Wednesday, May 6, 2009

DCA Report for May, 2009

 Community representatives met for their May meeting at the Dalhousie Centre at the corner of Empress and Somerset. The next meeting will be June 3rd, everyone is welcome to come.

A number of ongoing community issues were updated. We would like to see the City buy, for a park, the beautifully treed Dominican land currently for sale on Empress Street (this neighborhood has the lowest park space of any in the City). Confusion and rumors abound. It seems the Dominicans themselves may not be clear on their long term plans for their University facility and church on Empress. We decided to ask Councilor Diane Holmes to direct staff to contact the college again and confirm back that discussions are proceeding. We are anxious that the issue not be “lost” or forgotten about in the civic or religious bureaucracy.

The City’s  Official Plan Review continues. In conjunction with the Federation of Community Associations, we raised two issues: we want the city to hold the line on the expansion of the urban boundary, and we oppose “country-lot estates”. Both these issues deal with the undesirable expansion of the urban area and function in the form of low density residential lands. These developments house a “urban” population (not a rural one) and eventually necessitate the expansion of city services into lower and lower density areas that are expensive to service and do not generate enough tax revenue to cover their costs.

The Downtown Ottawa Transit Tunnel - DOTT -  project was discussed and is subject of a separate article in this edition of the Buzz.

We had two Spring Cleaning sessions in our neighborhood, coordinated by Craig. The first session had over a dozen people turn out in the rain for two hours of socializing and picking up around the Dal Centre and the Lorne-Empress-Arthur-Somerset Streets. The second clean up date had a good turn out and extended the tidied-up zone south along Booth. The areas were noticeably cleaner and the end of the process and we note with gratification that they have stayed cleaner since then.

Discussion of the fate of the Sir John Carling building on Carling Avenue was interesting. Our neighborhood has a number of government building “campuses”: Tunney’s Pasture, Booth – Rochester Streets near Dow’s Lake, and of course the Carling building on the very northeast-most corner of the Farm. Many buildings are now quite old, and at some point need to be replaced or undergo total rebuilding. Unfortunately, they are not of the current floor-plate size that the feds want for cubicle farms, and so public works is examining alternatives for these building complexes. Apparently these alternatives include abandoning them – they have announced they want to tear down the Carling building in 2010, and maybe phase out the buildings at Tunney’s and Booth St. All three sites would be attractive for housing, and some of the structures could probably be gutted and converted to new uses if the Feds do not want civil servants in them. All are very near the new rapid transit system lines. As proponents of urban society, we do not want to see even more soulless low density suburban office campuses beyond the rapid transit lines. Once these office uses are gone, some of the benefits of city living are gone forever – things like walking to work, mixed use neighborhoods, and main street developments that thrive because they have day and evening and weekend traffic.

The Plant Pool Recreation Association - PPRA - had its annual desert party fundraiser on May 2nd, and raised over $2300! This year’s project is replacing the Cambridge Street School playground. Summer programing at the Plant Rec Centre and Plouffe Park is well underway. The playing fields in the park will be resodded in the next few weeks, and available for light use this summer. The splash pad, play structure, basketball court, and indoor facilities are unaffected by the recent reconstruction of the playing fields. The fields are starting to look finished, with generous planter beds now planted with shrubs and plants, retaining walls and sitting areas, new lighting and many many new trees.

Residents of the downtown certainly notice the results after major City capital projects are completed as the final finish includes artwork. Sculpture artwork will be installed this year and next along Bank Street, Wellington West, and Preston Streets, as the contractors tidy up and move on to the next big dig. Councilor Holmes recently had the threshold for artworks changed, so that capital projects over a half million dollars will now have a public artwork component, not just projects over two million dollars. Given how not-very-far tax dollars go these days, we may soon see public art associated with almost every noticeable capital project.

There will be a plant sale at Devonshire school on June 6th, to raise funds for their play structure.

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