A community design plan at last? CDP could be finalized in the next few months

by Joan Spice and members of the CCCA Planning and Development Review Committee

Within a few months, the City of Ottawa may approve a Community Design Plan (CDP) for Centretown.  The latest information we have from the City planners is that the CDP will be submitted to Planning Committee and then to City Council early in 2013.

The CCCA has devoted considerable time and effort to the development of the CDP over the past three years, and to seeking community involvement.  However, we realize that there are likely thousands of Centretowners who are unaware of the CDP and what it will mean for their community.

There is still time to become informed and play a part.  When the CDP is presented by City staff to the Planning Committee, any group or citizen may make a five-minute presentation to the committee on any aspect of the CDP.   You do not have to be an expert to tell the City how you would like to see your community develop over the next 20 years.

Because most of you will not have had the opportunity to read the 125-page CDP document (see the link included in the CCCA column if you wish to do so), we would like to draw your attention to two maps in the CDP document.  They illustrate components of the CDP which have elicited strong interest among Centretowners over the past two years.   One illustrates the City proposals governing the heights of future developments in the various areas of Centretown. The other shows where parks, trees and greenspace could be increased, enhanced and/or improved across Centretown.

Building height map from the Centretown Design Plan (City of Ottawa)

Tall Buildings

The CCCA recognizes the inevitability of higher buildings due to the intensification policies of the provincial and city governments.  The CCCA opposes some of the heights being proposed but also recognizes that, in many cases, ensuring that good design guidelines are put in place and respected is even more important.

One of the most important design guidelines relates to the need to ensure that tall buildings are “set back” sufficiently from sidewalks.   As Ottawa architect Paul Kariouk said at the CCCA Annual General Meeting in November, appropriate setbacks mean that pedestrians can enjoy blue skies and, with strollers or young children, in singles or in groups, they can move comfortably and safely past each other, even in winter snow.   It means that trees will have sunlight and space to grow to maturity, to reduce traffic noise and pollution and increase community enjoyment.

The CCCA is proposing that setbacks and other key design guidelines be recognized in the Official Plan by reference to the CDP and as important elements of the future planning for Centretown.

Greenspace map from the Centretown Design Plan (City of Ottawa)

Parks and Greenspace

The greenspace map shows how little space is available in Centretown to create new parks and open spaces.   The Canadian Museum of Nature has already closed off one of the biggest park areas in Centretown by converting most of its west lawn to a parking lot.  Although any greenspace is welcome, the expanse shown on the map along Catherine Street will be seen mainly from car windows as they access or exit the Queensway.

Most questionable, however, is the likelihood that any of the parks or small open spaces shown on the map will actually be realized without a plan with a specific timetable. The CCCA is recommending that such a plan be put in place.

An Invitation from the CCCA

If something in this article or the two maps piques your interest or you would like more information or an opportunity to discuss these issues with your fellow Centretowners, please contact Rob Dekker, co-chair of the CCCA Planning and Development Review Committee, at dekker.ra@gmail.com.   If there is sufficient interest, we will host a meeting a few weeks prior to the Planning Committee meeting at which the CDP will be considered, to give all interested Centretowners the information they need and a forum for discussion so that our presentations to the City are the best they can be.

We could also provide assistance to you if you wish to make your own presentations. It is not too late to get involved and help ensure the kind of development that Centretowners want and deserve. Well-informed community members who speak up and show up have influence at City Hall.   Centretown citizens banded together to create the original Centretown Plan in the 1970s and it served us well for many decades.   We succeeded then and we can do it again.