Revitalizing a Cornerstone

Imagined possibilities for a prime piece of heritage real estate in the heart of Ottawa

For several years, and many reasons, the once iconic Somerset House has stood still at the corner of Bank and Somerset Streets in downtown Ottawa.

Since 1897 this red brick, Victorian Italianate style beauty with contrasting stone banding, brick corbelling, large bay windows with brick arches, a metal turret and a conical-shaped sheet metal roof has adorned the heart of the city.

Over its 120+ year history it has been home to Crosby & Carruthers Dry Goods Co, The Ritz Hotel, and Somerset House - an infamous watering hole established in the 1970’s.

In recent years the building has sat empty while the owner and city remain at odds around how to re-animate this site.

It’s a fabulous building that sits right in the middle of the urban tapestry of our city and remains a significant opportunity to not only make downtown life more vibrant, but to add to the brand and identity of Ottawa as a whole.

We took some time recently to imagine one possible use case for this fabulous and important site.

For our quick re-think of this site (for fun) we came at our creative process using three principles:

  • Create a cultural hub that reflects that creative character of the Centretown neighbourhood. 

  • Design to fill a need - What do we leave Centretown for?

  • Combine different programs that will bring life to the building throughout the course of the day

Click on the image below to flip through our light analysis.

What questions would you consider for your analysis?

What gaps do you see needing to be filled?

This imagined scenario is pretty heavy on consumer oriented activities - but, there is a tilt toward smaller footprints on the ground floor retail to accommodate smaller, local businesses who may not be able to lease large, sprawling spaces.

With that in mind, what community, public oriented spaces could you imagine as part of this program in a way that would still make sense financially for the owner of the property? Would be very curious to hear your perspectives and ideas.

Have a fabulous weekend. Stay healthy and stay safe.