Editorial by Gwen Gall, Web Editor for the Old Ottawa South Comminity Association. Gwen nominated Old Ottawa South in the “Great Neighbourhood” contest as a private citizen, independent of any group or association. The views represented below do not necessiarily represent those of Apartment613.
Why did I nominate Old Ottawa South as a “Great Neighbourhood” in the the Canadian Institute of Planners’ Great Places in Canada contest? (Vote here until Feb. 29, 2012). In addition to my personal conviction that Old Ottawa South (OOS) is indeed “a great Canadian neighbourhood”, I wanted to draw attention to the issue of “appropriate infill housing” in established urban communities such as ours all across the country.
The vast majority of residents I have spoken with in Old Ottawa South approve of intensification as a means to prevent urban sprawl and to protect our valuable Ottawa greenbelt from turning large suburban communities. Intensification is necessary, and is a good thing when done right: the neighbourhood is enhanced and the population is increased, and that’s good for businesses along the “Traditional Main Street” style shopping district on Bank Street.
Unfortunately, there are developers who continually portray residents as NIMBYs who don’t want change. This is patently false and deliberately misleading. We need to protect the established urban core from “inappropriate infill” while keeping urban sprawl to a minimum.
It’s a growing problem across Canada, in particular when intensification becomes a city policy. Most developers see intensification simply as an opportunity for profit and have little or no consideration for the intent of the policy: to keep a city livable, sustainable, and attractive, not simply to provide a profit grab for developers.
Currently, our urban neighbourhoods are threatened by inappropriate overbuild, which can seriously alter or destroy the character of an older neighbourhood such as Old Ottawa South. Developers are squeezing unattractive, overly large (and in some cases cheaply and poorly built) housing onto sidelots and any other available space. They tend to remove the existing older trees that constitutes our “urban lungs”, and as a result the quality of the atmosphere as well as quality of life is under siege.
The problem with inappropriate housing is that they do not enter into any relationship with their surroundings, they do not engage with the street. This can result over time in a lack of community cohesion, and loss of the friendly, welcoming and open atmosphere that helps to keep a neighbourhood safe. With “eyes on the street” and neighbours who know each other, children and others feel much safer, and hopefully criminals are deterred from either harming children or stealing property.
People should vote for Old Ottawa South for their own reasons—they don’t even need to live here, but simply appreciate its qualities. It’s a great place to visit, too—with second-hand clothing, antique shops, modern architectural stores, quality restaurants and fine food stores, to name a few. Old Ottawa South is a valued contributor to quality of life for all citizens of Ottawa.
However they should also vote for it to highlight that we are in danger of losing such vibrant communities to ruthless development, and this is a vote then for all such communities that are under threat of this nature. (Mention that in the Comments when you vote!) Walkable, environmentally sustainable, healthy urban communities such as Old Ottawa South are of great value to this country and its cities, and must be protected, maintained, and enhanced, for the good of their residents, the greater community, and indeed, the health of the planet.