My local newspaper, the OTTAWA CITIZEN, broke a story last week about the federal government’s plan to sell off five NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA buildings. The government wants to declare "surplus" buildings at 615, 601, 552 and 550 Booth Street and 405 Rochester Street.
A report prepared last year by consultants suggests selling off the five buildings to the Canada Lands Commission. Other buildings would be renovated and a new edifice constructed. About four hectares of land would be sold to developers for "upscale" houses or mixed use. The site lies between Dow’s Lake and Confederation Park to the south, and the Queensway (Hwy 417) to the north. It is indeed a beautiful and convenient location only 2.5 km from Parliament Hill. The Citizen reported that NRCan officials support the recommendations of the report.
The famous (in some parts) "black tower" at 580 Booth, where ministerial offices and the Minerals and Metals Sector are located, and the building at 555 Booth, which is home to CANMET’s mineral processing laboratories, will be spared.
Altogether there are close to a million square feet of space in these "surplus" structures and 3,000 NRCan employees. The employees could be moved to the remaining buildings or relocated at other federal sites.
So what? Well, the buildings at 601 and 615 Booth house the GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF CANADA and the EARTH SCIENCES SECTOR. The two other Booth Street addresses and the one on Rochester include the heritage MINES BRANCH building. Selling the physical structures does not mean that the services provided from them will no longer be available. It only means that we will have to learn different contact points.
Needless to say, no change will be made quickly. At least two federal bureaucracies are involved, and the City of Ottawa will weigh in with its desire to approve any new development. There are questions about contamination on the site after decades of metals and minerals testing, so look for prolonged study and remediation.
I’m not holding my breath until the next step is taken.