Claridge proposes demolishing Union of Canada building

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The developer with plans to turn the Union of Canada building in the ByWard Market into a hotel now wants to raze it instead, city documents say.

Claridge Properties is requesting to tear down the 10-storey structure at 325 Dalhousie St. that was built in 1968, according to a proposal being presented at the city’s built heritage subcommittee.

An initial proposal in December 2012, subsequently approved by council in April, would have seen four storeys added to the top of the building. Additionally, Claridge proposed taking off the building’s exterior cladding in favour of something more contemporary.

The approval, however, was appealed by neighbours to the Ontario Municipal Board.

“The current project is a response to the community concern over the height of the proposed hotel,” stated a staff report that will be considered at the subcommittee July 11.

“The project architect analysed the programming requirements and existing heights of the building, and concluded that, because the floor-to-ceiling heights required for an office building are higher than those required for a hotel, the height of the proposed building could be reduced and the needs of its clients met, if an entirely new building were to be constructed.”

Claridge’s new proposal suggests a 15-storey building with “a strong horizontal band at the second floor, a gridded fenestration pattern, contrasting materials, and a two-storey glazed penthouse set back from the cornice.”

The building would also feature a four-storey extension over an interior courtyard (which exists right now) and a central entrance at grade into a reception area that will include a restaurant.

“My understanding is that the revised development application results in a new building that closely matches the envelope of the existing commercial structure,” wrote Carl Bray, the head of Carl Bray & Associates, in a publicly released e-mail to the city that he wrote on behalf of Claridge.

He suggested Claridge take steps such as taking photographs of the building’s exterior, salvaging some window units for reuse as well as some possible design elements, and put the architectural plans and drawings for the current building in an archive.

The Ontario Heritage Act requires individual city councils to approve the demolition of designated heritage buildings in their respective jurisdictions.

In this case, the Union of Canada building was classified as a category four property, which the staff report notes “includes buildings which are of negligible or no heritage value but located in a heritage conservation district.”

The building on 325 Dalhousie St. was mainly designated as a landmark because of its size, the report added, as it is not in fitting with the character and scale of the ByWard Market area. Further, most of the buildings on that block are category four buildings.

The breakup of Union of Canada resulted in releasing about 33,000 square feet of property in the ByWard Market that the insurer owned.