Even if Ottawa is not awarded the National Portrait Gallery, a local developer will still be building two high-rise condo towers downtown that are almost twice as tall as what the current zoning allows.
Council agreed yesterday to amend the zoning bylaw to allow Claridge Homes to build two towers at 187 Metcalfe St., with the plan being for the National Portrait Gallery to occupy the ground floor of the adjoining 20- and 24-storey towers.
However, the approved motion states that if the gallery is not awarded to Ottawa, the space will be set aside for a “public benefit” facility, such as a library, museum, community centre or a concert hall.
Claridge Homes originally proposed two 27-storey buildings, which council rejected.
A compromise offer was submitted, but said if zoning hinged on being awarded the gallery, the proposal would be dropped.
Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes felt Ottawa was being held captive by a developer.
“It’s unfortunate for the city to find itself in a position of being forced to go through with a major rezoning in order for a developer to move forward with an application,” she said.
Citing conditions of the request for proposals (RFP), Holmes said it was clearly designed to send the gallery to Calgary. But Claridge Homes vice-president Neil Malhotra insisted Ottawa has as good a chance as any city.
“I don’t think it safe’s to say what is going to happen with the RFP,” he said. “All we can do is give it our best shot.”
Malhotra said the location of the proposed building called for a special design and he believes the gallery is the right fit.
Coun. Diane Deans said Ottawa had little choice but to accept the proposal.
“If we turn this down, we’re saying goodbye to the portrait gallery,” she said. “Now it’s important for us to take up the political campaign to keep it in the … capital.”

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