Dalhousie report, June 2011

- Eric Darwin
President, Dalhousie Community Association

Ironically, the thing keeping the Dalhousie Community Association most busy is the thing that will have the least impact in the short term, but will affect all our lives in the future. I’m talking of the LRT system, of course. Five of the thirteen proposed stations fall in Somerset ward, and the Campus station at the east end of the Corkstown footbridge over the canal will be another important local station.

The Transportation Committee of the DCA has had two meetings with the City and their consultants specifically regarding station access. Why do we think this is so important? Well, it’s one thing for the planners to figure out bus routes, station transfers, and entrances and exits, but we are focused on the walk-in –- or bike-in –- accessibility since so many Dalhousie residents live within a short distance of the stations. We check for easy safe street crossings; direct, safe routes; and attractive environments.

We were greatly worried about Bayview Station in particular, since the location is currently isolated and getting there now from Dalhousie (or Hintonburg or Mechanicsville) is unappealing. Our discussions with staff have been full and frank, and we are delighted that a good working relationship has developed, and we anticipate much better access in the next round of plans, to be unveiled at the July open houses.

The Bayview Station straddles the proposed north-south multi-user path that will run from the new Somerset underpass by the O-Train (to be installed by September this year) to Bayview. Later this path will extend all the way from the Ottawa River to Carling Avenue. Bayview also straddles the route of BikeWest, the east-west path running from Bronson due west parallel to Albert and Scott all the way from Downtown to Westboro. We are vigilant that these paths will function well and attract a variety of users and connect our communities to each other as well as to the Station.

Our Transportation Committee has also made good progress on trying to get significant improvements to the planned rebuilding of Carling between Bronson and the O-Train. The City’s current plan is too rush-hour-commuter focused, and missed a number of opportunities to build a better city.

Our Development Committee has been juggling a number of projects over the last few months. We are excited that a revised, low-rise proposal is coming forward for the Balsam/Rochester site, and look forward to going over the plans with the proponent. Other townhouse projects are also appearing in the neighborhood: Young at Champagne (16 townhouses); and Cambridge at Gladstone (12 townhouses).

Sometimes proposals present a real dilemma. Richcraft proposes a 18+ storey condo on Gloucester at Bay, on an irregular site. Over the last few months, the plans have been revised to develop a much nicer appearing building, one that interacts better with its neighborhood. It also got higher.

There are two issues that are a bit mysterious. We don’t yet know what is happening to the large development site on Booth, former home to Cousin Eddy’s late unlamented garage. And somehow the mid-Centretown plan, which deals with all sorts of important things like height, density, and transportation, has expanded its study zone to include the area right up to Bronson, but neglected to advise the residents or the Community Association (that’s us). You can read about the plan at http://midcentretown.wordpress.com/

More positively, Cornerstone supportive housing for women opened up its new building on Booth, just south of Somerset Street. The building is attractive, four stories high, and is a nice asset to the streetscape in addition to its valuable role helping vulnerable people. Kudos are due all around to the people who designed, fund-raised, and built Cornerstone.

The DCA has continued to significantly grow its membership this year. More and more residents are discovering that we can make a difference to how our neighborhood grows. And that the best time to get involved is before those decisions are made by developers or the city acting on their own. We spend much less time reacting to surprises, and more time nudging the City to do what we want. It’s a great time to get involved in the Association, and now with the Committee structure in place you can get involved in just one area (e.g. transportation, or development) if that is what interests you.

You can also follow what we are doing at our website http://www.ottawadalhousie.ca/