Claridge Homes proposes ‘landmark’ tower, public park near Canadian Museum of Nature

Claridge Gladstone design parcel
A site configuration drawing shows the maximum building envelope for Claridge Homes' proposed project on Gladstone Avenue.

Claridge Homes wants to raze several residences and office buildings to make way for a project that would include a highrise of up to 27 storeys and a new public gathering space near the Canadian Museum of Nature.

The Ottawa-based company has applied for a permit to demolish three buildings at 222 and 224 Gladstone Ave. and 223 McLeod St. as part of its plan to construct a “landmark building” on a site that also includes 210 Gladstone Ave., 377 and 379 Metcalfe St. and 231 McLeod St.

The property covers roughly half a square block in an area bounded by Metcalfe Street to the west, Elgin Street to the east, Gladstone Avenue to the north and McLeod Street to the south.

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In an application for demolition prepared by Toronto-based Urban Strategies and submitted to the City of Ottawa last month, Claridge says it wants to create a “legacy project” that includes a “tall residential building” on Gladstone Avenue and a public space at the corner of Metcalfe and McLeod streets.

“While the building will stand out for its height and distinctive architecture, it will also respect Centretown’s rich history and contribute to its eclectic character,” the application says, adding the open space will be “designed as both an amenity for the neighbourhood and a unique destination that complements the Canadian Museum of Nature.”

Claridge Homes did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

The application says the new building will meet the definition of a “landmark” structure under Ottawa’s Centre and East Downtown Core Secondary Plan.

The city’s policy on landmark buildings states they must make “significant and exceptional contributions to the public realm and overall identity of Centretown” and combine “iconic architecture, extraordinary site design and a unique civic or national function to create a distinctive place.”

Design competition

According to a document enclosed with the request for demolition, Claridge plans to invite three of Canada’s “top architects with relevant experience” to submit designs for the project.

Claridge Gladstone project
Claridge Homes wants to demolish these buildings at 222 and 224 Gladstone Ave. as part of a plan to build a new highrise and public park on the site. Photo by David Sali

The firms will be asked to partner with a landscape architect and an Indigenous designer or artist to create their concept. The winner will be chosen by a jury that includes Urban Strategies partner George Dark, Claridge Homes officials, a representative from the City of Ottawa and another design professional.

The designs are expected to “respect and complement” the nearby Canadian Museum of Nature and reflect Centretown’s “historic character,” according to the document.

The highrise will be a “market condominium or rental building” with a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, a portion of which will qualify as “affordable,” the document says. The project may also include a “small commercial component” along Gladstone Avenue.

The guidelines also call for a “distinct architectural treatment” on the top of the tower, which is expected to rise as high as 27 storeys, the maximum height allowed under the city’s landmark building policy.

Meanwhile, the open public area should be “a gathering space and green oasis for neighbourhood residents” and “an extension of the forecourt for the Museum of Nature,” the document explains. 

It is expected to include elements that reflect the area’s Indigenous history as well as trees, other vegetation and seating that “encourages lingering, facilitates social interaction and provides views of the museum.” Underground parking for residents of the adjacent highrise will likely be built below the space.

The property includes five buildings deemed to be “contributing” to the neighbourhood’s heritage character under the city’s Centretown and Minto Park Heritage Conservation District Plan adopted in 2022.

Heritage protection in doubt

The three buildings slated for demolition – 222 and 224 Gladstone Ave. and 223 McLeod St. – fail to meet enough criteria for protection under the Ontario Heritage Act, according to a heritage evaluation study conducted last year for Claridge by Toronto’s GBCA Architects.  

The study concluded that only a two-and-a-half-storey wood-frame house at 377 Metcalfe St. dating from the late 1870s or early 1880s should qualify for heritage protection. According to the design competition guidelines, it will be preserved and “integrated with the design of the open space and larger landmark development.”

Meanwhile, the report argues that the heritage character of a two-storey wood-frame house at 231 McLeod St. dating from the same period has been “compromised through its conversion into a professional office.” 

City staff have asked Claridge to look at preserving the building, but the developer says that “would present a significant constraint” to its overall plan for the site. The firm says it will ask the design teams to “consider relocating and integrating the building into the development if they feel it can contribute to achieving the objectives of the project.”

If no compromise can be reached, Claridge says it will submit another application to demolish the structure.

Claridge says the winning design concept will be “rigorously reviewed” by various groups and organizations with an interest in the project, including the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Centretown Community Association and city staff as well as the city’s urban design review panel and the built heritage sub-committee, before the company submits any development applications for the project.

“Our demolition permit applications are one early step in a lengthy and engaging process to develop a landmark project that will have many public benefits,” the company said.

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