Most of Sandy Hill is zoned R-4. Basically, this means that new buildings should be limited to four storeys. Exceptions to this regulation must be approved by the City of Ottawa Planning Committee. The allsaints proposal, which includes a new building of nine stories, came up for approval on the morning of February 26 at City Hall.
I am keenly interested in the allsaints project, so I sat in on this hearing. For me it was inspiring to see all the enthusiastic support for this project. The project was initially presented by City of Ottawa planner Kersten Nitsche. Supporting spokespersons included François Bregha (Russell Avenue), James Wyndel, a retired city planner in Winnipeg, Mathieu Fleury, our city councillor, Chad Rollins, president of ASH, Suneeta Millington, the lead person on the Prime Ministers’ Row project, Lloyd Phillips, the planner for allsaints Developments Inc., and Michael Polowin, the lawyer for allsaints from Gowlings. Finally, we need to mention Leanne Moussa, director of this project. She has been involved from the beginning. Without her this project would never have seen the light of day.
There was widespread community support in the room. Many Sandy Hill residents were present. There was only one dissenting note from CODE which owns the adjacent building. They were concerned that there would not be enough open space between the buildings and underground digging might endanger their own building’s foundation. Both concerns were addressed by allsaints spokespersons.
For me the most compelling part of the presentations was the deep community involvement in this project. It was clear that there was something special and unique about this construction proposal. It was not going to be driven by purely financial motivations. There was a genuine desire to preserve the historical and architectural aspects of the former All Saints Church. This is going to be a true community centre and a hub of local community activities such as the following:
a venue for larger events, such as weddings. There were 22 weddings in allsaints during 2017
exercise and recreation activities
arts and musical presentations
A café for informal meetings
shared office space for NGOs
small scale business services at street level.
How is all this possible? It will cost money, a few million dollars at the very least. Where will this come from? Well, that is why a nine-storey building for rentals or a hotel needs to be built, to supply the funds to pay for all the above wonderful activities.
An unusual, creative community centre is emerging in Sandy Hill. When the discussion was finished in the Planning Committee, the chair said, “It surely looks like this will be approved.” It was. It sailed through the Planning Committee, unanimously!