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Heritage conservation

About the Heritage Program

The conservation of cultural heritage resources is a priority for the City of Ottawa. Historic buildings, districts and landscapes provide us with physical reminders of our past and a greater understanding and appreciation of our local identity. The City of Ottawa conserves significant cultural heritage resources to celebrate, revitalize, stabilize and enhance the community as well as to contribute to its physical, social, cultural and economic development. The City has over 300 individually designated buildings and 18 heritage conservation districts.

Heritage planning is the preservation, conservation, rehabilitation, restoration and management of heritage resources. Cultural heritage resources can include sites, structures, buildings, and landscapes of historic, architectural or contextual value. Heritage planners work to manage change throughout the city to ensure that cultural heritage resources are retained, protected and integrated into new developments.

The Heritage Services Section is part of the Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development Department. The Section is responsible for researching and evaluating properties and areas for designation, assisting property owners with restoration projects, evaluating applications for alterations and demolition under the Ontario Heritage Act. The Section provides expert advice to the Built Heritage Sub-Committee, Planning Committee, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and City Council on built heritage matters.

The Heritage Services Section maintains the City's Heritage Register which includes designated properties and properties listed under Section 27 of the Ontario Heritage Act. The City also maintains a Heritage Reference List which lists over 10,000 properties of heritage interest in Ottawa.

Built Heritage Sub-Committee

The Built Heritage Sub-Committee (BHS-C) is a sub-committee of Planning Committee and provides advice to City Council on built heritage issues. The BHS-C is established under the Ontario Heritage Act and is comprised of four members of council and three members of the public. 

Contact Us

For more information on the City of Ottawa Heritage Program, please contact:

Sally Coutts, Senior Heritage Planner
Heritage Services Unit
Right-of-Way, Heritage and Urban Design
Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development
613-580-2424 ext. 13474
Email: heritage@ottawa.ca

Overview

An increased awareness and concern for the preservation of historic buildings and neighbourhoods led to the passage of the Ontario Heritage Act in 1975. This legislation enabled municipalities to protect properties of architectural and historical significance and to establish municipal heritage committees to advise City Councils on heritage matters. 

The City of Ottawa uses a variety of tools to identify and protect cultural heritage resources:

  • Property Standards By-law
  • Listing on the City of Ottawa Heritage Reference List
  • Listing on the Heritage Register
  • Individual designation under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act
  • Heritage Conservation District designation under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act
  • Heritage Overlay (Section 60 of the Zoning By-law)

Property Standards By-Law (2013-416)

In 2013, in response to ongoing issues of demolition by neglect of several heritage properties, the City's property standards by-law was updated to include specific rules about the maintenance and minimum standards for heritage buildings. The amendments to the by-law have allowed the City to more closely monitor the condition of designated properties to ensure their long term viability. Section VI of the Property Standards By-Law includes the minimum standards for heritage properties.

Heritage Overlay, Section 60 of the Zoning By-law

Section 60 of the City of Ottawa Zoning By-law contains the Heritage Overlay that is applied to most designated heritage properties and districts. The Overlay provides an additional layer of protection for the property and the character of the area. The Heritage Overlay sets out a variety of requirements for new additions and new construction in heritage areas. For instance, if a building affected by the Heritage Overlay is to be demolished it must be replaced with a building of the same size, massing, and floor area. This regulation is meant to ensure that new construction is not out of character for the area. Section 60 also offers parking incentives for historic buildings.

Heritage Reference List

The Heritage Reference List (HRL) is a large document that lists over 10,000 properties of heritage interest in Ottawa. The list has been compiled over many years through heritage inventories, heritage conservation district studies, windshield surveys and heritage lists from former municipalities such as Nepean and Vanier. The HRL is used as a monitoring tool by Heritage staff in the review of building permits and development applications. There are no restrictions on properties listed on the HRL.

A property does not need to be listed on the HRL in order to be designated and conversely, not all buildings listed on the HRL merit designation under the Ontario Heritage Act. Any member of the public can contact the Heritage Section to determine whether a property is listed on the HRL.

The HRL will be replaced once the Heritage Inventory Project is completed.

Protection under the Ontario Heritage Act

The Ontario Heritage Act provides the City of Ottawa with three ways to recognize and protect properties of cultural heritage value listing on the heritage register (Section 27 of the Act), individual designation (Part IV of the Act) ,heritage district designation (Part V of the Act).

Listing on the Heritage Register

Section 27 of the Ontario Heritage Act permits municipalities to add properties of cultural heritage value or interest to the Heritage Register. Listing under Section 27 requires property owners wanting to demolish a building listed on the Register to provide the City notice at least 60 days prior to the demolition. This allows the City enough time to negotiate with the owner to save the building or to propose its designation if warranted. There are no restrictions on alterations to properties listed under Section 27 of the Ontario Heritage Act. The City of Ottawa has approximately 900 properties listed on the Heritage Register and is adding more through the Heritage Inventory Project.

Individual designation under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act

Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act gives municipalities the authority to designate individual properties that have cultural heritage value. Properties must meet one of the three criteria for designation prescribed in Ontario Regulation 09/06 to be designated.

Heritage Conservation District under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act

Section 41 of the Ontario Heritage Act gives municipalities the authority to designate areas as heritage conservation districts. District designation can apply to a collection of buildings, streets or open spaces that are of special significance to the community. Heritage conservation districts contribute to our understanding and appreciation of our cultural identity. Ottawa's 18 heritage conservation districts include the former 19th century village of New Edinburgh and the mid-20th residential neighbourhood of Briarcliffe.

For more information please contact:

Sally Coutts, Senior Heritage Planner
Heritage Services Unit
Right-of-Way, Heritage and Urban Design
Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development
613-580-2424 ext. 13474
E-mail: heritage@ottawa.ca

Heritage Grant Program for Building Restoration

Awards and Recognition

The City recognizes outstanding achievements in heritage conservation.

Learn More

Heritage Confirmation Letter

Application Tools

A Heritage Confirmation Letter is formal correspondence from the City confirming whether the property in question is subject to Part IV or Part V of the Heritage Conservation Act.

A formal application is required to receive a Heritage Confirmation Letter.  The fee is $185.00 not subject to HST.

City staff will investigate the property to determine any applicable heritage designation once the application is received.

How to apply

Before making an application, you should discuss your proposal with staff. Please review the Fee Schedule for the appropriate fee. Application forms are available at all Client Service Centres or online together with the requirements for submissions. It should be submitted at one of the City’s Client Service Centres with the required fee and any other information that may be needed to assess your application.