Developer wants; Community wishes; and Political Will


 

Within one week there were two meetings about the future of future development in Ottawa and Centretown.  A “Tall Buildings Summit” was organized by Ottawa DNA (Twitter: @OttawaDNA web:  www.ottawadna.ca) This meeting had developer input with Neil Mahotra of Claridge Homes and Alex Munter presenting a ‘healthy’ city point of view.  It was an interesting meeting and when talking about Tall buildings the popular view was that they have to be done right in order to have the positive effect they are meant to have.

On Wednesday night (May 30 2012) the community lent its collective ear and listened when the Centretown Citizens Community Association (CCCA) hosted a public meeting on the Centretown Community Design Plan (CDP).

There was a distinct interest in the topic as over 150 people attended the meeting at the McNabb Community Centre; a few were turned away as the room had reached its capacity.

The meeting, organized by members of the CCCA Planning Development Review committee brought in CDP consultants George Dark and Eric Turcotte, Graeme Hussey of the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, Nancy Oakley from Heritage Ottawa, Brian Bourns and the CCCA’s Judy Forrest to speak about the CDP and their perspectives on the plan.  Some City staff was in attendance as was Somerset Ward Councillor Diane Holmes.  Of the 150 about one-third had been involved in previous CDP meetings, clearly this meeting was of interest to many following the advertising done by the CCCA but also by a CDP issue of the “Centretown Buzz:” at the beginning of May. The articles are found at http://www.centretownbuzz.com/.

Brian Bourns started the evening with a historical viewpoint and the original Centretown Plan from the 1970’s.  This was followed by a detailed presentation from George Dark.  Judy Forrest presented the CCCA’s three main concerns (after stating what was supported in the CDP):

  1. Drastic change in height of buildings
  2. Heavy emphasis on mixed use buildings with 50% mixed use too high
  3. Secondary Main Streets

Two presentations from Graeme Hussey and Nancy Oakley were followed by a very respectful question and answer for the panellists.

A few developers were spotted in the audience; they did not speak or ask any questions.

What really impressed me the most was the way the questions were asked and the comments that were made leading to the questions.  There was an understanding of the CDP by the community members.  The questions ranged from Greenspace to Green  Roofs, the OMB and current buildings that are either under construction or at planning committee.

I got the impression that like the OttawaDNA meeting, the residents were not against tall buildings and development the residents just want it to be done right.  Examples of the Tribeca building bordered by Lisgar/Metcalfe and Nepean and the proposed 68 Cooper Street were held up as buildings  that have negative effects.  Regarding the Tribeca building there are infrastructural issues (and being investigated) being faced by surrounding existing structures. AS proposed 18 story building at 68 Cooper plans have no set back or green space and in drawings provided by the builder show a neighbouring buildings’ green space as its own. Little or no visitor parking planned for 68 Cooper will have effects through the neighbouring streets.

Clearly there is concern from the community that developers will not abide by the CDP.  The crowd challenged the political will of City Council to abide by the CDP and listen to the concerns of the residents whether the Councillor represents voters outside the downtown and urban centres.

The CDP is planned to go to the Planning Committee in the fall followed by a full vote at City Council.  Comments are being accepted by the City through the summer

There are few links to read more about the CDP:

http://midcentretown.wordpress.com/

http://www.ottawa.ca/en/city_hall/planningprojectsreports/public_consult/mid_centretown_cdp/index.html

Via Twitter you can read about the two meetings by searching the #Ottdna and #CCCAcdp hashtags for the twitter conversations that took place those evenings.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. Please follow me and send your thoughts on this and other postings.

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