The Sussex Courtyards are important public spaces within the historic ByWard Market area in downtown Ottawa. With a street grid laid out by Colonel John By in the 1820s, the ByWard Market has some of the city’s oldest buildings. Today, the ByWard Market is a vibrant mix of commercial and residential properties. The courtyards were formerly the stables and backyards of the historic buildings on Sussex Drive. In the 1960s, the NCC began acquiring the historic buildings along Sussex, restoring and, in some cases, reconstructing them in what was called the “Mile of History” project. Over the next several decades, the courtyards were carefully transformed through both restoration and sensitive new infill development into a series of five pedestrian spaces, each with their own unique ambiance:
- Clarendon Court
- York Court
- Jeanne d’Arc Court
- Tin House Court
- Beaux-Arts Court
The Sussex Courtyards have become an iconic part of the ByWard Market’s diversity and character. In addition to the surrounding market, the courtyards are within a short walk of national landmarks such as the National Gallery of Canada, Major’s Hill Park, Nepean Point and the Ottawa River. In 2004, the NCC developed design guidelines for the Sussex Courtyards to help support and enhance their special character. The City of Ottawa is currently developing a ByWard Market Public Realm Plan, which will guide the revitalization of the surrounding areas.
The NCC is seeking new ideas to animate and enhance the Sussex Courtyards. Over the coming years, the NCC will seek to renew and revitalize these unique urban spaces. Adjacent businesses rely on the courtyards for summer patios and foot traffic to shops and restaurants. Investments must contribute to the economic vitality of the local businesses and should create new opportunities to fill vacant properties and draw potential customers. Inside/outside strategies may lead to innovative business opportunities and an extended operating season. Improved wayfinding, visibility and connectivity to the surroundings will be crucial to ensuring the continued success and charm of the courtyards. Many opportunities exist to improve the nighttime ambiance, and should respect the NCC’s broader Capital Illumination Plan. Programming, animation and design features should be explored to reinforce and enhance the mixed-use character of the neighbourhood.
A number of relevant resources, plans and background studies are available in the reference section.
What should be done to stimulate and revitalize the Sussex Courtyards
- Support and enhance the unique heritage character of the area
- Improve connections, visibility and relationship to the surrounding urban context of the ByWard Market
- Create new public and commercial amenities that will animate the site, year-round, both during the daytime and into the evenings
- Respect the diverse mixed-use residential neighbourhood of the ByWard Market
- Attract a critical mass of potential customers, and generate economic returns
- Improve the safety, accessibility, maintenance and operating conditions of the courtyards.
National Capital Commission website
City of Ottawa: GeoOttawa mapping tool.
City of Ottawa. Official Plan.
City of Ottawa. Zoning By-law No. 2008-250.
City of Ottawa. Pedestrian Plan.
City of Ottawa. ByWard Market Public Realm Plan.
Parks Canada website, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office (FHBRO)
- Project for Public Spaces for the City of Ottawa. Strengthening the Future of the ByWard Market. In English only.
- Commonwealth Resource Management for the National Capital Commission. Cultural Heritage Impact Statement for the Proposed Redevelopment of 7 Clarence Street, ByWard Market, Ottawa, Ontario, February 2014. In English only.
- Michael Newton, NCC historian. Lowertown Ottawa, Volume 1 (1826–1854) and Volume 2 (1894–1900). In English only.
- Heritage Dossier: Sussex Courtyards, Spring 2018. In English only.
- du Toit Allsopp Hillier. Sussex Heritage Courtyards Urban Design Study , February 2004. In English only.