2017 has been a year of many successes for the Overbrook Community Association. The not-for-profit, incorporated, volunteer organization continues to be effective in the pursuit of its mission to “represent a vibrant, caring community in which the environment and everyone matters”.
To mark the 150th anniversary of Canada, our organization launched a unique sesquicentennial project to bring diverse groups together. The Association led the creation of a community musical to bring people together in common cause to literally and figuratively tell their stories and bring their voices and cultures to the stage. By bringing people together, we continue to work to break social isolation in our neighbourhood and help residents engage with the greater community through the arts. We were successful in raising $42,000 from the United Way of Ottawa, Community Development Framework, Community Foundation of Ottawa and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for the community musical project which is scheduled to be staged November 24, 25 and 26 in the auditorium at Ottawa Technical Secondary School on Donald Street. The Association’s Board would like to express its deepest appreciation to the team that worked hard all year to make this project a reality. The organizing team included Diewke de Haen, Wendy Dennys and Patrick Venier, along with project director Eleanor Crowder, scriptwriter Cleménce Roy-Darisse and musical director Adam Reid. The groundbreaking work the team has undertaken has been documented and will help other communities interested in staging musicals across Ontario.
The Association also found success in advocating for more socioeconomic improvements through its participation in the City of Ottawa’s Vanier South-Overbrook Building Better Revitalized Neighbourhood study. The study considered a range of economic development incentives and initiatives for businesses along St. Laurent Boulevard, as well as ways to improve pedestrian and cycling routes along the street and its commercial area. In terms of input for the study, your Association emphasized that it would like to see the City commit to “human-scale” development along the St. Laurent corridor and in its adjacent areas in Overbrook and Castle Heights. Despite the study’s St. Laurent focus, we strongly indicated the importance of “revitalizing” local businesses on Lola at Donald and especially at Queen Mary Street. The Association also requested that more investments be made towards social service programming to benefit Overbrook’s low-income residents and to keep numerous Ottawa Community Housing properties in our community in a “state of good repair” with improved public safety measures. The City seemed to respond to our requests and incorporated a number of our recommendations into their final report.
We also worked closely with Ward 13 Councillor Tobi Nussbaum to examine the feasibility of installing a new pedestrian crossover on Coventry Road at the Hardy Avenue multi-use path entrance, along with painted bike lanes, continuous sidewalks, additional bike parking and enhanced lighting through the St. Laurent shopping centre parking lots to safely interconnect with Coventry Road biking and pedestrian infrastructure. The Association also supported the addition of painted bike lanes along Donald Street between North River Road and Vanier Parkway this autumn and promoted the continuation of cycling lanes along Donald for its entire length.
The Association, along with other community members and groups, however continue to confront a wide number of unprecedented challenges. With the closure of Rideau High School, we have been extremely active in advocating for a new community hub at the previous school site. A community hub offers co-located, coordinated and integrated services such as health care and social services. Community organizations, including our Association, are committed to the vision of the Rideau High School property being retained in public hands and used for the delivery of public services. A community hub would allow a number of agencies to provide social and cultural services, as well as contribute to economic development opportunities. We therefore unequivocally support the efforts led by the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre to examine the feasibility of operating a community hub at the Rideau High School location. We acknowledge the fact that in lieu of an operating secondary public school, a community hub can contribute tremendous value to local residents, which can be measured and demonstrated in social and economic terms. Our community looks forward to such social and economic enhancements with the emergence of this community hub project.
The Association will also continue to monitor development pressures impacting Overbrook, along with opposing a downtown truck tunnel portal proposed for Coventry and Vanier Parkway. Remember we exist to serve our community and need your help and input, along with financial and voluntary contributions. Please learn more about the Association at www.overbrook.ca and please make sure to become involved in your community today!
On behalf of the Overbrook Community Association, please find our comments related to the Governing Council of the Salvation Army in Canada proposed Official Plan Amendment, a Zoning By-law Amendment, and a Site Plan Control application to develop a new multi-purpose facility on 325, 327, and 333 Montreal Road, 334 Montfort Street and 273 Ste. Anne Avenue enclosed.
The Overbrook Community Association is a non-profit, incorporated volunteer organization that continuously works to improve the lives of its residents. Our Association represents the eastern Ottawa neighbourhood bounded by the Queensway, Rideau River, St. Laurent Blvd and Vanier. Our Association also represents Castle Heights, a community immediately bounded by Vanier to the north.
The Association is opposed to the Salvation Army’s plan to build a 100,000+ square foot complex on Montreal Road in Vanier due to its blatant contravention of the City’s own homelessness policies and its Official Plan and zoning by-laws.
In its most recent 10 year homelessness strategy, the City of Ottawa committed itself to a “Housing First” model, with a purported aim to prioritize housing based on need. Unfortunately, multiple reports on ending homelessness in the City show a continued, persistent use of emergency shelters due to a lack of new affordable housing being built in the City.
For the Housing First model to be effective, people experiencing homelessness must be quickly moved into independent and permanent housing and then provided additional supports and services as needed. Such a model only works when housing is decentralized, rather than concentrated in one geographical location within a municipality. Through wider community dispersion, formerly homeless people have achieved better success at integration and becoming a productive part of a community.
Under current provincial legislation, the City has a fiduciary responsibility to undertake planning considerations that ensures strong and healthy communities. Unfortunately, the establishment of a “mega-shelter” will only encourage more crime and an oversized concentration of poverty in a neighbourhood that for years has been working hard towards improving its quality of life.
The plan sets a bad precedent for the entire City, since the proposal violates the City’s own shelter zoning regulations. The proposal seeks an exception to the rule that shelters are not permitted on traditional mainstreets, which contradicts the City of Ottawa Official Plan. The proposal also contradicts the Montreal Road District Secondary Plan, thereby jeopardizing much of the work undertaken on enhancing economic diversity and development in Vanier.
Area and surrounding residents in Overbrook and Castle Heights object to this proposed project because it does not serve the homeless population well, nor does it add to the health and vitality of the communities surrounding it. We believe the City should pursue its “Housing First” model and reinstate the $4 million of discretionary spending for new affordable housing that it eliminated in 2015. We also believe that the City should refrain from selling off parcels of land that could be allocated to the development of future social housing developments. We contend that the City should commit to providing a 21st century public social housing solution for its residents, rather than depending on a 19th century private charity shelter model to address the acute, growing homelessness crisis afflicting the City.
As a community bordering Vanier with a large concentration of social housing, Overbrook can attest that “concentration” is a failed policy that should be avoided where possible. Consequently, we ask the Planning Committee to reject the Official Plan Amendment, Zoning By-law Amendment, and Site Plan Control application.
Over the last year, the Overbrook Community Association petitioned the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board aggressively to keep Rideau High School open, in order to provide a local educational option for our young people.
Working in joint partnership with the Vanier Community Association and Pro-Active Education for All Children’s Enrichment (PEACE), our organization formed the “Friends of Rideau High School” group to represent scores of community activists and the interests of thousands of neighbourhood residents to keep the school open.
With secondary school dropout rates higher in Vanier, Overbrook and Castle Heights than in other parts of the City of Ottawa, we believed that Rideau High School was absolutely essential for improving educational outcomes and increasing the life skills and opportunities of our youth. Unfortunately, the School Board made the wrong decision when it voted to close the school since half the children in our area live below the poverty line in social housing. Because of the school closure decision, racialized, Indigenous and immigrant youth in our neighbourhood are disproportionately suffering.
Our organization believes that a key contributor to our children’s social mobility is access to both quality local education and essential social services. Though we would have preferred the school remain open, and pursued actions to have an administrative review of the decision conducted, we are now currently committed to the transformation of the property into a community hub.
A community hub can be a former school that offers co-located, coordinated and integrated services such as health care and social services. Community organizations, including our association, are committed to the vision of the Rideau High School property being retained in public hands and used for the delivery of public services. A community hub would allow a number of agencies to provide social and cultural services to our neighbourhood, as well as contribute to economic development opportunities.
While community hubs are as unique as the community they serve, a key commonality is their concurrent ability to deliver both person and community-centered care. We therefore unequivocally support the efforts led by the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre to examine the feasibility of operating a community hub at the Rideau High School location. We acknowledge the fact that in lieu of an operating secondary public school, a community hub can contribute tremendous value to local residents, which can be measured and demonstrated in social and economic terms. Our community looks forward to such social and economic enhancements with the emergence of this community hub project.
As I told CBC Radio, the Overbrook Community Association is continually advocating for better transit and transportation links in our neighbourhood.
At a Board meeting in July we passed motions to emphasize to the Councillor and the City that the OCA supports investment in Donald Street cycling infrastructure. The street is a natural connection to downtown and other points east by way of the Adàwe crossing which links Somerset and Donald streets. In July, the City released record-breaking statistics that showed that nearly 120,000 people crossed the bridge that month. With this unprecedented amount of bridge traffic, it makes logical sense to extend safer biking pathways through Overbrook. We are therefore pleased that the City is undertaking public consultations concerning the addition of dedicated cycling infrastructure along Donald between North River Road and Vanier Parkway. Taking advantage of resurfacing work scheduled for later this year, the City is considering the addition of painted bike lanes in that corridor, along with flexible posts, to delineate the bike lanes in warmer months.
The City is also planning to reconstruct St. Laurent Boulevard and Donald Street to convert it into a “protected intersection”, in order to improve both pedestrian and cyclist safety. The transportation department is currently working on this project and plans to provide the Association with an update at our September public meeting.
The City has also indicated that it will consider the installation of cycling lanes along Donald between St. Laurent and Cummings Avenue, when resurfacing work is scheduled for that section of the street. OCA supports smart connections that expand the cycling network from Donald and Cummings to the Aviation Parkway corridor.
We are also working with our partners at the Riverview Park Community Association to encourage the development of a pedestrian and cycling overpass to connect the Trainyards retail district with the new Tremblay LRT station over the rail corridor near Terminal Avenue. A new cycling and pedestrian connection there would improve access to the Max Keeping bridge, which connects the Ottawa Baseball Stadium, along with the Coventry Road cycling pathways. We are pleased to be working with several community associations on both sides of the Queensway, including Eastway Gardens and Alta Vista, to advocate for federal and provincial infrastructure funding to make this proposed connection a reality.
In terms of improved ground connections to the St. Laurent LRT station, we have been pleased to be working with Ward 13 Councillor Tobi Nussbaum and Morguard Corporation on suggesting options to improve access. Based upon a community consultation, we suggested that the City examine the feasibility of installing a new pedestrian crossover on Coventry Road at the Hardy Avenue multi-use path entrance. We also endorsed the idea of painted bike lanes, continuous sidewalks, additional bike parking and enhanced lighting through the St. Laurent shopping centre parking lots to safely interconnect with Coventry Road biking and pedestrian infrastructure. Due to the lack of people-friendly pathways at the mall, we are also enthused that the City and mall property manager are willing to have a discussion about extended access to the mall after closing hours to allow safe walking access to the LRT station.
“If they’re [the City] is going to increase the number of passengers and the capacity, it obviously makes sense to have better ground connections to the station,” King told the Ottawa Citizen in July.
In an additional bid to improve ground transport to the LRT, the OCA also passed a motion in July to request enhanced and restored bus service in Overbrook. As President of the Overbrook Community Association, I told the Ottawa Citizen in June "that I hope some of the local service that previously saw buses loop through the neighbourhood instead of sticking to the main roads — which was cut as part of the 2011 cost-saving optimization exercise — will be restored."
“That’s a challenge we’ve been talking about forever, that’s something we would hope be addressed,” Rawlson King said. I also told the Citizen that obstacles to access St. Laurent station when the adjacent shopping mall is closed, such as lack of sidewalks and sprawling parking lots, also need some attention.
OCA is committed to more sidewalks, timely road repairs, better snow clearing, and addressing speed concerns in our neighbourhood. To become involved in our efforts, please consider joining the Association today.
The Overbrook Community Association is pleased to be participating in the City of Ottawa’s Building Better Revitalized Neighbourhoods study that is focused on the Vanier-South and Overbrook area. The study will be designed to consider a range of economic development incentives and initiatives for businesses along St. Laurent Boulevard, as well as ways to improve pedestrian and cycling routes along the street and its commercial area. The study will also help the City determine how it should go about coordinating its ongoing and upcoming projects in the area, and also examine key sites within the area that may be subject to redevelopment.
In terms of feedback, the Association has told the City planner in charge of the study that it would like to see the City commit to “human-scale” development along the St. Laurent corridor and in its adjacent areas in Overbrook and Castle Heights. Despite the study’s St. Laurent focus, we also strongly indicated the importance of “revitalizing” local businesses on Lola at Donald and especially at Queen Mary Street; and also have requested that better connections be created between Overbrook and the future St. Laurent light rapid transit (LRT) station. With a large number of low-income residents dependent on public transport, we further recommended that better bus routes and connections be reinstated and that Donald Street continue to be considered for enhanced cycling infrastructure. The Association also requested that more investments be made towards social service programming to benefit our neighbourhood’s low-income residents and to keep numerous Ottawa Community Housing properties in our community in a “state of good repair” with improved public safety measures.
We also mentioned that underfunded neighbourhood programming for disadvantaged youth, such as the non-traditional evening and weekend after-school “AlivEducation” program at the Overbrook Community Centre, requires access to sustainable, long-term government funding. Included in our recommendations was also a request that the Rideau High School property remain a public asset, to be used for either educational purposes, or as an officially designated community hub. While OCA supports continued examination of all legal and political options that will ensure that the school remains open for decades to come and has taken a number of actions, including petitioning the Ministry of Education for an administrative review and the provincial Ombudsman for a general investigation into the school closure process, we are also concurrently committed to supporting the continued use of the school site as a public-owned facility operated by community groups in the public interest.
Due to the many issues challenging the quality of life of our community, we are extremely satisfied that the City has launched this study. The Association is happy to have hosted Melanie Knight, a planner at the City, on May 18 at a public meeting, where neighbours provided opinions, comments and feedback on priorities for revitalization. A draft of the study is tentatively targeted for completion by October and for presentation to City Council by the end of the year. We have indicated our hope that such a plan represent a “Marshall Plan” for our community.
With massive development pressures impacting Overbrook, along with a proposed downtown truck tunnel portal that we persist in opposing, the Association continues to support the creation of a new City-led Community Development Plan. The Association continues to reiterate its request that the City Planning and Growth Management Department include Overbrook among those communities for which a Community Development Plan is created. With high levels of intensification occurring in Overbrook, especially on the Vanier Parkway corridor, we believe that such a plan is essential to guide future development in our community, especially since such a study has not been conducted since 1979.