Rebuilding fire-damaged William St. to start in spring 2020 at the earliest: City
Ted Raymond, Newstalk 580 CFRA
Published Thursday, August 8, 2019 11:16AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 8, 2019 6:43PM EDT
It likely won’t be until the spring before construction begins to repair the fire-damaged buildings on William St. in the ByWard Market.
A fire on April 12 gutted the Vittoria Trattoria restaurant and surrounding businesses. The fire started on the roof and was deemed accidental, but did millions of dollars in damage.
“A couple of days from now it will be 4 months since the fire and it seems like it was yesterday,” said Domenic Santaguida of Vittoria Trattoria.
The restaurant and its surrounding shops and restaurants sustained major damage to their interiors, which will have to be demolished and re-built. Scaffolding outside the heritage building has been in place for 3 months to ensure the building remains intact.
“People come down here to see different things and when the fire happened, it for sure took a toll on the people here,” said Robert Resendiz, who works in the ByWard Market.
At a meeting of the built heritage subcommittee Thursday, City staff provided an update on the rebuilding process along William St.
“We always wanted to keep the stone and the brick and the feel of the ByWard Market and I think it’s important we preserve the heritage of what’s been here for the last hundred years,” said Santaguida.
"We’re anxious to get started, the scaffolding behind us is there to protect the façade from falling onto the street so no one would get hurt,” said Santaguida, whose family has owned the ByWard Market location for more than 20 years. “But until we’ve actually started construction, or demolition at this stage, it still doesn’t feel like we’re any step closer to being back in and serving our guests.”
“It’s great news for the ByWard Market; it’s good news for those businesses,” said Rideau-Vanier coun. Mathieu Fleury. “We were worried that what we were going to see the experts saying that the facades were compromised. What we’re hearing today is that, no, the façades along William can be saved, can be restored,” said Fleury. “It’s a small section that they will take the bricks down, access the rear of the property, remove the burnt-down material and reinstate that façade.”
Investigators believe roofers accidentally started the fire, which tore through the heritage building, believed to have been built in 1872, forcing shops and restaurants to close. Le Mien Craft Noodle restaurant sustained significant smoke and water damage in the fire, which took hours for crews to get under control.
Staff say the historic stone façades of 35, 37, and 41 William St. will be able to be saved and will be retained and restored during the rebuilding process. 41½ William St., which used to be the Roots store, will need to be taken down and rebuilt, according to staff, but the bricks and materials will be saved and, if possible, reincorporated in the rebuild.
“We would have loved to protect the entirety of the buildings, protecting the façades is a midpoint, and the worst case would have been a complete demo which was not desirable,” said Fleury.
The owners of the properties have applied for the demolition and heritage permits they need to remove the burnt out portions of their businesses and staff say they are close to approval. The owners want to remove the fire-damaged elements as soon as possible.
“I think it’s really good for the market in general. Maybe it’s the start of a bit of a rebirth for a lot more of the market, along with the street being closed,” said Vittoria Trattoria neighbour Chris Hovey, of The Fish Market restaurant. “It was very difficult, and I know it’s still very difficult for our neighbours next door, but the whole city of Ottawa seems to have come alive.”
Re-building is not expected to start until the spring, at the earliest, meaning it will likely be a year after the fire before the process to restore the buildings can begin.