‘Ottawa’ Proposed 22-storey mixed-use high rise to replace iconic Trailhead building
The iconic timber building that has been home to Trailhead for 25 years is on the chopping block as the property owner pursues a high-rise complex for the Westboro corner lot.
“There were a lot of people who went through there who were going on a life adventure some place,” said Wally Schaber, the former owner of Trailhead who built the unique post-and-beam building with business partner Chris Harris.
Schaber can’t deny feeling emotional at the thought of the building being disassembled.
“I’d be lying if I said no.”
Colonnade BridgePort has submitted a rezoning application to city hall for a 22-storey mixed-use building on the property at 1960 Scott St. at McRae Avenue. The planning rationale describes a building with a retail ground floor, five floors of office space and the rest of it rental apartments, about 120 residential units in total. There would be a two-level underground garage.
Hugh Gorman, CEO of Colannade BridgePort, said the company has no plans for the Trailhead building. The design plans are still in the preliminary stages and there is not a schedule for development, Gorman said.
It’s an attractive corner for high-density development since it’s kitty-corner to the Westboro Transitway station, which will become an LRT stop when the Stage 2 rail expansion is finished in 2023. The city wants to plan residential density around LRT stations. Another group wants to build a 19-storey tower across the street from Trailhead.
The rezoning will be a hard sell to Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper. He wants the 22-storey building proposed for the Trailhead property reduced by half in height to foster a “thoughtful transition” between the adjacent neighbourhood and the 32-storey Metropole condo tower north of Scott Street.
Leiper hopes the Trailhead building will have another life.
“It would be an absolute shame to lose the building,” Leiper said.
The building has become a landmark in Westboro.
Schaber and Harris wanted a building reflecting the type of business they were in, but they went through a rigmarole with the municipality to get the building approved for construction.
“It was a huge hassle because the engineers in the city didn’t believe post and beam was a safe and viable construction technique,” Schaber said. “We had to add a lot of structural braces and things that were taboo in terms of how classic post-and-beam buildings were concerned. It all worked out in the end.”
Schaber said Harris had experience building post-and-beam structures and put together the best crew from the region for the Trailhead project. Local architect Peter Kindree designed the building. Douglas fir beams came from British Columbia by train. Two beams at the back of the building are made from white pines cut in the Ottawa Valley, paying homage to the region’s lumbering days.
About a dozen workers built the 1,672-square-foot structure over a year and their names are on a porch beam.
“I wouldn’t mind getting that piece of lumber,” Schaber said.
Construction finished in December 1991 and the move-in was complete in 1992, making it the largest post-and-beam commercial building in the east at the time.
Schaber and Harris eventually sold Trailhead to Paddle Shack. The current owners couldn’t be reached for comment, but they have announced Trailhead Paddle Shack will move to Fairlawn Plaza on Carling Avenue, across from Carlingwood Shopping Centre, in September.
Schaber, who wrote a book on the Rivière du Moine in Quebec after selling the business, said he’s not upset the Trailhead building will come down. He hopes it can be reassembled somewhere else, for another purpose.
“I will miss the building, the stories we had about it and the ability of that building to keep on generating that,” he said.