Ottawa’s ‘tired’ ByWard Market building requires more than $1M in short-term repairs
The city-owned heritage building in the heart of the ByWard Market requires more than $1 million in short-term fixes, but the chairman of Ottawa Markets is confident the money is available to make the necessary repairs on a key asset now under the organization’s oversight.
A consultant’s December 2016 audit obtained under access-to-information law reveals the maintenance requirements for 20 years, with the document recommending the critical work needed over the next three years at 55 ByWard Market Square.
The audit by Morrison Hershfield happened just over one year before Ottawa Markets took over oversight of the ByWard Market and Parkdale Market as a municipal service corporation. The arm’s-length Ottawa Markets has been in operation since the beginning of 2018.
At the time of building audit, the elements in most dire need of fixing included the steel windows, the membrane and weather-proofing on the north and south sides of the roof, the skylights, the steel nosing on the stairs and some of the rooftop mechanical equipment.
The consultant identified nearly $4.5 million in required maintenance over the next 20 years. Of that, the suggested repairs between 2017 and 2019 add up to $1.056 million.
Peter Hume, chair of the Ottawa Markets board of directors, said the organization plans to spend about $570,000 between 2018 and 2019 on required maintenance, focusing on building-code and safety-related issues. The building audit identified about $108,000 in recommended work alone on “life safety” elements, such as the fire alarm control panel and emergency lighting.
The building audit also points out some low-cost aesthetic fixes that would help the building, such as the mismatched tiles on the ground floor, which the consultant characterized as “poorly executed repairs.”
The building audit concluded that, overall, the building is in “fair” condition, meaning there’s a lot of minor maintenance required and operating the building as it sits today could be expensive.
Ottawa Markets’ revenue comes from tenant rent payments at the city-owned market buildings, which includes the parking and commercial building on Clarence Street.
Hume said he’s confident that the city will cough up funds to help pay for some of the more major repairs needed on the 93-year-old central building, leaving the “granular” work up to Ottawa Markets.
“If we’ve got mission-critical issues, they’re going to be dealt with,” Hume said.
City economic development officer Brian Simpson said the city has a life-cycle renewal program to address issues identified in the building audit and those flagged by Ottawa Markets.
“For some projects, the associated funds will be transferred to Ottawa Markets to carry out the work and, for others, the city will retain the funds to carry out the work, as determined and agreed to by the city and Ottawa Markets,” Simpson said in an email relayed by communications officer Carly Wolff.
The city’s 2018 budget set aside $600,000 for fixes to the central market building. Ottawa Markets is still waiting for the money to flow from city hall.
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury said the city and Ottawa Markets should guard against money being poured into life-cycle maintenance when there could be a plan for long-term changes afoot.
“Let’s not be distracted by the life cycle,” Fleury said. “This building needs a vision.”
Hume said not only does the organization have to respond to today’s maintenance needs, it has to come up with a plan for long-term success.
The city expects Ottawa Markets to figure out a way to fund and manage improvements to the building, Hume said. There could be answers when Ottawa Markets provides its next update to council, likely in the spring or early summer.
“I would suspect you would see improvements and investment in the building,” Hume said, adding there are restrictions when trying to improve an old building.
“It is a heritage building. We’re not going to drop a glass tower on it or anything crazy,” he said.
The central building has a long history as an anchor of the ByWard Market. The current building dates back to 1926. It replaced a fire-destroyed building constructed 78 years earlier. There were three major renovation projects in 1977, 1989 and 1996.
The building overall could use a revamp, Hume said.
“To be generous, it’s tired,” he said.
Some of the upgrades could help the day-to-day operations of the building and improve the service to the public.
Hume said Ottawa Markets wants to spend $200,000 on a ground-level garbage room to avoid people having to lug trash up from the basement level on collection days.
There could also be better access to public washrooms. Most of the building’s action happens on the ground floor where all the retail is, but the washrooms, inconveniently, are on the second floor.