The National Capital Commission is beginning the process of closing 24 Sussex Drive, with work scheduled to begin in the new year to remove asbestos and aging infrastructure in the historic Ottawa building.
No one has lived at the prime minister’s official residence since 2015, and the building is in “critical” condition, according to a 2021 report.
In a statement, the NCC said it is relocating residence employees and preparing the main building for abatement and other related work.
“Over the coming weeks, the site will be closed to provide easier access for proper planning of this work, which will include the abatement of designated substances such as asbestos, as well as the removal of obsolete mechanical, heating and electrical systems,” the NCC said in a statement.
“Procurement for this project will occur over the winter months to ensure the prompt start of abatement work in Spring 2023. The work to be carried out as part of this project must be completed regardless of any future decision on the residence.”
A June 2021 report from the NCC said it would cost $36.6 million to restore 24 Sussex Drive to “good” condition.
“The state of the asset is well known, and risks have been duly controlled,” the NCC said on Thursday. “Today, with continuously aging and worsening materials and systems, more significant actions must be taken to mitigate matters of great concern such as potential fire hazards, water damage and air quality issues.”
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family have been living at Rideau Cottage on the grounds of Rideau Hall since 2015, household staff workspace is still accommodated at the prime minister’s official residence.
The NCC says the residence would remain closed until the federal government decides whether to restore or tear down and replace the property.
“The current project is only meant to carry out the work that must be addressed regardless of the decision taken on the future of the residence. In doing so, it will address the health and safety and asset integrity concerns identified by the NCC,” an NCC spokesperson said in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.
“The site will remain closed until a government decision is made on a permanent solution for the future of the Prime Minister’s residence. The exact cost of the work will not be known until the NCC completes its procurement process.”
24 Sussex Drive was built in 1867. The one main building includes 34 rooms, as well as another small home at 10 Sussex Drive, a pool house and two RCMP guard houses.
The 2021 report notes 24 Sussex Drive has not seen significant renovations in more than 60 years and requires “extensive and urgent repair”.
The 73-page report states the prime minister’s residence was “not purpose-built as a fully functioning official residence”, adding the building has no universally accessible entrances or washrooms, the kitchen is not appropriate to serve official functions. and the dining room is too small for state or official dinners.
“The building systems at 24 Sussex Drive have reached the point of imminent or actual failure and require replacement,” the report said.
“The age and condition of the electrical systems poses a fire hazard, and the plumbing systems have failures on a regular basis. The building has no permanent air conditioning system; window air conditioners are run in every room in the summer, which poses a security risk and is disruptive and costly.”
The report said proceeding with construction on the main residence would first require the abatement of hazardous materials, including asbestos, lead and mould, and examining the possible retention of heritage components.
Building a new official residence at 24 Sussex Drive is estimated to cost $40 million, according to the 2021 report.
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