National Arts Centre’s $110.5-million upgrade among Ottawa projects that won’t be ready for Canada 150

Expectations are that more than 400,000 will be on the Hill for Canada Day alone and the city will draw as many as 10 million throughout the year. They will have to take the good with the bad when it comes to construction.

OTTAWA—It’s dusk on a warm summer evening in Ottawa.

As people emerge from a new light-rail station a block south of Parliament Hill, they look down the street to the west, to see a glowing glass tower.

They walk towards it, lured by an LED-screen projecting a live performance from a theatre on the other side of the country.

This is the final dream for the $110.5 million addition to the National Arts Centre, the single-largest, national legacy infrastructure project timed to help celebrate Canada 150.

It just won’t happen in time for Canada to blow out its 150 candles on July 1.

For several years, downtown Ottawa has been a flurry of construction, leaving a snarled mess of barricades and stressed-out commuters, as much of the Parliamentary precinct, including Parliament Hill itself, undergo massive renovations. Not all the projects were done with Canada 150 in mind, but parts of downtown are looking quite spiffy, as the city prepares to host its largest-ever influx of tourists.

Expectations are that more than 400,000 will be on the Hill for Canada Day alone and the city will draw as many as 10 million throughout the year.

They will have to take the good with the bad when it comes to construction.

The first phase of Ottawa’s new light rail system under downtown was never supposed to be finished for Canada 150, but the original project agreement included a clause that would have downtown streets “restored to pre-construction configuration before the 2017 Canada Day celebrations.”

A recent update given to Ottawa city council says construction will be halted for the Canada Day weekend and streets will be cleaned for it, but thanks to the massive sinkhole that opened downtown in 2016, some street-level areas still won’t be ready.

As for the NAC, the first floor of the new 5,500 square-metre expansion will open on Canada Day. The “lantern” glass tower with the LED projectors and the rest of the second floor will be ready in October, followed by a new 600-seat conference and events room next February.

It was always planned that way, says chief architect Donald Schmitt, who led some reporters on a tour of the construction space last week. He was hired in 2011 to start re-envisioning the building Canada built for its 100th birthday in 1967, but funds for the renovation didn’t get approved until late in 2014 and construction didn’t begin until February 2016.

More than 200 tradespeople are now on the site as the rush is on to get the finishing touches on the first floor in time for a 2 p.m. ribbon cutting on July 1. Even to meet this first deadline, the project had to take special steps, including constructing 247 triangular wooden roof pieces in a warehouse south of Ottawa and then installing them with cranes, saving months of time.

When the NAC was first built, it was supposed to be ready for the Centennial in July 1967 but ran almost two years behind schedule, eventually opening on June 2, 1969.

The city will see other additions this summer. The National Gallery will open new Canadian and Indigenous galleries on June 15. Across the Ottawa River at the Canadian Museum of History, one of three main sites for the national Canada Day festivities, a new $30-million Canada History Hall will open July 1.

Museum CEO Mark O’Neill calls it the most significant legacy that will be left behind by Canada 150.

“There are great Canada 150 projects across the country, but if you look at the projects that will be legacy … I don’t think there is any other project out there that is similar in nature to this one.”

There will still be a lot of construction around on July 1. On Parliament Hill itself, cranes, scaffolds and construction fencing will loom large around the West Block. On the edge of the Rideau Canal, across from the famed Chateau Laurier, the city’s old railway station is being refurbished to house the Senate when Centre Block closes for restoration in 2018.

The old central post office across Elgin Street from the National Arts Centre is cradled in scaffolding, hidden behind a blue and red wrapping printed with Canada 150 logos.

Most of these renovations were not part of the $500 million earmarked for community infrastructure legacy projects and local and national festivals and celebrations to mark the birthday across the country.

While the Centennial celebrations gave Canada the world’s first UFO landing pad in St. Paul, Alta., the sesquicentennial will bring the “red couch tour” which is, quite literally, a red sofa travelling the country and stopping for people to sit and reflect on what Canada means to them.


Article written by Mia Rabson on the The Star Website. Follow the link to the original article here.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.