The grand ole lady has great bones, fabulous sight lines and is currently the most eligible address in the Parliamentary Precinct.
Last fall Liz and I took a tour of the old U.S. Embassy. It has been empty since the bunker on Sussex St opened in 1998 and US embassy staff moved in. Since then, there has been enough debate of what lies ahead for the 1932 constructed building. Over the course of a few weeks the doors were open and the people went through the stripped down main and second floors. Even though much had been removed and almost 20 years of neglect had done its damage, you could clearly see the potential and past beauty that once was in place.
Walking through the building you could feel the history and grandeur that once existed. We lucked out, and our interest caught the attention of one of the Project Managers that day after asking some questions, we were led behind the ropes into rooms that were not available for the open house. In the rooms you sense that the walls are just waiting for the moment that restoration begins. Filled with the natural light of the large windows the rooms require little in additional illumination. The view of Parliament from what must have been the Ambassador`s office is breathtaking, and any weather, sun or snow would not diminish it. For a Canadian catching the same views when the building is open again, it will be of the same magnitude of seeing the first fireworks that appear from behind the Peace Tower on Canada Day or making a turn and getting that first glimpse or spray of Niagara Falls or looking up from street level to view the CN Tower. The significance of the view will not be lost.
The debate of what to do with the building was left to the fate of an online survey, completed after you finished touring the building on tablets on site or at home online. Walking through the building you could imagine any number of events taking place in any of the rooms, a wedding, an art show, a live art performance, a public presentation or an special awards evening.
Fast forward a few months and the survey says…
…based on the responses from 6500 people, the top three suggested uses are:
- Canada House, for a taste our our diversity
- A gallery hosting art of national significance
- An indigeneous centre, highlighting the culture, acheivements and the prominent role of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples
There were other options but these are the main contenders…or the building could house all three, rotating as needed.
The building, valued in the ten’s of millions will likely require much more than that for the renovations and building upgrades to turn the building into whatever the government and its project managers decide. It is clear that Canadians have been waiting for the most eligible address in Ottawa to have a new tenant since the Americans moved out. Previous governments had seduced us with plans for a National portrait gallery until the Harper government shelved any plans plans for 100 Wellington.
An announcemnt is expected in “early” 2017. What early means to the government remains to be seen, though considering that it will likely require budget considerations we could hear by March what Trudeau’s plans are.
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