I enjoyed reading Randall Denley’s piece on January 2 - Ottawa: Brace for another exciting decade of incremental progress. In it, he looks at the award-winning plan for downtown Ottawa, Ottawa 20/20, put into action 16 years ago. Touching on negatives like Lebreton, drab downtown office areas (including Sparks Street) and zero originality on the Canal, he applauds the redevelopment of the Rideau Centre, the removal of most buses from Albert and Slater and the success of intensification across the core. He concludes that we, in the Capital, are very good planners, but not-so-good executors.
Although the Ottawa 20/20 plan did not cross the Rideau River into our Hood, it got me thinking about how we’ve done in our little corner over the last decade with promises, obstacles and successes. Here are a few.
To bridge or not to bridge
For as long as many of us can remember, the Kettle Island Bridge has threatened our peaceful enclave. Although none of the plans have truly addressed downtown truck volumes or provided real solutions to increasing vehicular traffic, the location continues to be a favourite for those in search of an easy answer. Twice was it risen and quashed in the past decade – first in 2013 and then less formally during the past municipal by-election in winter 2019. Expect it to come up at least that many times in the next decade.
Beechwood Ave revamp
Intentions all good, the dream of Beechwood becoming a complete street was not well thought out or executed. It was thrown upon us, done in haste and has been strangely untouched since 2016. In true Ottawa fashion, we have accepted its mediocrity and navigate it much like we would a game of Galaga after a few pints.
One of the first conversations we have at local parties after the weather, family and Netflix, development is normally measured in one of two ways – love it or hate it.
We got off pretty easily over the last ten years with the larger introductions into Beechwood Village. The Minto, Kavanaugh and St Charles are decent buildings with comfortable residents who contribute to local businesses and show interest in the growth of the neighbourhood. Watch for the next big one to be plunked down in the gaping hole on the south side between St Charles and Loyer? Big enough for a Walmart, resident vigilance is paramount as this one moves forward.
Infill 1&2 has run a bit wild over the last few years and could be brought back into a city-wide conversation in the 2020’s. Part of the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay, these are the single family 'boxes’ that are popping up on your street. They max out property lines, often seek variances for density and height, lack virtue and are, at the root, quite greedy. Unless reviewed by Council, they are here to stay.
A few other development subjects to keep an eye out for – student housing (without parking), built heritage, gateway developments and the Salvation Army Megashelter.
A few slabs of concrete, safety railings and two giant metal balls, the Adawe Bridge looks like any other bridge. Look more closely and you’ll see it has changed the face of Wards 12 & 13. It is a cycling highway, pedestrian pleasure stroll and student viaduct. Now a twenty minute walk from Overbrook to uOttawa, Parliament and downtown, the immediate rental scene has soared and grocery stores are crawling with smiling, unjaded twenty-year olds.
Somewhere between success and fail, Wateridge continues to draw mixed emotions. A brand new neighbourhood, there will be a few new shops to visit, some green space to explore and varied residential options from which to choose. The fail comes from the ever-bloating development plans and the somewhat absent strategy of integration. Does anyone know exactly what they are building over there? How will those 10-12,000 residents realistically make their way out into other worlds? There is space reserved for three school boards, but are they coming?
Events and spirit
The Beechwood Market goes into its seventh season this summer. Proof that local residents are looking for a weekly gathering spot and want to support local businesses, the Beechwood Market paved the way for the Xmas Edition, the Spring Edition and the first ever Beechwood Night Market at MacKay.
The Beechwood East Feast (renamed Beechfest) became the largest outdoor festival this side of the Rideau drawing almost 3000 people this past September. Based around food, music and a bit of drink, it will go into its fifth year in 2020.
The Vanier Snowflake Breakfast is one of the area’s biggest fundraisers. The 2019 event raised over $50,000 for the Ottawa Food Bank. The annual Vanier Carnavale always draws a crowd as does the Sugar Festival in the same location. The New Edinburgh New Year’s Day Brunch was hopping in Stanley Park and Manor Park’s Rock the Block was complemented by its new summer partner, Pints in the Park.
Providing opportunities for local residents to connect with their community is key in the evolution of neighbourhoods. With too many examples of events to list, we are certainly an engaged community.
In comparison to Randall Denley’s analysis of the Ottawa 2020 plan for the downtown core, I would offer that we are better with both planning and execution. We are particularly talented at monitoring what makes its way into our little borough. The next decade will see substantial growth and attention. Let’s remain hopeful, alert and realistic.