Heritage Ottawa Supports Redevelopment of Two Historic Centretown Properties After Proposed High-Rises reduced to Mid-Rises

Left: Andrew Fleck House / 593 Laurier Ave. West: Project1 Studio Inc.,2020. Right: 100 Argyle: Roderick Lahey Architects, 2020

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


In late February City Council approved the redevelopment and intensification of two important properties in Centretown: the historic Andrew Fleck House at 593 Laurier Avenue West, designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act, and the former Canadian Labour Congress building at 100 Argyle Avenue, part of the Centretown Heritage Conservation District.

Heritage Ottawa supported City heritage staff’s recommendations for those approvals after significant changes to both designs were implemented, including the reduction of the high-rise buildings to mid-rises.

Alexander Fleck House

The Alexander Fleck House is considered a neighbourhood landmark for its prominent siting on a limestone ridge at the corner of Laurier and Bronson avenues. A two-and-a-half storey red brick building constructed in 1902, it is recognized as a highly intact example of the Queen Anne Revival style, with many decorative elements including complex rooflines, detailed stone and brick work, and stained-glass windows.

The redevelopment includes the restoration and alteration of the historic house and the construction of a nine storey V-shaped structure that frames the existing building. They will be joined by a glass connection, which will function as the new apartment building’s lobby area. The Fleck House will be integrated as additional residential units (the house was converted into four apartments in the 1940s). Later additions to the house’s west and north sides will be removed to accommodate access to the new mid-rise building and rear courtyard.

The approved development is significantly scaled-back from the original 17-storey high-rise proposed for the site. The new 9-storey mid-rise design was submitted by the proponent after listening to public input and recommendations by the city’s heritage staff to minimize the impact of the addition on the heritage character of the Andrew Fleck House.

Heritage Ottawa supported the reduced height because it allows residential intensification—encouraged for the area in the Official Plan—to compliment and preserve the visual primacy of the landmark building, which will continue to contribute to the heritage character of the area.

“It is a good example of how a property designated under the Ontario Heritage Act can be conserved and integrated into a project which provides increased density and continued residential use of the designated building,” wrote David Flemming, chair of Heritage Ottawa’s Advocacy Committee. “The owner should be congratulated for responding to community concerns."

Restoration work will include repairs to the brick that will involve the removal and repointing of masonry (brick façades, chimneys and stone foundation), repair and repainting of the stucco and wood elements of the half-timbering, doors and windows, repair of stained-glass, and replacing roof cladding and flashing). As indicated in the project’s Conservation Plan, all repairs and replacement will be completed using in-kind materials and will take a “minimum intervention" approach.

Heritage Ottawa also drew attention to the unfortunate gap in the protection of this heritage house,  namely that “none of what is reputed to be one of the most spectacular Queen Anne Revival interiors in Canada, both in terms of its original conception, and in its integrity” was included in the Part IV heritage designation. Heritage Ottawa urged the City and the owner to “seek ways to incorporate existing interior elements… in the final project design.”

100 Argyle Avenue

The two-and-a-half storey office building designed in a modern style by Sproule Architects was constructed in 1955 with an addition in 1959 by Gilleland and Strutt Architects. The building was the headquarters of the Canadian Labour Congress until 1973. Situated mid-block on the south side of Argyle between Metcalfe and Elgin streets, the building sits within the Centretown Heritage Conservation District. It is also across the street from the Canadian Museum of Nature, designated as both a ‘Classified’ federal heritage building and a National Historic Site of Canada, whose surrounding grounds contribute to the museum’s landmark status.

In 2019 the owner, Colonnade/Bridgeport, applied to the City to construct a 21-storey tower to “float” over the historic office building. The proposal tripled the maximum height established by the Centretown Community Design Plan to create a mid-rise zone along Argyle Avenue.

Thanks to community input and city heritage staff interventions aimed at mitigating the impact of the tower’s height on the Museum and mid-rise streetscape, the owner submitted a revised plan in 2020 that reduced the height of the apartment building by more than half to 10 storeys. The new plan also uses brown and ochre brick in keeping with the material palette of the surrounding buildings.

Unlike the redevelopment of the Andrew Fleck House, only the façade of 100 Argyle will be integrated into the new building. The Cultural Heritage Impact Statement (CHIS) for the property suggests that the front façade (attributed to James Strutt) was designed to have greater prominence than the rest of the building and respect the Museum across the street. It will be reconstructed in its entirety and set at the same setback from the street as its current location with the new mid-rise behind it, not over it.

The City approved the project on certain conditions: a Conservation Plan must detail the methods to be used in dismantling, numbering, and storing the stone façade; photo documentation must be undertaken of the entire building before dismantling and demolition begin; and a Letter of Credit from the applicant be provided to ensure the protection, conservation and reconstruction of the front portion of the building.

Heritage Ottawa supported the revised plan and urged the City and the proponent to “closely follow the measures and methodology included in the Conservation Plan for the property.”

CLICK HERE to read the Cultural Heritage Impact Statement for 593 Laurier Avenue West.

CLICK HERE to read the Cultural Heritage Impact Statement for 100 Argyle Avenue.