By Laura Mueller, EMC News
Old Ottawa East residents were atwitter about the future of their community as they celebrated the successes of 2013 at their annual general meeting.
Two years after the community design plan envisioned new residents in the institutional lands beside St. Paul University, doubling the neighbourhood's population, the community association received word that the property had finally been sold.
At the association's annual general meeting, held Nov. 12, members were told of a partnership between Monarch Homes and Walton Development and Management, a large North American landholding company.
That's not quite true, said Walton president, Jason Child in an interview. No transaction has been completed.
"Yes we've been involved in the process," he said. "Yes, we're a natural candidate to buy it," but any involvement in that procurement process has to remain confidential, Child said.
"At this point, the official word is: we can't talk about it."
But Child said Walton, which has extensive undeveloped holdings in southwest Ottawa, is "very bullish on the Ottawa market."
"We're eager to bring new ideas and new developments with the city," he said.
Old Ottawa East Community Association president John Dance emphasized during the annual general meeting that the community was looking forward to seeing the institutional Oblate lands developed in the context of the recently adopted community design plan and secondary plan.
Child said not all of Walton's projects are developed in the context of such a plan.
"That's part of the city's process and we'll embrace that," he said. "Ultimately, whatever the document is called, it comes down to what the community is excited to see."
Child said Walton's main objective is to "do what's right for the local community."
"Ultimately, our experience and our success in other market starts with a blank slate and being able to provide, whether it's more integrated communities, different densities, different transit options, different infrastructure options ... What we like to do is get involved on Day 1 and work our way through that."
The way Walton works is by "master planning" large parcels of land and then working with a group of local builders to develop and construct the area.
Dance said the community association hasn't been contacted by any company interested in purchasing the land, but the group looks forward to a dialog with any developers.
Potential movement toward redeveloping the Oblate lands would build on a great deal of activity in the neighbourhood over the last year.
Dance outlined a number of wins - not the least of which was successfully lobbying the city to rebuild Main Street as a "complete street," with wider sidewalks, cycling tracks and fewer lanes for cars. Construction on the street and the McIlraith Bridge will begin next year and there are still many opportunities for the community to participate, particularly when it comes to ongoing maintenance of newly greened corners and parkettes that will be built.
The neighbourhood also celebrated success in making its voice heard to protect the green space near the Lees apartment towers, which the city had proposed to pave over to provide alternate parking for the University of Ottawa to make up for a lot being taken over by LRT construction.
The city's decision to push the second phase of the Alta Vista Transportation Corridor over the Rideau River into Old Ottawa East was pushed down the list in the transportation master plan and the project won't begin until at least 18 years into the future at the earliest - a major success for the community, Dance said.
The community is also receiving a lot of attention through a transit-oriented design plan for the Lees Station area.
The footbridge over the canal from Clegg Street to Fifth Avenue was designed and won a city design award... although its construction was pushed down the schedule to be built between 2020-25.
Completing and improving the Rideau River nature trail is also underway.