NCC Blunders

Daly Building

Building luxury condominiums for all Canadians

Daly Building: William James Topley/Library and Archives Canada

It's hard to imagine an issue that has generated more print to less effect than the Daly site. The Daly Building, built in 1905, was Ottawa's first department store and a rare example - for Ottawa - of turn of the century Chicago architecture. In 1921, it was sold for office space as the federal government began a gradual takeover of sites on Sussex Drive. After a series of ill-advised alterations to its exterior, the last federal tenants moved out in 1978.

After a period of criminal (and some charge deliberate) neglect, during which the building was allowed to fall into disrepair, the NCC finally put out an invitation to tender for redevelopment of the building in 1987. The tender elicited three responses, including one from Canada's most experienced and successful restoration architect. To general surprise, and amid questioning of political motives, the NCC opted instead for a Montreal group, which then failed to fulfil its contract.

A History of the ByWard Market
Citizen: Daly Building occupied site 87 years [1 Jul 1998]
Citizen: Remembering the Daly Building [15 Aug 1999]

Instead of turning to another bidder, the NCC abruptly had the building demolished in 1991. They fenced in the gravel site and added some flags and benches at a cost of $80,000. And so it remained: Canada's most historic vacant lot. A vacant lot for all Canadians, if you will.

Daly Wasteland: Site of the former Daly building (Union Station in background)

Many people found they liked the opened up view of the Chateau Laurier and supported a park, to the extent that a senator even tabled a private member's bill to have the site made a heritage site. The NCC, meanwhile, steadfastly refused to create even a temporary park while trying to come up with an idea to develop the site. Their only criteria appeared to be that the site must somehow be an attraction in itself. They eventually got around to a short list of proposals in 1997.

Citizen: Daly plans concrete, NCC says [2 Dec 1997]
Senate Bill S-6 info
Citizen: Senator's mission impossible [3 Apr 1998]
Citizen: Daly site to house aquarium [1 Jul 1998]
Daly site part of trend to public-private teamwork [1 Jul 1998]
Citizen: Daly plan wins praise [2 Jul 1998]
Citizen: Let Daly site be outdoor heart [6 Jul 1998]
Citizen: Gateway gets OK for Daly site [16 Feb 1999]
Citizen: Daly Site Debate [15 Aug 1999]

Then, in June 1998, the NCC finally accepted a proposal from Canadian Gateway for a hotel-aquarium-condominium-shopping complex - a surefire winner. The NCC couldn't get enough of the centrepiece of the development, an 80,000 square foot underground aquarium. "The Canadian Gateway proposal meets the NCC's requirements for an innovative scheme that will create a people-oriented environment and year-round, 14-hour-per-day activity" gushed Chairman Beaudry. "What sold me was the aquarium," said Ottawa Councillor Richard Cannings. "It has the promise of being a very successful project. The most significant thing to say at this point is that the process is coming to a conclusion," said Bob Chiarelli.

Not so fast. The grand plan was soon beset with difficulties and delays. The developer repeatedly missed deadlines and had difficulty finding tenants and financing, getting a hotel group to sign on, and the much touted aquarium proved problematic. The project was shuffled and pushed back by a full year.

CBC: Construction delayed on prime downtown site [30 Mar 2000]
Citizen: Daly Site Faces Delay [29 Mar 2000]
Citizen: Inept NCC flops again with Daly site [31 Mar 2000]
Citizen [letter]: NCC desecrating the national capital [14 Jun 2000]
OBJ: Daly Back on Track [18 Jun 2000]
Citizen: Development Proposals for the Area [22 Jun 2000]

Daly building site looking down MacKenzie Ave towards the Connaught building.

The NCC: erecting hoardings worthy of a capital

The NCC finally fired the developer in fall 2000 after repeated missed deadlines. Once again the NCC sent out a call for proposals. Canadian Gateway even resubmitted their proposal - minus the aquarium.

CBC: NCC pulls plug on Daly site [8 Sep 2000]
Citizen: NCC Halts Daly Project [9 Sep 2000]
Citizen: NCC Bungled Daly Deal [10 Sep 2000]
Citizen: Daly site deserves better [12 Sep 2000]
Citizen: Daly site perfect spot to honour human folly [13 Sep 2000]
Citizen: Daly site open again for proposals [15 Oct 2000]
Citizen: NCC sinks aquarium [27 Jan 2001]

After another competition, the NCC opted for a proposal from local developer Claridge for ground floor retail and luxury condominiums, making a mockery of the NCC's aspirations for a tourist attraction of some kind. The NCC opted for Claridge's plan as it was the most profitable, netting the NCC $100 000 a year for the duration of the lease. Which is all well and good - the aquarium fiasco obviously injected a dose of fiscal reality into the whole ludicrous process - but begs the question: Why is the NCC necessary for a project that any developer could undertake? Why didn't they just sell the property and have someone build this rather banal project 10 years ago? As it stands, the NCC will continue to own the property (for all Canadians, naturally), leasing the site for 60 years.

OBJ: Daly site developers finally submit proposals [30 May 2001]
OBJ: Claridge chosen as Daly site developer [29 Jun 2001]
CBC: NCC decides on Daly site plan [29 Jun 2001]
Building Magazine: Hanganu to design $30-million condo despite Daly curse [July 2001]
Citizen: $30M Daly project gets NCC nod [30 Jun 2001]
Citizen: Banal condo wastes Daly site [4 Jul 2001]
Citizen: Daly plan for condos not worthy of NCC [5 Jul 2001]
CBC: Dumped Daly developer sues NCC [26 Nov 2001]
Toronto Star: Urban blight a fitting symbol of NCC decay [6 Apr 2002]
Citizen: Daly site saga drones on and on [25 Oct 2003]

Daly site: Chateau Laurier on the left, Connaught federal building on the right.

It's a pox on the face of Ottawa. Everybody in Ottawa has had to walk past Mr. Beaudry's mess for years now. - Sen. Colin Kenny