3.0 - Centretown

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3.1 - Location

This Chapter applies to the entire area known as Centretown, bounded on the north by Gloucester Street and Lisgar Street, on the east by the Rideau Canal, on the south by the Queensway and on the west by Bronson Avenue, as identified in Schedule H1. 

3.2 - Purpose and Structure of this Secondary Plan

The purpose of this Chapter is to establish a comprehensive Secondary Plan (“the Plan”) to guide future growth and change in Centretown.  It is based on the Community Design Plan for Centretown, translating many key aspects of the CDP into statutory policy.

Sections 3.3 and 3.4 lay the foundation for the Plan with a vision statement and set of overarching principles. Section 3.4 also identifies the Plan’s general objectives under each principle. The Plan’s policies pertaining to mobility, the public realm, heritage, housing, land use and site development can be found in Sections 3.5 – 3.9. The Plan concludes with policies intended to guide its implementation.

In considering and preparing proposals for new development and other physical improvements in Centretown, including public projects, proponents should review all sections of this Plan, in addition to the Centretown Community Design Plan and applicable policies in Volume 1 of the Official Plan.

3.3 - Vision

Over the first third of the 21st century, Centretown’s population has grown and its physical environment has evolved, enhancing an already authentic urban character and unrivalled quality of life. People from all backgrounds are attracted by its central location, the variety of businesses and amenities, and a strong sense of community, remarkable heritage assets, and the ever-improving quality of the built environment. Centretown continues to be Ottawa’s most diverse and vibrant mixed-use community.

No longer home to architectural blandness, Centretown has become a showcase for creative and beautiful design. Heritage buildings are celebrated features of the community, carefully preserved and often creatively re-used with some incorporated into new development.  At the same time, new buildings have come in all shapes and sizes, responding to established neighbourhoods and the downtown context.  The resulting eclecticism reinforces Centretown’s identity as a place that values its past while embracing the future.

More space for walking and cycling has turned busy arterials into people places that stitch the different parts of the community together.  Calmer roads, greener streetscapes and unique open space moments have also improved the overall image of Centretown.  Heritage streetscapes, not just individual buildings, have been maintained.

Metcalfe Street has been reinvented as an elegant green boulevard that gracefully connects the civic and federal realms. The Museum of Nature continues to be the pride of Centretown and is a more prominent and visited landmark.  Its expanded green lawns enhance the Museum’s setting and play host to countless community events throughout the year. Centretown’s revitalized urban parks, and two new parks, are abuzz with the growing number of children and families that use these fun and safe spaces.

As advocates for “shop local, eat local, act local”, the growing number of residents choosing to make Centretown their home have reinvigorated businesses along Bank and Elgin Street. Somerset Village has expanded, and Gladstone Avenue has become a destination for creative businesses, fuelled by the conversion of light industrial type buildings and garage spaces into studios, gallery spaces and other commercial uses.

Centretown has continued to evolve as a truly complete inner city community that optimizes its downtown location.  There is a wide range of housing options, including affordable housing.  Most residents don’t need to rely on their own car for primary transportation.  They walk, cycle or take transit to work. Everything needed for a high quality of urban living - parks, schools, shops, services and cultural attractions - is but a short stroll away.

3.4 - Principles and Objectives

The following six core principles flow from the vision for Centretown and provide the foundation for the Secondary Plan.  They recognize that Centretown is one of Ottawa’s oldest established communities with significant heritage but also an area of the city that can be improved and should evolve strategically to accommodate many more residents and additional businesses.  The principles are mutually reinforcing and therefore one is not more important than any other.  They establish overarching goals for Centretown, which provide the basis for the more specific objectives under each.

3.4.1 Maintain and respect the character of Centretown’s neighbourhoods  

The inner city heritage character of Centretown is fundamental to its attractiveness as a place to live, work, shop and visit.  The low-rise neighbourhoods generally west of Kent Street and east of Elgin Street have a consistency in the layout, form and architectural quality of housing that is to be maintained and preserved as much as possible.

Significant intensification is not planned in these areas, and new development or modifications to existing buildings should reinforce the established character.

The “centre” of Centretown between Kent and Elgin, with its many designated heritage properties, the historic main streets of Bank and Elgin, and the Museum of Nature, is recognized as a Heritage Conservation District.  It is a dynamic, mixed use area, whose character for many years has been more eclectic than that of the bordering neighbourhoods.  As this area continues to evolve to accommodate growth and maintain commercial and cultural vitality, conserving designated heritage buildings, and those worthy of designation, will be essential.


  1. Protect identified heritage buildings, streetscapes and areas;
  2. Rehabilitate, conserve and re-use buildings with heritage value;
  3. Preserve and reinforce the character of stable, valued neighbourhoods and main streets;
  4. Ensure the scale, massing and design of new development respects the character of surrounding established areas with concentrations of heritage buildings;
  5. Preserve irreplaceable, valued architectural styles.

3.4.2 Accommodate residential growth

More people living in Centretown will strengthen the local economy, support investments in public transit and help achieve the City’s broader sustainability objectives.  New buildings to house more people will fill gaps in Centretown’s urban fabric, optimizing the use of land and creating more attractive streetscapes.

All neighbourhoods in Centretown can accommodate growth to varying degrees.  Most of the growth will be directed to the northern area where high-density development already exists and to the Catherine Street corridor.  Growth will also continue to occur through the development of mostly mid-rise buildings in the central area of Centretown.  Existing stable low-rise neighbourhoods may experience a more limited level of infill growth as a result of small-scale, low-rise redevelopment, secondary suites and converted houses, for example.


  1.  Achieve a minimum intensification target of 10,000 new residents;
  2. Target intensification where it will have minimal or no adverse impacts on established, low-rise neighbourhoods.  The established low-rise neighbourhoods are generally located east of Elgin Street and west of Kent Street (including properties located south of James Street to the west of Bank Street);
  3. Ensure utilities and municipal services are adequate to support the intensification target;
  4. Provide adequate educational, recreational, social and cultural facilities and programming for all residents.

3.4.3 Accommodate a diverse population 

Centretown is one of Ottawa’s most diverse communities socially and culturally.  It is a downtown neighbourhood, has good access to transit and services, and contains a variety of housing options for households of all incomes, from detached homes to studio apartments.  As Centretown grows and evolves, there should continue to be a wide range of housing types and a significant component of affordable housing.


  • Ensure new housing provides a range of dwelling types and sizes, including units suitable for families with children;
  • Provide housing which meets the needs of disabled persons, senior citizens, single parent families and other groups with special needs;
  • Maintain an adequate supply of affordable housing;
  • Strengthen the protection of existing rental housing;
  • Provide adequate educational, recreational, social and cultural facilities and programming for all residents.

3.4.4 Reinforce and promote commercial activity

Bank Street and Elgin Street are good examples of successful neighbourhood main streets.  Somerset Village is a destination for restaurants, and small commercial enterprises now occupy many of the historic homes south of Somerset Street and on either side of Bank Street.  Encouraging commercial investment that respects the heritage character of the area has several benefits.  It will help ensure the two main streets remain vibrant as well as secondary main streets like Somerset and Gladstone.  The retrofitting of heritage homes and other buildings that are costly to maintain into work spaces is one way to ensure they will be conserved as part of the neighbourhood.  A thriving commercial environment in Centretown comprising retail, small-service businesses and professional offices supports population and employment growth in broader Downtown Ottawa.


  • Enhance the presence of small businesses within mixed use areas;
  • Fill in gaps on Bank and Elgin Streets with mixed-use buildings that reinforce the streets’ pedestrian oriented character;
  • Enhance the presence of retail and small-scale offices within existing and new buildings on Somerset Street and Gladstone Avenue;
  • Accommodate institutional, cultural and community facilities for all residents that complement, and are compatible with, surrounding uses;
  • Provide opportunities for studios and workshops in live-work accommodation.

3.4.5 Enhance the public realm

Centretown has lively main streets and a few distinctive open spaces, such as Dundonald Park and Minto Park, but its heavily trafficked north-south streets need improvement from a pedestrian standpoint, and there is a deficiency of parkland and other public open spaces overall. As Centretown’s population grows, ages and becomes more culturally diverse, the pressures on parkland and community facilities generally will increase.

It is the City’s intent to pursue, through its capital plan and partnerships with other public agencies, a program of streetscape and other public realm enhancements in Centretown.  In addition, it will be important to seek and encourage opportunities to establish new public spaces and/or other community facilities on significant development sites.


  • Increase the overall supply of parkland in Centretown;
  • Improve the quality and functionality of existing parks and open spaces;
  • Establish new public squares and other gathering places;
  • Improve the pedestrian comfort and image of primary streets;
  • Establish Metcalfe Street as a premier civic boulevard and National Capital entryway;
  • Improve the open space setting for the Museum of Nature with an emphasis on the West Lawn as a landmark landscape;
  • Protect and preserve existing trees and other desirable vegetation;
  • Plant new trees in public open spaces and right-of-ways;
  • Establish new community and cultural facilities to serve the needs of residents and complement existing cultural amenities.

3.4.6 Encourage walking, cycling and transit use

With its grid pattern of streets and mix of uses, Centretown is generally a walkable community and it is well served by public transit.  Nevertheless, the priority placed on vehicular traffic on streets such as Kent, O’Connor and Metcalfe makes them pedestrian and bicycle unfriendly and creates mobility barriers within Centretown.  The incremental conversion of these streets from one-way to two-way, along with other streetscape improvements, would encourage more walking, cycling and transit use, as well as promote investments in adjacent private properties, improved cycling and pedestrian connections to surrounding neighbourhoods and the National Capital Commission’s pathway system. [Amendment #125, July 17, 2013]


  • Reduce the number of car-dependent households;
  • Provide additional amenities for pedestrians and transit users on Centretown’s main streets and other key streets;
  • Ensure appropriate pedestrian and cycling infrastructure is provided as part of any major roadway improvement projects;
  • Expand the network of pedestrian pathways and cycling facilities in Centretown and improve connections to adjacent neighbourhoods;
  • Create more balanced arterial streets to meet the needs of all users;
  • Improve public transit service as warranted;
  • Minimize and mitigate the impact of through traffic on residential streets;
  • Expand car-share and bike-share programs and facilities.

3.4.7 Promote design excellence

The cherished historic character of Centretown is testimony to the value of design excellence.  As parts of the community grow and evolve, they should maintain and celebrate their excellent qualities while encouraging development that establishes new legacies.  High-quality improvements to the public realm also have a vital role to play.

Design excellence can result from the creativity of a single architect, landscape architect, engineer or artist, but it should be inspired by context and it almost always relies on input from many sources—professional collaborators and reviewers, users of the building or space, and the public.  Building on the guidelines and other recommendations of the Centretown CDP, it is the City’s intent to ensure that all significant developments and capital projects are subject to a rigorous design review process.


  • Ensure all new development is well designed and built with high-quality, long-lasting materials;
  • Ensure new development in established neighbourhoods respects and complements the existing character of the area;
  • Steadily increase the number of buildings that meet high standards for energy efficiency, environmental design and green buildings generally (i.e., LEED rated buildings);
  • Steadily increase the number of projects recognized by professional design organizations for excellence;
  • Ensure the community is engaged in the processes that lead to significant new developments and has an opportunity to provide input on the design of new buildings and public projects.

3.5 - Mobility

Centretown is a compact, urban community with a traditional grid pattern of streets and well served by public transit.  As such, it encourages walking, cycling and transit use.  However, much of the network is designated as part of the arterial road system and is focused on supporting the movement of cars between Ottawa’s downtown core to the north and Highway 417 to the south.  It has been generally accepted that vehicular traffic levels through Centretown will remain high with some areas experiencing congestion, particularly at peak times.  Nevertheless, it is a goal of this Plan to reduce the impact of traffic levels on the neighbourhood and create an environment that is even more conducive to using alternatives to the automobile.  The Plan encourages a program of complete streets for Centretown.  The policies in this section focus on functional improvements aimed at achieving a more balanced mobility network in Centretown. Related policies regarding other improvements to streetscapes can be found in Section 3.6.

3.5.1 Public Transportation

The City shall maintain the general level of transit service in Centretown and make service enhancements where supported by an increased population in the area and/or by the demands placed on the larger city transit network.

The City shall identify and implement opportunities to make streets in Centretown more transit friendly. Measures to be considered shall include transit lanes, bus bulb-outs and improved shelters/waiting areas at bus stops.

3.5.2 Cycling and Walking

Expanding the cycling network and implementing other cycling improvements shall be guided by the Ottawa Cycling Plan and the Centretown CDP. The City shall also pursue other opportunities to improve cycling connections to the Laurier Avenue bike lanes, across the Queensway and the Rideau Canal, and to the National Capital Commission pathway network.

The City shall identify and implement opportunities for additional bicycle parking in major developments and at key destinations in Centretown, including Jack Purcell Community Centre, Minto Park, the Museum of Nature, and along Bank and Elgin Streets.  The City shall also encourage the provision of bike-share facilities in Centretown.

The City shall be guided by the Centretown CDP and the policies in Section 3.6.3 for enhancements to the pedestrian network. Metcalfe, Elgin, O’Connor and Somerset Streets are “Pedestrian Priority Streets”, where improvements shall be focused first.  The City shall re-allocate the space and priority of the public rights-of-way to better serve the needs of pedestrians and cyclists, through expanded boulevards for sidewalks and plantings, cycling facilities and other measures set out in the CDP.

3.5.3 Street Network

Further to the policies in Section 7, Annex 1 of the Official Plan, right-of-way (ROW) protection shall respond to the existing pattern of development in Centretown and be pursued on a case-by-case basis. The primary consideration in modifying ROWs shall be to retain a consistent streetwall or other building frontage condition. In cases where a site is on the corner, or a neighbouring building is already setback, the ROW protection standard could be applied to increase the pedestrian zone.  Generally, ROW widening consistent with the ROW protections shall be for the purposes of improving the streetscape and addressing the needs of pedestrians and/or cyclists and not to widen the roadway for expanded vehicle lanes. [Amendment #125, July 17, 2013]

The City shall study the potential to convert key one-way streets in Centretown that favour peak-hour traffic traveling through the area to two-way streets.  Two-way conversions are intended to improve safety and comfort for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, provide a greater choice of routes, improve wayfinding, and create more inviting addresses for development.  The first street to be analyzed for conversion shall be Metcalfe Street, followed by Lyon Street and then O’Connor Street and Kent Street. The conversion of Metcalfe shall be considered in conjunction with a landscape plan for the Museum of Nature block (see Policy  The studies shall consider the impacts of conversions on the existing Queensway ramping system and changes to the Queensway corridor proposed by the Ministry of Transportation as well as the priorities identified by the National Capital Commission Core Area Master Plan.

3.5.4 Parking

The City shall undertake an inventory of existing public parking spaces in Centretown and their current utilization.  As the area evolves, the City shall periodically monitor changes to public parking supply and demand.  Rates for on-street parking shall be reviewed to ensure an appropriate balance between encouraging non-automobile travel while continuing to attract visitors and retail patrons who arrive by car.

The City shall encourage the provision of below-grade or above-grade public parking within new private developments close to major destinations.


3.6 - Public Realm

The public realm of Centretown includes its streets, pathways, parks and open spaces, recreational facilities, schools and other institutions.  The accessibility and quality of the public realm is fundamental to the quality of life in Centretown as a green and liveable community as well as to the success of its businesses.

The policies in this section focus on maintaining and improving key elements of Centretown’s existing public realm and adding new ones.  Equally important, the CDP and the policies below support a strategy of upgrading existing open spaces, greening Centretown’s key streets and securing high-quality open space “moments” through redevelopment. In addition, the policies in Section 3.5 emphasize the importance of improved connections for pedestrians and cyclists within the community and to surrounding areas with open space and recreational amenities.

3.6.1 Parks and Open Spaces

The City shall implement an ongoing program of park improvements in Centretown, guided by the “Greening Centretown” strategy in the CDP. Jack Purcell Park shall be a priority for additional improvements that build on recently implemented and already planned initiatives.

The City, in collaboration with the National Capital Commission, shall initiate a restoration plan for the Metcalfe Gateway and the Canadian Museum of Nature block aimed at significantly improving its landscape and accessibility.  The plan shall address:

  1. Eliminating the Metcalfe Street jog between McLeod Street and Argyle Avenue to create a unified open space;
  2. Re-landscaping the park, with an emphasis on the west lawn, to a significantly higher standard as per the 2003 Public Works-Government Services Canada study;
  3. Special streetscape treatment for the Metcalfe/McLeod intersection to create a public gathering space at the front entrance to the museum;
  4. Reconstruction of Metcalfe Street as a civic boulevard, including street trees, special paving, lighting, coordinated street furniture and traffic calming measures at key intersections (as determined by a downtown transportation study); and,
  5. Opportunities for an improved alternative scenic access system from the Queensway and Elgin Street to the Queen Elizabeth Driveway.

The City shall pursue the acquisition and creation of the new parks and other public open spaces conceptually identified on Schedule H3 and described in the Centretown CDP. The acquisition and/or programming of these open spaces will require working cooperatively with public agencies and private landowners.  In addition to the parks identified on Schedule H3, the City may acquire other lands for parkland without amendment to this Plan.

Any future development of 265 Catherine Street within the height limit of the zoning in place on January 23rd, 2014 will include a minimum of 25 per cent of the lot area as publicly accessible, private open space.  Approval of a site plan for such development will be required and the community will be consulted by the City during this process. [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

To complement existing and new parks, the City shall use the development approval process to secure the provision of publicly accessible open spaces at strategic locations throughout Centretown.  Means for acquiring these “small moments” may include parkland dedication, required landscaped open space, Section 37 contributions, direct purchase or a combination of these.  Generally, small moments shall be located at intersections, although mid-block locations will also be considered.  The location and design of small moments shall be guided by the Centretown Community Design Plan. [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

The City shall encourage the National Capital Commission to develop the open space area adjacent to the Rideau Canal for both active and passive recreation in order to increase recreational opportunities for the residents of Centretown.

The City shall encourage the National Capital Commission to develop the open space area adjacent to the Rideau Canal for both active and passive recreation in order to increase recreational opportunities for the residents of Centretown.

Where appropriate, and through formal agreements where necessary, the City shall seek to ensure open spaces associated with schools, churches and office buildings are located and designed for enjoyment by the general public.  Alternatively, or in addition, the City may lease vacant public or private land for park purposes, where desirable.

The City shall prohibit the creation of surface parking lots on newly vacant lands and instead require that such lands be appropriately landscaped for the interim period between demolition and redevelopment.

​3.6.2 Community Services

The City supports retaining existing Centretown schools as educational institutions.  Recognizing school buildings and the open space surrounding them as important facilities within the community, the City shall work with the School Boards to optimize their use for recreation, social and cultural activities.

The City supports the concentration of a number of recreation and meeting facilities in community centres.  These centres may also include health and dental clinics, personal counseling services, legal aid, daycare, information and referral services, and any other service which is best delivered at the neighbourhood level.  The delivery of recreational and social services within Centretown shall be closely coordinated in order to avoid inefficiency and duplication.

The McNabb and Jack Purcell Community Centres shall be maintained and enhanced as required.  The City shall investigate the potential for a third community centre in the northern part of Centretown to meet the needs of the existing and future population in the area.  The City shall also pursue opportunities, including partnerships with private landowners and developers, to acquire additional community meeting spaces, youth and seniors centres, and outdoor recreation spaces, such as skateboard courts and basketball courts.

3.6.3 Streetscapes

Guided by the Centretown CDP, the City shall undertake streetscape improvements on the following key streets, as part of the capital budget for any road and infrastructure renewal program for the streets:

  • Elgin Street
  • Catherine Street
  • Metcalfe Street
  • O’Connor Street
  • Somerset Street
  • Gladstone Avenue
  • Lyon Street

Where existing surface parking lots meet or encroach on the public right-of-way, the City shall use the development application process or may use other means at its disposal to eliminate encroachments and improve the buffering of parking lots and associated streetscapes.

Hydroelectricity, natural gas, communications/telecommunications and other utility systems will be extended wherever necessary to serve new development in consultation with the utility provider.  In the interest of enhancing the physical environment of the inner city, the City will explore the possibility of installing utilities underground and will support the burying of existing overhead wiring where feasible, and in keeping with the Underground Wiring Policy approved by Council on April 13, 2011, as amended from time to time. [Amendment #125, July 13, 2013]

3.7 - Heritage

Centretown is rich in heritage, and it is highly valued by residents, business owners and visitors. Its historic buildings, streetscapes and neighbourhoods are central to Centretown’s existing character and should remain so even as the area evolves to incorporate more contemporary buildings.  The intent of the policies below is to ensure the most significant aspects of Centretown’s heritage are protected, maintained and celebrated.  They also aim to ensure that, where redevelopment occurs, the design and landscaping of new buildings will be sensitive and complementary to the character of neighbouring heritage assets and consistent with existing heritage plans and policies.

3.7.1 Centretown Heritage Conservation District

The City shall undertake the development of a Heritage District Plan according to the requirements of the Ontario Heritage Act. The updated study shall consider:

  • The diversity of buildings within the existing CHCD and the objective of this Plan to accommodate population growth and new, contemporary buildings within the CHCD and shall develop appropriate infill guidelines;
  • More comprehensive descriptions and guidelines for individual buildings and streetscapes; [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]
  • Architectural guidelines for new buildings, and additions to existing buildings;
  • Modifications to the current boundaries of the CHCD as deemed appropriate by the study findings.

The proposed CHCD plan shall include a review of the existing building classifications to ensure accurate classification of heritage assets. Until such time that the CHCD study is complete and implemented, the existing district designation shall remain in effect and all proposals will be evaluated in keeping with the requirements of the Ontario Heritage Act.

The City shall pursue appropriate designations of undesignated heritage buildings and areas within Centretown that currently are outside the Centretown Heritage Conservation District.

3.7.2 Integrating Heritage

The City shall encourage the rehabilitation and re-use of heritage buildings in Centretown and shall consider new financial incentives in the context of a Community Improvement Plan to further this objective.

In addition to being subject to design guidelines in the CHCD Plan, where applicable, new development adjacent to heritage buildings and streetscapes shall respect the guidelines in Section 6.5 of the Centretown CDP.  [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

3.8 - Housing

There are expected to be many more people living in Centretown in the decades ahead, and a key objective of this Plan is to ensure there is a broad range of housing choices for existing and future residents.  The policies below, which are further to the policies in Section 4.5 of Volume 1 of the Official Plan, support this objective, focusing specifically on the issue of affordable housing.

3.8.1 Affordable and Assisted Housing

The City shall include the provision of affordable housing units and the conservation and replacement of rental housing as possible Section 37 community benefits.  A Centretown Affordable Housing Fund shall be created and funded from Section 37 and Development Charges Reserve Fund contributions.

The City shall work with private developers to introduce home ownership programs to create affordable condominium units.

In recognition of the affordability problem encountered by many individuals and families in securing adequate housing, the City shall encourage, and shall determine specific means to provide for, a percentage of publicly assisted housing for persons and families of low to moderate income in major new residential developments in Centretown.  The City of Ottawa may also purchase existing housing or assemble land for housing construction, as circumstances demand, in order to further the objectives of this Plan.

3.8.2 Protection of Rental Housing

The City shall review the provisions of the Municipal Act with the intent of strengthening existing policies regarding the replacement of rental units, focusing on affordability, tenure, rent controls and administration.

Notwithstanding Policy 4.5.3 of Volume 1 of the Official Plan, heritage buildings designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act and Category 1 and 2 buildings designated under Part V of the Act shall not be exempted from the rental conversion policy.

3.9 - Land Use and Site Development

The policies of this section address how land can be used and developed and relate to Schedule H1 Land Use and Schedule H2 Maximum Building Heights.

Centretown as a whole is a mixed-use community comprised of distinct areas or neighbourhoods, some of which are more mixed than others but each of which has its own physical character.  These “character areas”, identified on Annex 1 and described in detail in the Centretown CDP, are very important to the continued evolution of Centretown. The Residential Character Areas, comprised almost entirely of low-rise buildings, are the most consistent and uniform neighbourhoods in Centretown; they are generally attractive and healthy and are not planned for significant physical change. The Northern Character Area is an area of high density development that is planned for more residential and mixed-use intensification in mostly tall buildings that frame and enliven adjacent streets.  The Southern Character Area, defined for the most part by automobile-oriented commercial uses and underutilized land, has the potential, like its northern counterpart, to accommodate a significant amount of the planned growth in Centretown in generally tall buildings.

The Central Character Area is the most complex of the character areas. Containing parts of Bank, Elgin and Metcalfe Streets, Somerset Village, and the Museum of Nature, it is the core of Centretown and accommodates an assortment of uses.  Its charm derives from its eclectic, ever-evolving character. With a number of vacant or underutilized lots, parking lots and aging buildings that lack heritage value, it is expected to continue to evolve to accommodate more residential and mixed-use development that respects and complements the many historic buildings and streetscapes in the area.

The policies below respond to the varying land use and built form visions for each character area. They are linked to the Land Use and Maximum Heights maps appended to this Plan (Schedules H1 and H2).

3.9.1 Residential Character Areas

The predominant land use designation in the Residential Character Areas is Residential, as identified in Schedule H1.  This designation permits detached, semi-detached and converted houses, townhouses and low-rise apartment buildings. Public open spaces are also permitted throughout Residential areas.

In the west Residential Character Areas, Somerset Street east of Percy Street and Gladstone Avenue, are considered Secondary Mainstreets.  In addition to low-rise forms of housing, small-scale, neighbourhood-oriented commercial uses shall be permitted on properties fronting these streets. Somerset Street west of Percy Street is considered a Traditional Mainstreet, where retail or public uses are required on the ground floor of buildings.

New development in the Residential Character Areas shall be consistent with the prevailing pattern of development along the street in the immediate vicinity, in terms of front and side yard setbacks and massing.  The maximum height shall be the lesser of 14.5 metres or 4 storeys, except for the R4V zone east of Elgin Street where the maximum height shall be 11 metres, as identified in Schedule H2.

3.9.2 Northern Character Area

The predominant land use designation in the Northern Character Area is Apartment Neighbourhood, as identified in Schedule H1.  This designation permits apartment buildings and townhouses as well as public open spaces.  Small-scale, neighbourhood-oriented commercial uses are also permitted. Non-residential uses are restricted to the first two floors of a building and cannot occupy more than 50% of its gross floor area in R4 and R5 zoned areas. [Amendment #125, July 17, 2013]

The portions of Bank Street and Elgin Street in the Northern Character Area are considered Traditional Mainstreets.  Buildings fronting these streets shall have active uses such as retail on the ground floor fronting the street and maintain a continuous streetwall.  Retail shall also be permitted on the second floor; otherwise, upper floors shall be occupied by residential or office uses.

Buildings of varying heights shall be encouraged in the Northern Character Area.  The maximum heights, identified in Schedule H2, are intended to achieve a transition to the mid-rise and low-rise areas to the south.  Proposals for development in the Northern Character Area shall be guided by the Built Form Guidelines in the Centretown CDP.  These guidelines, together with other applicable Council approved Design Guidelines, provide the framework to ensure better quality architecture, appropriate building design and the creation of a positive sense of place in Centretown.  The guidelines are meant to be general and may not apply equally in all circumstances.  The site context may inform the application of, and the emphasis on, the various guidelines.  [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

3.9.3 Southern Character Area

The predominant land use designation in the Southern Character Area is Catherine Street Mixed Use, as identified in Schedule H1.  This is a special mixed use designation that recognizes the wide variety of uses that are appropriate in the area.  The intent is to maintain employment uses in the area while encouraging infill and high rise redevelopment that provides a buffer between the Queensway and the established neighbourhoods to the north. Permitted uses shall include apartment buildings, townhouses, offices, small-scale and large-format retail, hotels, bulk good outlets, wholesale operations and other commercial operations that serve the needs of travellers, commuters and Centretown residents.

Retail uses shall be oriented to Catherine Street to encourage pedestrian activity. Parking for retail generally shall be located at the rear of buildings and shall not be located in the front.

Buildings of varying heights shall be encouraged in the Southern Character Area.  The maximum heights, identified in Schedule H2, are intended to achieve a transition to the mid-rise and low-rise areas to the north.  Proposals for development in the Southern Character Area shall be guided by the Built Form Guidelines in the Centretown CDP.  These guidelines, together with other applicable Council approved Design Guidelines, provide the framework to ensure better quality architecture, appropriate building design and the creation of a positive sense of place in Centretown.  The guidelines are meant to be general and may not apply equally in all circumstances.  The site context may inform the application of, and the emphasis on, the various guidelines. [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

3.9.4 Central Character Area

Consistent with the eclectic nature of the Central Character Area, it comprises several land use designations, as identified in Schedule H1, including the following mixed use designations:

  1. Traditional Mainstreet – This applies to the properties fronting Bank Street, Elgin Street and a portion of Somerset Street, where active uses such as retail shall be required on the ground floors of buildings fronting the street and a continuous streetwall shall be maintained.  Retail shall also be permitted on the second floor; otherwise, upper floors shall be occupied by residential or office uses.  Required parking shall be located at the rear of buildings or underground.
  2. Secondary Mainstreet – This applies to properties fronting Somerset Street, between O’Connor Street and Elgin Street, where commercial uses in heritage houses and at the base of apartment and office buildings shall be permitted and encouraged.  Notwithstanding the presence of commercial uses on Somerset, it should maintain a generally residential character, with buildings set back from the right-of-way and landscaped front yards (or restaurant patios), except where it intersects with Bank and Elgin Streets.
  3. Residential Mixed Use – This applies to portions of the Central Character Area historically occupied by houses and other low-rise housing forms that have been partially converted to commercial uses and to adjacent neighbouring properties where such conversions are appropriate.  Non-residential uses shall be restricted to small-scale commercial uses such as personal services, medical facilities, offices and small-scale institutional uses, such as daycares. Uses such as restaurants, retail stores and retail food stores, more appropriately located on a Traditional of Secondary Mainstreet, will not be permitted, except within Landmark Buildings, as described in Policy  Permitted non-residential uses shall be restricted to the first two floors and the basement and shall not occupy more than 50 per cent of the gross floor area of the building, with the exception of those existing buildings containing legally established non-residential uses existing at the date of adoption of Official Plan Amendment 117.  The expansion of legally established non-residential uses shall be subject to appropriate limits.  The Residential Mixed Use designation also permits detached and semi-detached houses, townhouses and apartment buildings that do not contain non-residential uses.  [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

The Central Character Area also includes properties designated Residential, where the permitted uses shall be restricted to detached, semi-detached and converted houses, townhouses and low-rise apartment buildings.

A variety of mid-rise and low-rise buildings shall be encouraged in the Central Character Area. Schedule H2 identifies maximum heights.  Generally, buildings up to 9 storeys shall be permitted.  Where a building greater than 6 storeys is proposed adjacent to a property where the maximum height is 4 storeys or adjacent to significant heritage resources/ streetscapes, a stepping of heights or increased setbacks should be provided to achieve an appropriate transition.  Buildings shall be restricted to five storeys along Elgin Street.

Proposals for development in the Central Character Area shall be guided by the Built Form Guidelines in the Centretown CDP.  The guidelines are meant to be general and may not apply equally in all circumstances.  The site context of the provision of a public benefit (e.g. a small moment) may inform the application of, and the emphasis on, the various guidelines.  Where a high-rise building is introduced in the Central Character Area, provisions described in Section and above shall apply. [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

Notwithstanding the maximum building heights identified on Schedule H2, the lands legally described as Lots 12 and 13 (West O’Connor Street) and Part of Lot 43 (North Gilmour Street) on Registered Plan 15558 shall be subject to a maximum building height of six storeys. Furthermore, notwithstanding Section, the development of a midrise apartment dwelling shall be permitted on the portion of such lands designated Residential, being Part of Lot 43 on Registered Plan 15558. [Amendment #248, October14, 2020]

Despite Section, the property at 100 Argyle Avenue is permitted a maximum building height of ten (10) storeys pursuant to Section 37 of the Planning Act where one or more community benefits are secured through and agreement with the City which will be provided at the time of development. [Amendment #252, May 11, 2021]

3.9.5 General Policies

Centretown is home to a range of public and institutional uses, including schools, parks, museums, public utility installations, municipal facilities, community resource and health facilities, and places of worship.  Schedule H1 identifies Public/Institutional Areas, where such uses exist and will continue to be permitted.

Schedule H1 identifies the locations of existing and proposed open spaces. Parks and other public open spaces shall also be permitted in all other land use areas in Centretown.  A range of community, cultural and recreational facilities shall be permitted in parks and open spaces.

The implementing zoning by-law shall establish appropriate maximum building heights within the ranges shown on Schedule H2.  These maximum building heights are intended to help ensure compatibility between existing buildings and new development and between areas of different building heights, which together with other applicable zoning provisions ensure new development achieves an appropriate built form transition to adjacent areas of lower height. [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

267 O’ Connor Street is a significant site strategically located along O’Connor Street amongst sites developed with buildings of various character and height within the Residential Mixed Use designation of the Central Character Area.  Given its location, context, size and current development conditions comprising a single use non-residential building with extensive surface parking and having frontage on three public streets, redevelopment of the site is encouraged.  Such development could make a significant contribution to improving the Central Character Area and O’Connor Street and to significantly improving the area’s public realm.  Such development is encouraged to include the provision of open space, a key objective of this Secondary Plan for this part of Centretown.  The determination of the nature and form of development that is consistent with the opportunity and potential exhibited by the site shall be determined through a site specific re-zoning process and be subject to a specialized design review process within the framework of the City’s Urban Design Review Panel.  Accordingly, to provide for flexibility in determining an appropriate development, and recognizing the varied context of the site where buildings of various styles and heights are located, the final building height that may be determined through the site specific rezoning will be permitted to exceed the 9 storey height limit identified on Schedule H2, while providing for an appropriate building height and mass in order to create a positive street relationship as well as ensure compatibility with surrounding properties, provided an appropriate publicly accessible private open space is included.  Any proposal for a building height that would be permitted within the framework of the Landmark Building policies of this Secondary Plan will be subject to the policies set out for Landmark Buildings.  . [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

Notwithstanding Section, small retail, cafes and restaurants will be permitted on the first two floors and basement. [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

Where the existing maximum building heights in the Zoning By-law are lower than those shown on Schedule H2, any increase in height and/or density deemed suitable by the City through a rezoning process will be subject to Section 37 of the Planning Act in accordance with the Council-approved Section 37 Guidelines and Policy 8 in Section 5.2.1 of the Official Plan. [Amendment #125, July 17, 2013]

As a mixed-use, inner city community in the nation’s capital, Centretown may be an appropriate location for developments that, through their design and public uses, establish true civic or national landmarks. “Landmark Buildings” are those that make both significant and exceptional contributions to the public realm and overall identity of Centretown.   They combine iconic architecture, extraordinary site design and a unique civic or national function to create a distinctive place that invites visitors to experience its qualities.  Both the building and its landscape should be appreciated as much for their beauty as for their utility.  While Landmark Buildings must respect the form and character of their surroundings, they may depart from the built form parameters established for Centretown, but in this regard they will not set precedents for other development, and to be different they must be special.  [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

Notwithstanding the build form policies of this Plan, including the height limits in Schedule H2, where high-rise and mid-rise buildings are permitted in the Northern, Central and Southern Character Areas, the City may permit Landmark Buildings that do not conform to the built form policies and height limits but only under very specific circumstances as described below.  Landmark Buildings shall: [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

  1. Only be permitted on large corner lots with frontage on three streets, except in the Southern Character Area, where frontage on two streets is required;
  2. Not be permitted in Residential, Traditional or Secondary Mainstreet designations;
  3. In the Residential Mixed Use designation, only be considered on properties fronting O’Connor, Metcalfe and Kent Streets and only if the proposed development, along with any park/public open space component, is massed to those streets;
  4. Provide and deliver a significant, publicly accessible and publicly owned open space and/or a significant public institutional use, such as a cultural or community facility, on the site. Where an institutional use is not proposed, the open space shall comprise a contiguous area that is a minimum of approximately 40% of the area of the subject site and have frontage on at least two streets;
  5. Not result in a new net shadow impact on an existing public open space greater than that which would be created by the base height condition;
  6. Conform to the built form policies of this Plan applicable to tall buildings ( and where the landmark includes a  tall building element for residential uses incorporated into the design of a landmark building and only with respect to such uses;  [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]
  7. Not require the demolition of a designated heritage building and shall respect the cultural heritage value of the site and its setting through the retention of its significant heritage resources;
  8. Demonstrate leadership and advances in sustainable design and energy efficiency;
  9. Be subject to an architectural design competition that includes City representation on the selection jury and/or, at the City’s discretion, be subject to the City’s specialized design review process within the framework of the Urban Design Review Panel, process to exercise a detailed peer review of landmark buildings as per Policy; [Amendment #125, July 17, 2013] [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]
  10. Be subject to the provisions of Section 37 of the Planning Act and in accordance with the Council-approved Section 37 Guidelines for determining value uplift, and as per Policy with the public open space or institution taken into account when determining the appropriate Section 37 community benefit ; [Amendment #125, July 17, 2013] [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]
  11. Fully respect the requirements of the Visual Integrity and  Symbolic Primacy of the Parliament Buildings and Other National Symbols guidelines related to building height restrictions; and.  . [Amendment #125, July 17, 2013] [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]
  12. Not exceed a height of 27 storeys.  [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

This provision is not intended to introduce tall buildings that are out of scale with their planned surroundings without a specific review and analysis of the impacts and implications.  The specific context of the location of the proposal will form part of this review and be taken into account when determining building massing, building heights and the relationship of the project features to the streets. [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

Prior to considering a proposal for a Landmark Building in Centretown, a formal and rigorous application and review process that includes public consultation shall be developed for consideration by the appropriate standing committee of Council and shall be adopted by Council. [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

To maintain attractive and pedestrian-friendly streetscapes, the impact of off-street parking shall be minimized in Centretown.  In designated Residential areas and Residential Mixed Use areas, front yard parking for existing houses and apartment buildings shall be discouraged and generally shall not occupy the front yard beyond an existing driveway.  Parking for new buildings in these areas shall be located at the rear of the building. In all other land use areas, parking for apartment buildings, office buildings and mixed-use buildings generally shall be located at the rear of the building or underground.

In addition to conforming to the built form policies of this section, all new development in Centretown shall respect the guidelines in Sections 6.2-6.4 of the Centretown CDP.

3.10 - Interpretation


This Chapter establishes broad principles to guide future development in Centretown. Schedule H1 - Centretown Land Use is intended to illustrate certain aspects of the Plan and shall be considered as approximate rather than absolute.  The boundaries between the various classes of land use are general only and are not intended to define the exact limits of a land use area.


Chapters 1-3 and Schedules H1-H3 constitute the Centretown Secondary Plan. Annex 1 is provided for information only and is not part of the Secondary Plan.


Where the policies of this Plan conflict with those of Volume 1 of the Official Plan, the policies of this Plan shall prevail.

3.11 - Implementation

The policies of this Chapter provide a framework for the future development of Centretown.  The success of these policies depends on effective implementation.  This section, which reinforces and augments the implementation policies contained in Volume 1 of the Official Plan, describes the principal tools and actions the City intends to use to implement the objectives and policies of the plan.

3.11.1 General

This Secondary Plan shall be implemented using some or all of the following, as provided for under the Planning Act and also identified in Volume 1 of the Official Plan:

  1. approval of individual draft plans of subdivision/condominium and part lot control exemptions;
  2. enactment of zoning by-laws;
  3. use of density and height bonusing provisions as per Section 37 of the Planning Act;
  4. use of site plan control;
  5. execution of Letters of Undertaking and/or registration of site plan agreements;
  6. use of the Holding Symbol “H”;
  7. dedication of parkland or cash-in-lieu of parkland;
  8. use of powers and incentives enabled by a Community Improvement Plan;
  9. use of development agreements registered on title.

The implementation of certain policies may require the co-operation of other public authorities, including the Province of Ontario and the National Capital Commission.  Wherever the agreement or involvement of two or more authorities is required to implement certain aspects of the Plan, the City of Ottawa will initiate discussions with these authorities with the objective of reaching an agreement on a desirable course of action.

3.11.2 Design Review

Much of Centretown is located within the Design Control Area identified in Schedule L of the Official Plan.  As per Section 5.2.6 of the Official Plan, all new development within this area shall be subject to Design Review by the City’s Urban Design Review Panel, including the process and exemptions identified for the panel.

The portion of Centretown contained within the Centretown Heritage Conservation District shall continue to be regulated by the provisions of the Ontario Heritage Act and heritage applications will be required. [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]

3.11.3 Future Initiatives

As identified in the policies of this Plan, the City will initiate and implement the following studies and other undertakings to implement public elements and land use and site development policies of the Plan:

  1. Zoning By-Law Amendments consistent with the land use and built form policies of the plan;
  2. One-way to Two-way Conversion Study for Metcalfe Street, followed by similar studies for Lyon Street, O’Connor Street and Kent Street;
  3. Safe Crossings Project;
  4. Metcalfe Gateway and Canadian Nature Museum Block Restoration Plan (with the National Capital Commission);
  5. Public Parking Inventory, Utilization Study and Strategy;
  6. Jack Purcell Park Improvement Plan;
  7. Review and Update of the Centretown Heritage Conservation District Study;
  8. Golden Triangle Heritage Conservation District study;  [Amendments #117 and #125, OMB Order File #PL130619, September 30, 2016]
  9. Open Space Acquisition Plan.

3.11.4 Citizen Engagement

The City recognizes the role of individual citizens and citizens’ groups in implementing many aspects of the Plan and supports their continued involvement in the planning process. In particular, the City supports the efforts of the Centretown Citizens' (Ottawa) Corporation in providing affordable housing in the community.