‘Ottawa’ Redevelopment Process set to Begin on Former NRCan Booth Street Property
After years of planning that seemingly went nowhere, efforts to redevelop part of Natural Resources Canada‘s 10-hectare Booth Street complex should be under way within months.
Canada Lands Company, a Crown corporation that manages, redevelops or sells surplus federal properties, acquired a 2.6-hectare chunk of the Booth Street campus from NRCan last October.
The property, bounded by Booth, Orangeville, Norman and Rochester streets, was part of the NRCan complex, where about 3,000 departmental personnel work.
However, the property was declared surplus to NRCan’s needs in 2011 and the seven buildings on the site, some dating back to the 1930s, were vacant at the time of the transfer.
Canada Lands spokeswoman Manon Lapensée said Wednesday the Crown corporation is completing its analysis of the site and will “shortly” begin a public consultation process, similar to the one it conducted after acquiring the former CFB Rockcliffe.
Canada Lands held 195 meetings with residents, community organizations and neighbouring institutions to help smooth the way for Rockcliffe airbase project. Last year, city council approved a 20-year development plan for the property, which will eventually be home to 10,000 people.
Though some have suggested the Booth Street property could become Ottawa’s version of Toronto’s popular Distillery District, Lapensée said Canada Lands has not developed a proposal yet. “We want to hear what people have to say, and their thoughts and aspirations for the site.”
Canada Lands will also work closely with the City of Ottawa, which must approve any eventual plan.
Several of the buildings on the property are registered federal heritage buildings, complicating any potential plan to demolish them. (Or maybe not — the Sir John Carling Building on the Experimental Farm, which carried the same heritage designation, was demolished in 2014.)
Lapensée said Canada Lands will develop a heritage strategy for the property in consultation with the city. According to its website, the heritage strategy “will commemorate and celebrate the history of the site, while seeking to reserve and reintegrate some buildings, facades and/or elements where possible.
“The company believes that any new buildings and landscaping should reinforce the heritage character and assist in the historical interpretation of the site.”
There are also indications that more sections of the Booth Street complex could be made available for redevelopment.
A tender notice published earlier this month, dealing with the rehousing of NRCan’s National Geological Reference Collection at the Canadian Museum of Nature, stated that the Booth Street facilities “have been identified as obsolete and will soon be declared surplus.”
When questioned about that by the Citizen, however, departmental spokeswoman Angela Kokkinos said in an email no decision has been taken to declare the Booth Street facilities surplus. NRCan then revised the tender notice to delete the “surplus” reference.
“No decision has yet been made to sell the buildings that the department currently occupies,” Kokkinos added.
Plans to redevelop the Booth Street complex date back more than a decade.
Documents obtained by the Citizen in 2005 showed the government was planning to sell five buildings in the complex for redevelopment, including two buildings — 601 and 615 Booth Street — outside the property acquired by Canada Lands.
A detailed plan prepared by NRCan and Canada Lands in 2008 proposed a new “headquarters showcase” tower, the demolition of 615 Booth, construction of low-rise residential buildings around a central court and two new residential highrises.
In 2011, the Citizen reported that much of the Booth Street complex was in terrible condition and could soon be abandoned. According to internal documents, both 601 and 615 Booth were in “critical condition and require replacement.”
As well, a 2012 audit of real property mentioned plans to dispose of nine buildings in the Booth Street complex.
Earlier this year, some residents floated the idea of locating The Ottawa Hospital’s new Civic campus at the Booth Street site, though it is significantly smaller than the minimum 20 hectares the hospital says it requires.