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NCC moves forward with plan to rebuild 7 Clarence Street

The National Capital Commission is moving forward with plans to replace the aging building that held Memories Restaurant on Clarence Street in the Market.

The NCC presented three possible options for 7 Clarence Street during a meeting Monday morning -- all of which are two-storeys and would incorporate material, like stones, from the old building.

"I think we can expect a lovely little building that will not take away attention from the heritage character of the courtyard, but that will occupy its place sort of in a dignified way and that in time will become a memorable building in itself," said NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson.

Around 20 people gathered at the NCC headquarters on Elgin Street Monday to take a look at possible plans for the building. It was the third meeting between the NCC and residents.

"We're glad that they've taken into account some of our comments, previous comments regarding the scale of the building," said Sylvie Grenier, with the Lowertown Community Association. "It will remain a two-storey building, where we can still see the ... building in front on Sussex and it respects the heritage character of the area, so it's really going towards a good solution, I think."

While residents generally liked two of the concepts provided for the building, they were worried about what it would become once completed.

"We don't need a 30th - we're about around 30 restaurants, bars on Clarence Street already," said Ralph Scandiffio, who lives nearby. "We don't need that."

"We are concerned that it will be replaced by yet another restaurant, which is the same thing as a bar because often restaurants at 11 o'clock become a bar and we have already 21,000 licensed seats in the Market," said Grenier. "It's just too many of one thing and they replace wonderful, unique retail and services."

Kristmanson said they made some adjustments to the design concept to ensure the building could house retail stores.

"The original scheme had sort of an open, transparent glass format that favoured probably a restaurant use," he said. "In fact there was a terrace even designed along the side and the comment was that this design almost prescribed a restaurant use, so we've changed that."

"We put in much more solid walls as well as windows," added Kristmanson. "We've taken away the terrace, so it still could be used as a restaurant, but it's really been designed now for multi-purpose and it could be retail, it could be an art gallery."

Kristmanson said they did look at saving the original building, but that was not possible.

"It's a really difficult decision to take out an 1877 building in a ByWard Market courtyard, and extensive efforts were made to retain the building, but unfortunately when the engineers went in and looked at the construction, it simply wasn't sound," he said. "The more you took out, the more you had to do until there was a law of diminishing returns."

"The building had always been created as an out building to the main building out of, probably, materials that were, some materials that were found on the site," added Kristmanson. "There were some logs in the construction and some loose stones and so forth."

The NCC plans to break ground on the new building next spring.

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