Magee House owner backtracks on demolition, aims to keep building standing

The owner of the partially-collapsed Magee house in Centretown has changed his mind about tearing the structure down, and now wants to keep it standing through winter.

The deadline for demolition was Nov. 15, the day of the Ottawa council heritage subcommittee meeting. City staff report that the owner now says he wants to shore up the building to support it throughout the winter.

The Thursday deadline had been imposed after consulting engineers recommended the building be gone before winter.

The engineers argued that there was too much risk involved in the restoration plan and urged the building be torn down before the snow falls. They described the building as a “house of cards.”

The city is currently in negotiations with the owner and the city has announced its intent to rehire engineering consulting firm John Cooke and Associates to determine if the plan is a safe one.

Jeff Leiper, who is the councillor for the ward where the Magee house is, says that he has received several concerns from constituents in the area, particularly merchants, who say they have seen reduced foot traffic because the sidewalk that has been blocked for safety reasons. He also voiced their concerns for the upcoming holiday season not only for shopping but safety as well.

“Every 24-hour period at this point matters,” Leiper said. “It is important to the residents of Hintonburg and the merchants of Wellington (Street) West that the building come down as quickly as possible. The last thing we want is an uncontrolled collapse.”

According to staff, the review by Cooke and Associates will take place over the next 72 hours.

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