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Hudson’s Bay loses fight with city over heritage status for Rideau Street location



The city of Ottawa’s built heritage committee will not be reconsidering the heritage status of the Hudson’s Bay location on Rideau Street, despite the company’s objections.

Councillors heard presentations made by staff at Tuesday’s committee meeting after the company objected to city council’s move to designate the exterior facade of the property under the Ontario Heritage Act in April. 

Councillors ultimately agreed with city staff and did not move to reconsider the building’s heritage status.

Staff say the building’s front exterior meets five of the nine criteria required to designate a building, which has historical value for its attachment to the Freiman family, who were prominent members of Ottawa’s business and Jewish community. The building was the site of the Freiman department store until the 1970’s, when it was taken over by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

“The building is historically and functionally linked to its surroundings, contributing to the commercial character of Rideau Street since the 19th century,” staff said in a presentation to councillors.

In a letter addressed to the city clerk last month, The Bay and RioCan Holdings Inc. laid out four reasons for opposing the designation, including that it would incur increased costs to the property and cause the property to be “less marketable” in the event of a sale.

“In the event we wish to redevelop the Property, the redevelopment will be more costly as a result of being required to maintain the protected elements of the buildings,” said Hudson’s Bay vice-president of real estate Franco Perugini in the letter.

The company took issue with potential impacts future tenants in the building might have, specifically pointing to the requirement to conserve the large display windows at the front of the building.

“The protection of the large display windows on the first storey may potentially harm future tenanting opportunities, making it more difficult to lease the Property,” the letter said.

The company had also asked that staff provide additional time to review any additional materials from the committee and to review the supporting heritage documents. No spokesperson for The Bay attended Tuesday’s meeting.

CTV News has reached out to the The Bay for comment.

David Flemming, chair of the advocacy committee for Heritage Ottawa, told councillors he was surprised to see the company oppose the designation. He said the company has moved to preserve other late 19th and early 20th century properties at store locations in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

“We are especially disappointed by the position of the Hudson’s Bay Company to oppose the designation,” Flemming told councillors.

“The Hudson’s Bay Company is the oldest company in North America and has for over 350 years, demonstrated a strong commitment to the preservation and documentation of our nation’s rich and varied history.”

Flemming said the building is the last of the four large 20th century department stores along Rideau Street, what was once the city’s main commercial street.

“Its protection under the Ontario Heritage Act offers an opportunity to preserve this disappearing vestige of our history and the role of the Freiman family in community development,” he said.

City staff maintain that the property merits heritage designation, because marketability or potential impacts to the sale of a property are not a consideration when evaluating a property for designation. The city says it offers financial incentive programs for individuals and companies to encourage restoration and adaptive use of designated buildings.

Councillors also voted to designate the commerical properties of 149, 156-58, 198 and 217 Rideau Street, which were constructed between the 1870’s and 1920’s.

The matter will now be left up to city council to make the final determination of the building’s heritage status.

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