24 Sussex Drive Needs A Face Lift, Not A Wrecking Ball: Commission

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OTTAWA — Rather than taking a giant wrecking ball to the prime minister's official residence, the body overseeing federal properties in Canada's capital is making clear it wants instead to give the crumbling building a major face lift.

Debate over what to do about structural and other deficiencies at 24 Sussex Drive has been swirling since last October when it was announced that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family would not be moving into the stately home.

24 sussex
Former prime minister Stephen Harper addresses media outside 24 Sussex Drive. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

A report by the auditor general in 2008 had detailed the many shortcomings of the well-known Ottawa address, including major electrical and plumbing issues.

At the time, the estimated cost of renovating the building was pegged at $10 million, although renovation experts have since warned the price tag could be at least 50 per cent higher.

There have been suggestions that a cheaper option would be to flatten the stone building and construct a new one.

But in a new 50-year draft plan, released Thursday, the National Capital Commission says it wants to renew and transform the 148-year-old residence.

The proposal is just one of several "milestone projects" laid out in the plan, which also includes renovations to the governor general's residence across the street from 24 Sussex.

It calls for security upgrades as well as making it fully wheelchair accessible and greener.

"It will preserve its unique heritage characteristics and improve the environmental sustainability aspects."

"Once completed, the residence will integrate modern security features to protect the prime minister and visiting dignitaries, and enhance the official state and private functionality of the residence, including universal accessibility," said the draft.

"It will preserve its unique heritage characteristics and improve the environmental sustainability aspects."

NCC officials have said in recent weeks that no decisions have been made about how to proceed with revitalizing the landmark, or when any renovations might begin.

A reality show in the making?

Late last year, a social media campaign appeared to be brewing, suggesting the cost of renovating the building could be offset by turning the project into a reality TV show.

Mike Holmes, star of the reality show "Holmes on Homes," told his Facebook followers he'd jump at the chance to be involved.

But Bryan Baeumler, host of a battery of HGTV renovation shows including "Disaster DIY," "House of Bryan" and "Canada's Handyman Challenge" raised questions about whether such public exposure would be possible, given the residence's historical integrity, security issues and red tape.

He noted that, while 24 Sussex Drive is effectively owned by taxpayers, it's managed by the NCC, guarded by the RCMP and holds a historical significance that cannot be ignored.

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24 Sussex Drive: The PM's Residence
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