Restoration begins for heritage buildings destroyed in ByWard Market fire

Buildings on William Street in Byward Market after fire in April 2019. Photo: Hallie Cotnam / CBC

Thursday, August 8, 2019

CBC NEWS, By Krystalle Ramlakhan

Businesses in the ByWard Market that were destroyed by a fire in April can start the cleanup and restoration process soon.

The William Street businesses recently got permits from the city to begin the work. City staff provided a verbal update on the situation at the built heritage subcommittee meeting Thursday morning.

The city granted permits to demolish the unsafe portions of the damaged buildings and remove debris. More permits for further work are close to being granted. The building owners have also applied for required heritage permits.

Owners are also in discussion with the city about reconstruction and rebuilding. City staff said it expects that after remediation is complete, reconstruction work could potentially begin as early as next spring.

City staff said four of the five facades of the damaged buildings will be retained and restored through the process, including on the restaurant Vittoria Trattoria, as well as on the two stone buildings on each end of the row.

Domenic Santaguida, the owner of Vittoria Trattoria, welcomed the news.

"It's still a little surreal that this has happened and it's hard to get over, but we are optimistic to rebuild," he said.

"[The permits] will allow us to keep the stone facade, which is very important to us."

One of the buildings will come down so the rest of the properties can be accessed for construction. Bricks and materials from that building will be saved for a possible restoration project in the new development.

Barry Padolsky is the architect working with the building owners. He said that, ultimately, the area should look the way it did before the fire. He said owners would like to start work as soon as possible.

"Essentially because it's a heritage conservation district we're going to be retaining four of the five facades and when people see the outcome when we complete the work, it'll just feel like William Street always was," said Padolsky.

Padolsky said he believes it will take at least six months to rebuild the structures when reconstruction starts after cleanup, but work on each building will probably begin at different times.

"It's a challenge. It's like being in the emergency room of a hospital. You have this crisis and you have a number of different buildings that were damaged in different ways," he said.

He said very little is known about the anatomy of each building because some of them are 120 years old and have changed over time.

"We expect to learn a lot after we gut the space behind the facades to learn what's really going on there."

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury said that while it would have been ideal to save the entirety of the heritage buildings, he is glad the facades are being preserved.

"Not perfect, not ideal. Obviously the fire was shocking for all. For the business community and the ByWard overall, and now we're seeing ... some traction," said Fleury.

"We have owners that are serious, that want to reopen and that are working hand-in-hand with the city so that's good news," he said.

"Today is a first step, it's a good first step."


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