NCC board pushes for decorative Centre Block cover during renovation

The National Capital Commission Thursday morning voiced its support of an eye-pleasing treatment of Centre Block during its lengthy renovations.

Board heard LeBreton land deal won't be done by end of the year, and Nepean Point design winner chosen

Parliament Hill's Centre Block is being renovated, a process that's expected to last about a decade. On Thursday, members of the National Capital Commission board told the federal government they don't want the landmark to be an eyesore. (CBC)

The National Capital Commission Thursday morning voiced its support of an eye-pleasing treatment of Centre Block during its lengthy renovations.

The commission is responsible for approving and coordinating the extensive plans to rehabilitate the signature building on Parliament Hill.

The NCC's board of directors heard from Public Services and Procurement Canada's project director Jennifer Garrett that planning for the rehabilitation is still in its early stages, with the first steps to finish design work and do a thorough inspection once the building's employees have been moved to the West Block and former train station next to the Rideau Canal.

Jennifer Garrett, who's leading Public Services and Procurement Canada's efforts to revitalize Centre Block, talks to the NCC's board of directors on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Several members of the board told Garrett they hoped that Centre Block would have some sort of decorative covering during construction to still make it a draw for tourists.

"This is probably one of the most photographed buildings in the country," said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, a non-voting member of the board.

"To have it simply wrapped around with a tarp and some scaffolding for 10 years is not acceptable … We want to make sure when the construction does start that it's wrapped with an image of the Parliament buildings so people can continue to take pictures."

Garrett said she'll have more to say about the government's plans in the spring, but they want the building to still look dignified during construction.

"While I can't tell you what our vision is because we're still working on that vision, what I can tell you is we can use site construction and opportunities like the hoarding and tarping to communicate the project in a way that's befitting the dignity of Parliament Hill and so that Canadians can fully engage in the visitor experience process," she said.

LeBreton Flats update in January

NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson said in September a deal to sell up to 21 hectares of land on the western edge of downtown Ottawa to RendezVous LeBreton, the Ottawa Senators-backed group that wants to build a new arena there, could be done by the end of 2017.

But it doesn't look as if the complex land deal will be done in a month.

During his opening statement at the board meeting Thursday, Kristmanson said the NCC and RendezVous LeBreton were meeting often and he'd have an important update at their January meeting.

Mark Kristmanson (right), CEO of the NCC, talks to the board of directors on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. Beside him is the NCC's chair Marc Seaman. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

"We have had some milestones on LeBreton: enormous public consultations at the war museum, followed by a board meeting that steered us toward discussions with the RendezVous LeBreton group, then a year ago the meeting that made them the preferred proponent," Kristmanson told reporters after the meeting.

"I'd say that January will be another one of those milestone meetings."

The Senators said in September it's still possible the arena could be done for the start of the 2021-22 NHL season.

Nepean Point winner

The also chose a winning design for redeveloping Nepean Point near the National Gallery of Canada: Big River Landscape by Team Rosenberg.

The design and budget still need to be approved by the board in the summer of 2018, with a goal of finishing the first stage of construction in 2020.

Other updates from Kristmanson included:

  • the cost of repairing flood damage to NCC pathways and property this year is more than $3 million and still rising after heavy rains at the end of October. The Voyageur Pathway on the Gatineau riverfront was singled out as still needing a lot of work.
  • the "Fall Rhapsody" shuttle from Ottawa-Gatineau to Gatineau Park drew more than 10,000 passengers in October and will continue.
  • Kristmanson said he met again with the federal government after the NCC's September board meeting included resistance against a plan to build an Afghanistan war memorial near the Canadian War Museum and his understanding is the plans are being "reconsidered."