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Graphic courtesy of Ottawa Live Arts' Facebook page

Proposed Gladstone Avenue redevelopment prompts Live Arts Community Hub project

By Bruce Burwell on February 28, 2019

What would you do if your busy music studio/performance space had to vacate its current building because it was going to be bulldozed for a large condo redevelopment project?

  1. Consider retirement
  2. Look for equivalent space elsewhere
  3. Partner with the city to create an arts hub within a new housing development. Include apartments for people over 60 who want to live within a creative community.

You can likely guess which option Marilee Townsend-Acorn of GigSpace has chosen. Trinity Development Group has submitted plans to the city to build three buildings at Gladstone and Loretta, plans that include the redevelopment of the building that currently house GigSpace. So, or the last 18 months, Townsend-Acorn has been working towards making Alcorn Studios/GigSpace part of a new Ottawa Community Housing project on Rochester Street, just a few blocks away from GigSpace’s current home on Gladstone. The plan is going by the name Live Arts Community Hub.

Photo: Bruce Burwell/Apt613

Apt613 talked to Marilee Townsend-Alcorn recently at GigSpace. Townsend-Alcorn is artistic director there.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Apt613: I don’t know a lot about Live Arts Community Hub. I assume it’s related to the redevelopment of this site? When is that happening?

Marilee Townsend-Alcorn: They are saying it’s four years before Trinity starts development here but who knows. And they’re starting with this strip mall right here. They are going to start by blasting to create space for underground parking. Everyone here signed a demolition clause when they moved in.

So where would you be going?

We started trying to seek out ideas and we found an idea in the US, a concept where they combined the arts with living for active older adults. It was just amazing. Now we’re working with Ottawa Community Housing, who are redeveloping a block of Rochester Street within three years,

Graphic courtesy of Ottawa Live Arts’ Facebook page.

We approached the city to say, “How about if we bring GigSpace to you? You would love an arts hub.” We said we would put together an arts hub and we just did an expression of interest. We have a very large dance studio that’s interested and maybe the Enriched Bread Artists. We will see. One of the pottery studios and some theater people might also be interested. We have the backing of the CEO of the Ottawa Community Housing who sent us a letter of support.

“We did a survey and there’s close to 100 people who would love the opportunity to live there.”

The city counselors are on board. The city of Ottawa has been helping fund these studies for us. They’ve totally got our back, so we’re very excited about that as well as that. We will be leasing back some apartments. We did a survey and there’s close to 100 people who would love the opportunity to live there and participate by taking music courses and going to concerts. A lot of our students are older, retired adults. They call this home when they come [to Gigspace]. Some of them are here three times a week doing courses. So it keeps everybody socially active, engaged. No one’s isolated. They’re downtown. They can get to the NAC. They can be part of everything that’s going on.

So is the subsidized housing aspect of it separate from the rental units for older adults?

What Ottawa Community Housing is going to create is a new mixed use mixed income housing. The arts hub on the bottom and apartments up above. Ottawa Live Arts would lease a block of those and be able to lease them to whoever we want.

I guess you are getting in early in terms of helping design the space. In other words you decide how much of a GigSpace performance space you want?

We’re looking at at 60 to 65 seats and with the possibility of squeezing up to 75. We still want it to look intimate and, and keep that vibe. Everybody really wants to keep that nice feeling,

So you’ve got four years to work it out?

Three years actually. They put shovel in the ground on Rochester in 3 years. So we are starting a feasibility study this year.

“We’re also working very hard on changing the dialogue about ageism.”

We’ve specifically approached all the people on this corner since it’s quite a concern to have this space displaced. There’s over a hundred artists in and around here, lots of visual artists, never mind everything else that’s here. It’s a very vibrant corner. I want to keep that. We’re promoting a place where people can basically age in place and stay active in music. We’re also working very hard on changing the dialogue about ageism. We want to change the topic so that people realize everyone’s going to grow old.

You can read about the new development on Gladstone Avenue here. More information about Live Arts Community Hub is available on their website.  Contact them if you would like to be part of the arts hub or if you want to get your name on the list for an apartment in the complex.