Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bay and Nepean demo, Intro and Part 1 of 6: 249-251 Bay Street

Back in December, I was interviewed by the CBC to talk on behalf of the CCCA about the long-abandoned houses around Bay and Nepean Streets. The houses were bought years ago by the developer Richcraft, who had posted large billboards advertising the condo development to be built there.

There were a few problems with this project. While they did get many successive increases in height for the site, the owners of the buildings on the corners would not sell. The resulting T-shaped site made it difficult to build a particularly substantial building, so the plans never went very far.

Meanwhile, the houses were left virtually abandoned. They were certainly unused, as the project went from being very soon to not in the foreseeable future. As they were unused, they became decrepit, attracting graffiti taggers, vandals and break-ins. Really, these houses should not have been emptied of tenants so swiftly, as (legal) occupants would have allowed them to be kept in decent shape. Instead, we're left with tinder boxes that are falling apart.

Richcraft even applied for a demolition permit for the houses, but when you get such a permit, you are required to build a replacement building within five years. This deters people from demolishing the houses that define our neighbourhoods and leaving our neighbourhoods filled with empty lots and parking lots. Because of this clause, they refused to sign off on the permit (thus accepting its five-year limit) and instead have left the houses to fall apart, threatening the neighbouring buildings.

Finally, in mid-December when the City threatened to replace these unsafe houses with landscaping and bill the property owner, Richcraft applied for another permit, asking for an eight-year timeframe to rebuild, which was approved.

The houses were demolished last week.

As with the Bank Street reconstruction, I've broken this topic into a series of posts. After much wrangling with the photo set, I settled on breaking it up on one post per house, plus a sixth post later in the year once the work is done. The list below will be updated as the entries are posted, every four days:

Part 1: 249-251 Bay Street

Here is how the East side of Bay Street looked from Nepean to Gloucester in mid-November 2008, shortly after the installation of the speed humps on Bay Street (part of the Centretown Traffic Calming plan). Indeed, it would have looked pretty similar until last week as far as the structures are concerned. At the corner of Bay and Nepean is Ricardo's Pizza, which I hear makes very good pizza.

Last Thursday, it was certainly a bit emptier, with demolition progressing.

The building we'll be looking at today is the one furthest from the camera in the above photos. With the address 249-251 Bay Street, this building housed a Bed & Breakfast known as The Bay Guest House. In this photo from late May 2009, it looks more or less as it did for many years, except for more graffiti and fewer stairs. There are even patio tables still on the second-floor balcony.

And on Thursday morning, most of it was gone.

Even much of the graffiti is years-old, as seen in this photo from late November 2007. There's a piece of flashing on the cornice that was falling off, and less graffiti on the building and the "Lifestyle Condos coming soon!" sign, but more or less the same. The "Bayscorner" corner store, which has a faded painted sign from its former life as a drug store, is not being demolished, but someone must have forgotten to tell the graffiti taggers.

Again, it is demolished. You can make out some of the distinguishing porch features in the rubble. The couple portrayed on the sign are still grasped in each other's arms.

Here's a closer shot of the porch from late May 2009. The weeds in the planter boxes were a nice, if unintended, touch. You can also see three pink sheets on the boarded-up front door. These are notices from the City posted after some of the rear porches were removed from some of the buildings without a permit to do so.

And rubble. One of the columns still stands, marking the address of the former building, and a patio table lies atop the rubble. You can make out the top of one of the Hudson Park buildings in the background.

Here's a closeup of the top of one of the columns, plus the brick detail under the cornice.

Here's the same column, fallen. I had originally thought of breaking up these posts chronologically instead of by site, but I figured this way gives better context. Besides, the photos of the buildings are the main point; following them with a post full of photos of debris would be pretty dry.

At the back of the Bay Guest House there used to be an addition, shown here in late November 2007.

This rear addition was demolished in late May 2009, without a permit (hence the pink notices on the front door)

Here you can see a bunch of graffiti along the side of the house, again in late May 2009. Near the back of the side wall, a couple bricks were drilled out of the wall, with the brick dust covering the former driveway.

Here's a closeup of that gap in the bricks. You can see there's a gap of a couple inches between the brick layer and the wall behind it.

By Saturday afternoon, most of the rubble had been removed. Obviously I don't have any photos from the rear of the building, since the site is now fenced off.

So that's the Bay Guest House, 249-251 Bay Street. Tune in Thursday at noon for Part 2: 255 Bay Street.


  1. Stumbled onto this treasure of Ottawa's history by chance. I was wondering about those abundance houses each time I did take out from Ricardo's (and you hear right - they are great! Especially their sandwich rolls). Thanks for your meticulous posts.


  2. i grew up and lived at 347 nepean st before they tore my house down for a parkinglot seeing this makes me sad they should have left everything as it was the houses were all in good shape my whole childhood has been destroyed the house beside ricardos that was torn down was my best friends house and 355 nepean st was an amazing house i knew the people who owned it when they moved no one moved back in and this was early 88-91 times

  3. Anonymous - thanks for the story. I agree it's sad that the houses were left uninhabited and allowed to deteriorate after they were bought by Richcraft. Just to be clear, they're not turning it into a parking lot. According to the requirements of the demolition permit, new residential development (i.e. condos) must be put in within 8 years, and in the meantime the lot must be landscaped so it is not a blight on the community.

  4. Richcraft has also bought up the land around the parking lots on nepean between bank and o'conner aparently they want to build condos there too, maybe the city should make them finish some of there other projects before issuing them any more demo orders, I have lived in the nepean area for 20 years now and am appalled what the city is letting these developers do, i wonder if this one way street can handle the increase in traffic all these buildings are gonna cause