City committee rejects plan to demolish historic Sussex buildings

The city's planning committee unanimously voted to recommend to council that NCC's proposal to demolish two historic buildings on Sussex Drive be rejected.

NCC's bid to remove two historic structures rejected by planning committee

The city's planning committee rejected a bid to demolish two historic buildings on Sussex Drive at a meeting.

The proposal from the National Capital Commission related to the redevelopment of Sussex Drive between the National Gallery of Canada and King Edward Avenue, and included the construction of new bicycle lanes and updates to the surrounding infrastructure.

But heritage conservationists fought the plan once they learned the development would mean knocking down the buildings — one of which is former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson's childhood home.

In a unanimous vote the planning committee decided to recommend NCC’s request for a permit to take down the structures be rejected by council.

"We’ll have to go back to the drawing table," said Richard Daigneault, project manager for the NCC, of the outcome.

"We’ll have to sit with the city and re-look at the project. Obviously, here today the debate was about the demolition … but obviously the trigger is the road design," he said.

Heritage supporters pleased

Marc Aubin, president of the Lowertown Community Association, which lobbied to preserve the buildings, said the planning commission’s decision was unexpected.

"It's been a long slog," Aubin said. "We did a lot of work to get to where we are today … we thought it was a 50/50 tossup but the fact it was unanimous really surprised us."

For Daigneault, the rejection of NCC's proposal means more work and collaboration with city hall because as yet, he indicated, there is no 'plan B.'

"The NCC is certainly not against heritage. So I’m not saying this is a bad decision. We’ve always tried to support heritage," Daigneault said. "This has been a very difficult project, and a difficult decision."

The buildings were not classified as heritage buildings, but their supporters argue the buildings add to the "historical fabric" of the neighbourhood.

City council is expected to support the planning commission’s recommendation in a vote that could come as early as Wednesday night.