Setting the tone for urban densification

Sandy Hillers weigh in on the 2 Robinson Ave. development

Cynthia Mitchell

Affordable housing, a grocery store, and a development that becomes a world-class “15-minute neighbourhood” were a few of the top priorities for Sandy Hill residents in the community survey on the proposed development of 2 Robinson Ave. The survey asked respondents to think big and bold. What do we want to see this development do for our neighbourhood?

Sandy Hillers enthusiastically responded, with over 50 responses collected. The survey was open during March, promoted through the Action Sandy Hill newsletter and on community posters and lawn signs. Here is what our neighbours had to say.

Commercial amenities: 77% of respondents said the development should include a grocery store, sorely needed in Sandy Hill. Other top priorities included restaurants with a focus on fresh and healthy food, a bakery, pharmacy, and coffee shop.

Walkable neighbourhood and community hub: A number of residents want to see services and businesses that will also create good jobs, such as a library, daycare and again, restaurants. A community hub that would provide space to support neighbourhood initiatives such as a tool library, community health centre, co-working space, and bike shop was also enthusiastically rated, with 89% of respondents voting in favour of these amenities.

Additional services: Community members really dove into the question of what additional services Sandy Hill residents want, with 92% saying a swimming pool, followed by a multi-use community centre. The potential for re-developing the current Sandy Hill arena to make it a multi-sport community recreation facility, complete with a pool, was noted in Action Sandy Hill’s submission to the City.

Parks: The creative juices continued to flow on the question of the proposed park at the corner of Chapel and Lees: Biodiversity? Recreation? Relaxation? One respondent said a mix of all of the above, noting “…think Central Park NY! Relaxation, beauty, family-friendly, high-quality infrastructure, gardens, venues for music, running paths, bike infrastructure, lots of trees, public art installations, water features/fountains.” Both Action Sandy Hill and Co-op Voisins expanded on this suggestion in their submissions to the City, calling for the entire inner courtyard of the development to be car-free, a grand central park, and gathering place.

Transportation and traffic: 80% of respondents rated an increase in traffic as their major concern. One way for the City and the developer to mitigate the increase in traffic is to encourage and provide infrastructure for other forms of transportation such as cycling, walking, and public transit. Residents strongly agreed that better bike lanes, safer connectivity to the LRT, improved and more efficient bus service, and traffic calming measures on Lees and Chapel will be needed to ensure the safety of current and future residents of the neighbourhood.

Housing: Community members said that affordable housing and a mix of housing types must be included here. Sandy Hill residents want to see more diversity in housing, fostering inclusive, supportive, resilient communities, desperately needed in the city. As one resident noted, “I hope the city/community is able to press the developer hard for affordable housing, specifically rental housing. The housing crisis in Ottawa is severe and we need action urgently, especially for renters. What we don’t need is more luxury condo towers.”

Our 2 Robinson working group has heeded this call to action and is working on a proposal to ensure that 30% of the units are dedicated as affordable housing: a mix of rent-geared-to-income and affordable market rent. As the developers have previously indicated, they are interested in including affordable housing; our group is committed to making this happen. We will keep the Sandy Hill community updated on our progress in future issues of IMAGE.

Lastly, it was clear that residents want to see this development set the tone for what urban densification can be in Ottawa, with a focus on beauty, opportunity, and community health and well-being. As one resident noted, “what an exciting, once-in-a generation opportunity to transform the neighbourhood—let’s make it count!!”

Cynthia Mitchell at the site of the proposed development.
Photo Hilary Duff