Ottawa

Transformation of Booth Street complex clears hurdle

The bleak block of brick buildings that once housed the federal government's mining labs in the heart of Ottawa's Little Italy is a major step closer to revitalization.

Mix of modern, heritage buildings will resemble Toronto's Distillery District, proponents hope

Many of the original brick buildings will be protected for their heritage value as the federal government's former mining labs in Little Italy are turned over to private developers. (City of Ottawa)

The bleak block of brick buildings that once housed the federal government's mining labs in the heart of Ottawa's Little Italy is a major step closer to revitalization.

On Thursday, the city's planning committee granted the necessary zoning approvals to allow Canada Lands Company, the Crown corporation that prepares federal properties for sale, to transform the 2.6-hectare Booth Street complex into a retail and residential area some are comparing to Toronto's Distillery District.

The rezoning paves the way for five new highrises — the tallest reaching a maximum of 25 storeys — as well as various additions to existing buildings, all set amid a number of protected heritage structures. A corner of the property at Norman and Rochester streets will be set aside for a park.

The idea is to "bring life back to this corner of the Preston-Carling neighbourhood," said Mary Jarvis, a director of real estate with Canada Lands.

The City of Ottawa's planning committee has endorsed Canada Lands Company's plan for the Booth Street site. (City of Ottawa)

If approved by city council, Canada Lands Company can begin soil remediation and partial demolition, with an eye to selling off the property to developers in 2020 or 2021.

Coun. Jan Harder, chair of the planning committee, commended both city staff and the Crown corporation for working closely with neighbours.

After Canada Lands Company took over the property from Natural Resources Canada, it held five public meetings, starting in January 2017.

"We start with a blank slate, and then we work with the community to build a plan that is both financially viable and community accepted," Jarvis said.

"I think that's evident here today that working with the community can achieve balanced results."

No residents showed up Thursday to speak against the development at planning committee, a relative rarity when it comes to major urban redevelopments.

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