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Thai embassy to rebuild building on Island Park Drive

The Royal Thai Embassy in Ottawa could soon be given the go-ahead to tear down the house it occupies on stately Island Park Drive and replace it with an office building

Jan 17

13:24
2019

The Royal Thai Embassy in Ottawa could soon be given the go-ahead to tear down the house it occupies on stately Island Park Drive and replace it with a structure the area's city councillor has characterized as "an office building."

City staff are endorsing the plan, which would see the large red brick home with attached garage replaced by an even larger glass and stone structure with no living quarters, but plenty of space for meetings and official functions.

The building would also have underground parking for 16 vehicles. The Island Park Community Association doesn't want the building in the middle of an established residential neighbourhood, and the city councillor for the area, Jeff Leiper, agrees.

"What staff are recommending is, it's OK to put an office building in a residential zone for no reason that I can see other than that the Royal Thai government has asked for it," Leiper said.

The zoning request goes to the city's planning committee for approval next week. The lot occupied by the Royal Thai Embassy is currently zoned for residential use, as it has been since the embassy moved to 180 Island Park Dr. in 1987.

Under current zoning, the embassy would only be allowed to replace the existing structure with a diplomatic residence.

Staff are backing the embassy's request for an exemption to that restriction. The new building would be limited to two storeys and just under 7,000 square feet.

Neighbours fear that will create a precedent not only on Island Park Drive, but also in Rockcliffe, the Glebe and other Ottawa neighbourhoods where embassies are common. "I think it's something that would be worrisome for any neighbourhood to just have the zoning go out the window," said Cathy Shaw, co-president of the Island Park Community Association.

"If the Royal Thai government considers that it needs a modern office building for its consular functions ... then it can move to a zone that has an office permitted use," Leiper said. Leiper said his council colleagues should be equally alarmed, urging them to "preserve the integrity of our zoning."

The staff report goes to planning committee Jan. 24. CBC was unable to ascertain whether the Thai ambassador currently resides at 180 Island Park Dr. Numerous calls to the embassy were not returned.