Thursday, December 3, 2009

Metropolitan Bible Church demolition PLUS TWO SURPRISES

The Metropolitan Bible Church (future "Central" condos) demolition/construction site is just full of surprises. Last time, it was the affectionately titled photo Bucket Feet. This time there's even more, which I'll get to at the end of this post...

For the uninitiated, the Metropolitan Bible Church is a former church on Bank Street between Gladstone and McLeod. It was built as the Metropolitan Tabernacle from 1934-1936, and is in the Centretown Heritage Conservation District. The congregation moved to new digs on Prince of Wales Drive a couple years ago, leaving the building vacant. It was used as the returning office for Ottawa Centre in the 2008 general election.

In April 2008, the City of Ottawa's Planning & Environment Committee made a controversial decision to approve its demolition, save the façade. A nine-storey condo building would be constructed in its place on the site zoned for four storeys, a decision that unwelcome in the community. The builder is the same as that of the Mondrian and the East Market. This demo suite was installed at the corner of Bank and Gladstone, and the decals covering its windows were peeled back in late March 2008:

In this shot you can see all the way to the rear of the building, plus the demo suite at the corner. There's a parking lot behind the building (unpictured) running the width of Gladstone to McLeod, and is twice as deep from Bank as the rear of the building.

One of the heritage features of the building is its hanging marquee awning, shown here framing a pathway during this Summer's Bank Street reconstruction:

The tiles on the underside of the awning were removed, revealing its construction. Mostly wood.

In 1967, this annex was added to the South side of the building, running along Bank to bring the building all the way to McLeod. It's less decorated than the façade of the main building (ironic, given the relative economic conditions of each time), but the semicircular decorations above the second storey windows give the annex just a hint of character.

At the rear of the building, amidst a lot of parking spaces, sits 343 McLeod, a white-painted house formerly home to Davidson Hearing Centre. The heritage survey and evaluation form, created in 1996 as part of the Centretown Heritage Conservation District study, estimates the date of construction at around 1913-1922. The houses in the background will be spared its fate, but will have to contend with seven storeys of condo wall immediately adjacent.

By mid-October, the hydro connection (visible in the above photo) had been cut, but there were still blinds in the windows, which would presumably be removed before demolishing the house. The Central is, after all, destined for LEED certification.

The house was one of the first things to go, in late November.

In this shot (actually a night shot taken with long exposure), you can see that 343 McLeod was in fact a red-brick house, like so much of Centretown.

At the front of the building, a large green banner had been added to advertise the condos, and was starting to fall apart when they removed the awning (for safe keeping during construction) in November 2009.

Scaffolding was installed on the façade (the entirety of which can be captured in one frame with my new camera), and this scaffolding was covered with green mesh to minimize dust and debris falling to the ground. A couple of the workers poked their heads out to have a look.

The scaffolding is for the protection of the façade. As approved in September, the façade will be integrated into the new building, but first it will be disassembled brick-by-brick to the roofline, then the rest of it will be secured against a metal frame. The frame and façade will be moved aside, and the new foundation will be built. The façade will be replaced, and the top bit rebuilt brick-by-brick. This engineer's report (PDF) explains the process, the different options, and also shows some close-up images of the architectural details.

Moving along to the 1967 addition, demolition of it began in mid-November, with careful debricking of the rear wall, as mentioned at the time in the Bucket Feet post.

Shortly thereafter, the machines started munching away at it:

On the inside, even an institutional building is generic enough to be familiar. It's always jarring for the insides to be visible from the outside, exposed for all to see like a cut-away diagram.

Here's the de-bricked rear wall of the annex, with the window cap decorations still in place. I presume they saved the bricks for re-use with the finished product. Note also the hole punched into the main building, at the far right of this shot.

In the foreground is one of the window caps laying on the ground. Like the awning, it too was made of wood, and faced with plaster.

The implements of demolition, foreground and background.

A couple more days and a few more rooms chewed away. The surprise is starting to reveal. Do you see it?

Here it is, a remnant of a painted sign on the wall. You can also make out the shadow of the rest of it. It read "Metropolitan Tabernacle". The blog Vanished Ottawa collects photos of these old painted signs.

Surprise number two has to do with the site next door. It seems that the company that is building the Central has bought the site next door at Bank and McLeod (directly across from Tommy & Lefebvre), including the medical building. More condos are apparently on their way.

Councillor Holmes has organized a public information meeting on this new develompent on Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 at 5:30 pm at Centretown United Church (Bank & Argyle, basement), and the developer will be on hand to present plans and concept drawings.

According to Councillor Holmes' release, a mixed-use project with retail at grade and residential units above is being proposed. Not unlike the Central condominiums, whose ground-floor retail will apparently consist of yet another Shoppers Drug Mart.

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