Historic Ottawa Proposes Cost-effective Renovation for Derelict Prime Minister’s Residence


In a bid to save 24 Sussex Drive, the official residence of Canada’s prime ministers, a collective of construction industry professionals devoted to preserving heritage properties has stepped forward with a proposal to renovate the historic, yet increasingly derelict property.

The non-profit organization Historic Ottawa Development Inc. (HODI), made up of renowned architects, conservationists, and project managers with an accomplished history of rescuing heritage sites from demolition, expressed their disapproval at the thought of abandoning the 150-year-old property.

They assert that the residence holds significant historical value. For many generations, it has been central to the nation’s political life and thus cannot simply be discarded into oblivion. Marc Denhez, the president of HODI and former official residences advisory committee member at the National Capital Commission (NCC), criticized the explanations concerning the condition of the house and the estimated cost of renovation.

According to Denhez, the experts working with HODI universally reject the projected $36.6 million renovation expense as unnecessarily high. In fact, he suggests that their skilled team could significantly reduce costs.

Denhez also challenges suggestions from governmental sources, who propose taking over land in Ottawa’s Rockcliffe Park to construct a new residence. He argues that renovating the existing Gothic Revival-style house to modern standards would be less costly than starting from scratch.

Denhez adds that the repair works, including removal of dead rodents in the walls and remediation of asbestos and outdated systems, shouldn’t cost millions. He envisions a respectable domicile, worthy of a G7 leader— not overly extravagant, but rather a comfortable abode with a modest space for small-scale state affairs.

Quick to quell suggestions that 24 Sussex Drive isn’t grand enough, he reminds officials that it’s the crown’s responsibility to hold state events. A refurbished 24 Sussex Drive, at 12,000 square feet, would perfectly serve the needs of the prime minister, according to Denhez.

Despite suggestions to the contrary, Denhez and his fellow project manager, Ken Grafton, insist that the house carries immense historical value— more than what most realize. They want an opportunity to discuss their proposal to save 24 Sussex Drive with the Public Services and Procurement Minister, Jean-Yves Duclos.

Mark Brandt, the senior conservation architect from Trace Architectures, has drafted an unsolicited proposal to not only preserve 24 Sussex Drive, but to add a new “official wing” to the property. The existing property would ideally return to its original purpose as a family home, while the new wing could accommodate additional official functions.

Brandt asserts that the existing home can be conserved and rehabilitated instead of being demolished, while new construction can be made to balance modernity and security, without disrupting the historic aesthetic of the site.

Furthermore, regarding security concerns, Brandt suggests that the risks can be managed. He argues that the location of the building, nestled atop a cliff and enveloped by water on three sides, is already ideal from a security perspective.

Brandt’s proposal also addresses potential risks by strengthening the existing perimeter fence and reworking the road network to deter unwanted vehicle proximity.

The proposal concludes with reassurances that comparable sites, like the White House in Washington, D.C., are more exposed to security risks than 24 Sussex Drive, indicating that maintaining the protection and historical identity of the residence is an attainable task.


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