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City Pulse: Arts Court Redevelopment – Part 2

By Maksim Apelfeld on March 3, 2014

In last week’s article, we showcased the existing Arts Court building at 2 Daly Avenue. Now it’s time to switch gears and take a look at how the Arts Court and its surroundings will change over the next few years. At the heart of this transformation is the $34-million Arts Court Redevelopment project by the City of Ottawa.

Aerial view of the Arts Court site. Image from Bing Maps.

Aerial view of the Arts Court site. Image from Bing Maps.

The centerpiece of the redevelopment is a brand new arts centre that will be built on Waller Street, next to the existing Art Court building. A wide, 6-story podium will form the base of the new Arts Court, topped by a 17-story tower. The Ottawa Art Gallery will be housed in the lower podium portion of the building and will include three distinct gallery sections. Space will be reserved for the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, and addition gallery space will be available for contemporary and touring artists.

As part of a partnership between the City and the University of Ottawa Theatre Department, the new Arts Court building will include classrooms and a 120-seat black-box theatre. Another great feature that will be available to the local art community is a new 250-seat multipurpose film screening room. There are also plans to incorporate a café and a gift shop into the lower floors of the building.

The podium level of the new Arts Court building will form the base for a 17-story tower likely dedicated to residential or hotel use, depending on the developer that wins the bidding for the project. When the project is complete the City will assume ownership of the Arts Court component in the podium portion of the building, while the private developer will be responsible for the tower portion.

One of the most exciting things about this new development is the change in the outdoor space around the Arts Court. This is something that can be appreciated not only by art-lovers and patrons, but by anyone passing by the new Arts Court. Two new public courtyards will be incorporated into the design of the new building, and a third courtyard will be constructed as part of the renovation work to the existing Arts Court property. Trees, planters, outdoor seating areas and a green wall will all be incorporated into the landscaping with the intention of turning the outdoor space into a functional and attractive public area.

South terrace of the new Arts Court buidling. Image from the City of Ottawa website.

Ottawa Art Gallery entrance at Mackenzie King and Waller Street.

This redevelopment project has tremendous potential to transform Ottawa’s downtown. It will provide much-need exhibition space for the Ottawa Art Gallery, a state-of-the-art facility for the local art community and valuable classroom space for the University of Ottawa. At the same time, the existing heritage building currently housing the Arts Court will be preserved and renovated, with more room made available to its current tenants. The renovated heritage building will be connected to the new Arts Court building on multiple floors, forming one unified and cohesive arts facility in the heart of downtown.

It is tough to find a more central location in Ottawa, just steps away from the Rideau Centre, OttawaU, and the future Campus and Rideau LRT stations. With that in mind, there will be no shortage of pedestrian traffic in and around the new Arts Court. The new landscaping features, the public courtyards, and a modern new Arts Court building should make for a quality downtown space that is more pedestrian-friendly and attractive to the public.

This could be a tremendously successful project. And if things go according to plan, it could be opening its doors to the public in 2017, right in time for Canada’s 150th birthday. So let’s cross our fingers and hope the stars line up, so we could all enjoy a brand new Arts Court in a few years time.

Maksim Apelfeld is a local photographer and founder of Ground Floor Photography.