The city of Ottawa has to cut rents and offer free parking to people buying food if it wants to save the historic Byward Market.

That’s the warning from a New York consulting firm hired by the city of Ottawa.  The study by the Project for Public Spaces says the market is at risk of being lost if “significant changes are not made.” Some of those major changes involve reducing the focus on night life in the market and revising the focus on local, fresh food.

The Byward Market is one of Ottawa's top attractions for tourists and residents. People live in the area, dine, dance and buy fresh food like pasta, sausages and sandwiches.  La Bottega Nicastro is still a popular stop for both tourists and residents, after eighteen years in the Byward Market.

“It’s a constant battle,” says one of the owners of the deli, Rocco Nicastro Junior.  He says bold moves are needed to transform the heart of downtown Ottawa.

“Who do we want to come to the market? It can’t be too heavy a focus on tourism because what about the residents?”

The report, entitled “Strengthening the Future of the Byward Market” is blunt in its assessment.

'The market is becoming a parody of its original self and is losing local support", it states.

So, what's the solution?

According to the authors, the city of Ottawa needs to intervene. The report calls for the city to purchase buildings and subsidize property owners who lease to stores that sell fresh food and produce. It calls for short-term fixes like improving bike access and parking and increasing the number of trees in the market. Long term measures should include re-thinking York Street which it calls a “missed public space opportunity” with its large parking lot down the middle. It suggests a public plaza or outdoor vending area as the gateway to the Market.

As for safety and security with concerns over nightlife, it suggests providing financial incentives to encourage specific, desired uses in the area and exploring ways to expand and fund additional security.

Jean-Guy Caron, who sells maple syrup in the market says “the market is going down” and says parking is one of the biggest complaints he hears about from customers. The report suggests covering parking costs for people who spend a minimum amount from food retail shops.

Continental Delicatessen has been an anchor in the Byward Market for nearly 60 years.  Owner Elizabeth Wieczorek welcomes any changes to encourage shops selling produce and fresh local goods.

“With so many buildings around, new developments, we need shops like ours; shops that would provide every day necessities from milk to bread.”

The study also suggests an independent body be set up to run the market, taking it away from the city’s direct authority.

Ottawa residents are encouraged to provide their feedback on the study and its suggestions.  The city of Ottawa is asking that feedback via email be received by April 26th.  The address is

You can read the entire report at