Small: A people's history of the NCC"


First settlement on the north side of the Ottawa River. Notably, this was done without the aid of NCC planners.


A town is founded on the south side of the river when the building of the Rideau Canal begins. Incredibly, this too was done without any advice from the NCC.


Ottawa is chosen as Capital of the newly formed Province of Canada (created from Upper and Lower Canada, parts of today's Ontario and Quebec). The NCC regrets that it wasn't around at the time so that it could come up with this idea first. But if they had been, they would have, you bet.


Formation of the Ottawa Improvement Commission "to beautify" Ottawa. It clears industry from around the Rideau Canal and creates parks and Ottawa's first scenic parkway. It then snubs the remaining industry by spreading vicious rumours about it and never inviting it to dinner.


Todd Plan: Expresses the idea of a Capital region framed in a network of parks. Pushes for a boulevard to link the Parliament Buildings to Rideau Hall. The story behind this is classic Federal Government planning in action: Sussex was one of Ottawa's first and most successful commercial streets, but Lady Aberdeen, wife of the Governor General, wanted to enjoy a "beautiful ride on her way from Rideau Hall". She eventually got the government to expropriate the entire west side of Sussex, except for the Daly Building (that would be taken care of later). The Connaught Building was built between 1913-1915, but then the rest of the land stayed vacant. It was used as a parking space for decades. The U.S. Embassy was finally built there in the 90s.


Holt Report: Recommends establishment of a federal district planning authority and extension of the park system.


Yet Another Report: Boldly supports the idea of a new planning authority, recommends removal of rail lines from the centre, building of highways, extension of the park system, general tidying up.


The Federal District Commission is formed with the authority and budget to enact past recommendations. And, according to this time line anyway, promptly does nothing for the next 20 years. This period is now looked back on as something of a Golden Age.


Greber Plan rather imaginatively recommends emasculating Ottawa's rail network and building roads, decentralizing government offices (resulting in those triumphs, Place du Portage, Les Terraces de la Chaudiere, Confederation Heights, etc.), and expropriating vast amounts of land for the Greenbelt.


The National Capital Act sets the mandate for a new kind of planning authority (just like the old planning authority).


The NCC expropriates land for the Greenbelt from people like the Woodburns.


The National Capital Commission (NCC) is formed to carry out recommendations of the Greber Plan. Of course, they've no intention of stopping there.


True to their ideals, the NCC expropriates and demolishes the LeBreton Flats. Incredibly, this was planned without consulting the people who actually lived there. The land remains vacant.


The NCC generously decides to not demolish Ottawa Union Station, figuring a vacant lot might not look so good during the Centennial. The train station was however moved to the suburbs, guaranteeing its irrelevance. The rail lines were replaced with roads such as the Nicholas Expressway.


The Federal Government expropriates the north side of Sparks Street, essentially freezing development and accelerating its decline.


Fearing its budget isn't growing fast enough, the NCC persuades the government to expand its mandate to include public programming, because the public need programming.


After neglecting the building for a decade, the NCC demolishes the Daly Building in the heart of Ottawa, quashing plans for its restoration. The land remains vacant.


The NCC conceive a Vision for the Core Area (complete with a plan to demolish Metcalfe Street), approve a Plan for Canada's Capital, prepare a Core Area Concept of Canada's Capital, and develop a Core Area Sector Plan. That's two plans, a vision, and a concept. On the practical side, the development of the Daly site flounders.

NCC: Planning chronology

Friday, April 6, 2001

NCC agitating the falls again

The NCC is once again trying to get something rolling at the Chaudiere Falls. The NCC first floated a plan to develop the Falls in 1998, generating a minor media frenzy. The plans, however, were news to landowner E.B. Eddy (since acquired by Domtar), and they promptly torpedoed it. Now the NCC is back with a proposal to buy an unused portion of Chaudiere Island, still with the long term goal of acquiring the entire island.

Citizen: Bidding heats up for Chaudiere Island [6 April 2001]
Citizen: Freeing the falls [2 May 1998]
Citizen: NCC hopes to steer around Eddy [9 May 1998]
Citizen: Island of memories [11 May 1998]
Citizen: NCC, E.B. Eddy set to enter talks on Falls [13 May 1998]
Citizen: NCC's vision: A 'walk of waters' [13 May 1998]
Citizen: E.B. Eddy: Not so fast [14 May 1998]
Citizen: Falls dream falls flat [16 May 1998]
Citizen: Ottawa urged to take lead on falls project [17 May 1998]
Citizen: Free the Falls, 72% say [19 May 1998]
Citizen: Mayor shies away from plans for Falls [23 May 1998]
Citizen: Falls restoration makes sense [26 May 1998]
Citizen: E.B. Eddy plans $3.5-M upgrade [29 May 1998]
Citizen: E.B. Eddy dampens NCC plan [16 June 1998]

Thursday, March 2, 2000

NCC confirms Metcalfe Lite project

The NCC released its grand plan for the capital yesterday:

The National Capital Commission yesterday confirmed what has long been suspected: It is considering moving heritage buildings to create more open space near the Parliament Buildings.

It's the plan known as Metcalfe Lite, creation of a two-block- long square beside Metcalfe Street, immediately south of Parliament Hill.

It would mean dismantling two heritage buildings standing on the west side of Metcalfe between Wellington and Sparks streets.

The buildings, which now contain Four Corners gift shop and the NCC's information centre, would be re-erected on the western edge of the new square, next to another heritage building, which until recently was the U.S. embassy on Wellington Street.

[...]The block to the south of Sparks Street would be a new development, with a 150-unit luxury apartment building at the corner of Metcalfe and Queen streets.

Marcel Beaudry, chairman of the NCC, estimated it would cost less than $1 million to move the two heritage buildings. He said they would replace buildings of little heritage value, including the former Birks jewelry story, on Sparks Street.

The NCC has already decided to create a square on Metcalfe between Sparks and Queen, and has embarked on a $40 million buying spree to purchase all properties on that block, all the way over to O'Connor Street. It hopes the private sector will pay to develop the block, which would include a large office tower at the corner of Queen and O'Connor streets.

[...]Plans for an urban square on Metcalfe Street are among seven major developments on or close to Parliament Hill that the NCC is planning.

The others are:

  • Development of an entire city block on the south side of Sparks Street.
  • Development of LeBreton Flats, just west of Parliament Hill, to include parkland, public buildings and attractions, businesses and houses.
  • Development of Victoria and Chaudiere islands in the Ottawa River, near Parliament Hill, to include an aboriginal centre on Victoria Island.
  • Creation of a park on what is now an industrial site on the Hull waterfront, directly opposite the Parliament Buildings.
  • Construction of a lookout on Parliament Hill over the Ottawa River, and putting in steps or a cable car to provide river access.
  • Construction of a new road linking Ottawa with Gatineau Park, via the Alexandra Bridge.

Together, these projects are expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, shared by government and the private sector.

Citizen: The NCC's 'significant world capital' [2 Mar 2000]