I had the honour of speaking recently at Holy Cross elementary school’s 50th anniversary celebration. It is hard to believe that is has been over 50 years since I walked with my brother Paul from our home on Hobson Road down the street and through a forest to get to our school! Much has changed in this part of Riverside Park. The recent approvals by City Council of mixed use development proposals for the former Bayview school site, as well as on Brookfield Road and three new apartment buildings on Norberry Crescent will forever change the character of our neighbourhood. I for one am excited by the opportunity we have in Mooney’s Bay to take our place along side other urban villages in Ottawa like the Glebe, Old Ottawa South, Westboro, Hintonburg and New Edinburgh.
What do I mean when I say “urban village”? At a minimum, an urban village has several characteristics: a mix of housing types that allow people of all incomes to age in place and to feel welcome; a mix of commercial and retail establishments where people can buy food, dine out, enjoy arts and entertainment, and yes, that includes a coffee shop; a mix of passive and active recreational opportunities; excellent schools both elementary and high school; good access to transit; complete streets where people feel safe walking or biking and where cars move slowly through the neighbourhood and finally lots of nature and green space!
I believe that these new infill developments are going to provide the critical mass necessary to move us from an “inner suburb” to an “urban village”. But that is where the challenge begins. Will these developments reflect the character of it’s citizens? We value green space and clean rivers. I know, because I have spoken to many of you over the years in my capacity as a City Councillor and as a candidate in the last Federal election. I have consistently heard from people that they moved into the Mooney’s Bay neighbourhood to be close to the river, to the parks and because of it’s great schools. Will these new developments reflect this “green” ethic? I worry that paving over much of the Bayview and Brookfield Road sites will only result in dirtier storm water in the river. What is the City’s plan for this? Will the developers use some of the new permeable paving that can allow water to soak back into the ground? Are they going to make maximum use of sustainable and energy efficient building techniques? How about solar panels on all of the buildings? More than the built form however, is another challenge. Are we going to fight to keep our neighbourhood schools open? Are we going to have better access to arts and recreation and social/health services without having to leave our community? It seems that we have to travel to Hunt Club or elsewhere to access such programming. This needs to change if we are to avoid some of the negative events we have been reading about in other neighbourhoods.
I guess the major point I wish to make is that it is time for us to come together to create a vision of the community and the neighbourhood we want. I for one will answer the call made by our dedicated community volunteers on the Riverside Park Community & Recreation Association (RPCRA) for new volunteers. Community associations matter! One might think that the recent Council approvals for Bayview, Norberry and Brookfield is the end…that there is nothing else to do. I believe it is just the beginning. I believe we can all play a part in developing the greenest and most vibrant community in the City. How about you?