Old Town Hall to Look New Again;

Centre to become more accessible thanks to OOE architect

An Old Ottawa East landmark is about to become one of the first buildings in the city to meet stringent new accessibility standards.
The Old Town Hall at Main Street and Hawthorne Avenue will receive several upgrades this summer aimed at making the 110-year-old structure accessible to almost any user.
The highlight of the renovations promises to be a 23-metre stone ramp, complete with LED-lighting, along the building’s south side.
Photo: Main Street Architect Pawel Fiett has designed renovations to improve accessibility at the Old Town Hall (Photo by Peter Croal)
To the architect who designed the renovations, the modernization of a building beloved by many but trapped in the limited dimensions of another era, is a special event: a chance to leave a lasting mark on the place he calls home.
“We have a project in the neighbourhood,” Pawel Fiett said recently, his voice unable to contain its excitement. “It’s part of the wider initiative of the city of Ottawa. They’re being super pro-active. They have committed to the province to make all buildings they own super-accessible.”
In addition to the ramp, which will curl around the building from Hawthorne to the front door on Main,renovations to the Old Town Hall will include widening the building’s front door from three feet to four and eliminating small steps to make entrances completely flat.
Fiett, 51, originally from Poland, runs atelier 292, an architects office, out of his home at 292 Main St.
Two years ago, the city approached him to come up with the design for a new accessibility ramp for the Old Town Hall, now used as OOE’s community centre.
The city was bringing in new standards for accessibility design and ensuring publicly-owned properties met them.
The effort mirrored that of the province which had brought in wide-ranging legislation aimed at raising accessibility standards higher than in any other jurisdiction in North America.
According to Fiett, who takes special interest in issues of accessibility design, building code changes such as wheelchair ramps were only part of the new measures.
Not only were governments in many places trying to anticipate the needs of aging populations, but human-rights codes were demanding public buildings be accessible even to people not previously considered disadvantaged, such as pregnant women or mothers with small children.
Fiett not only had to meet the city’s demands for greater accessibility but also ensure any new addition would conform to the Old Town Hall’s heritage design.
He abandoned the idea of having a ramp entirely in the building’s front yard because it was feared it would interfere with the wider sidewalks of a reconstructed Main Street, expected next year.
Community members even demanded trees on the property planted by former councillor Clive Doucet not fall victim to new construction on the site.
“The final design is much better than what was originally proposed,” said OECA president John Dance. “The city listened and responded to the community association’s suggestions. That said, we still have a community centre that will not have an accessible second floor and the facility – irrespective of its considerable heritage value – is inferior to those of communities of similar size.”

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