In the summer of 2021, Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability (CAFES) proposed some opportunities for 15-minute neighbourhood community builders. One of these opportunities was a partnership with Carleton University to undertake a community engagement project on communications and messaging around the 15-minute neighbourhood concept.
The principles of 15-minute neighbourhoods are integral to the strategic directions contained in Ottawa’s new Official Plan, which was approved by Council in late 2021. It centres on neighbourhoods becoming more walkable, liveable, and “complete.”
In September 2021, Action Sandy Hill (ASH) member Hilary Duff and I participated in this project with eight Carleton University students. Since the premise of the 15-minute neighbourhood is to be able to walk to basic services within that time, residents must be aware of which services currently exist in Sandy Hill and where they’re located.
We commissioned our group to take an inventory of all the services in the neighbourhood, categorize them by type (e.g. healthcare and community services, banks and credit unions, etc.) and create a map that people could easily use to locate a particular service. We also asked the students to undertake the same exercise to create an Active Transportation map to show bus routes, bike paths, Communauto stations, etc. in our neighbourhood. We were amazed at the number of services they found which we didn’t know existed!
One of the students who helped build the maps, Zack Ward, had a similar experience. “I learned about the richness of Sandy Hill in the local small businesses that serve numerous daily needs,” says Ward, a geography student at Carleton. “I hope residents realize how many things might be around the corner from them.”
The Carleton students familiarized themselves with our neighbourhood by physically walking up and down the streets to conduct the inventories. They also attended a few ASH board monthly meetings to gain an appreciation of how the board functions and engages with the community.
The Community Services and Active Transportation maps are easy to use and have been posted on the ASH website (on the dropdown menu under Community Resources). There have been over 100 views since posting the maps in February 2022.
Concludes Ward: “After the experience, I saw that many of the goals of the 15-minute neighbourhood concept are already well developed in the neighbourhood. I think that Sandy Hill is definitely a model for the rest of the city for a healthy, walkable neighbourhood.”
If you have suggestions on how to improve the maps or notice any services or transportation items that are missing, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With notes from Hilary Duff