New Community Centre Clears the First Hurdle!

Story: Don Stephenson, CAG Board Chair. Don is the lead on this initiative on behalf of the CAG Board.

POSTED: May 24, 2018
As previously reported, the City of Ottawa has been engaged in exploratory discussions with The Regional Group of Companies and Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC) regarding the possible inclusion of a community recreation facility in a redeveloped Deschatelets Building, at 175 Main Street. The focus of these discussions has been to repurpose this heritage landmark for both public and private uses, possibly including a community centre with a full-sized gymnasium, a community health centre, non-profit housing, a day care centre and commercial condominium units.

Based on these discussions and with the approval of the Finance and Economic Development Committee of the Municipal Council, Dan Chenier, the General Manager of Recreation, Culture and Facility Services for the City of Ottawa, recently confirmed that “… the City remains interested in pursuing this opportunity, and recognizes that this proposal demonstrates appreciable social benefit for the community”.

In his letter to the proponents, Mr. Chenier states that the project remains at an “early stage of negotiation” and much remains to be done before a recommendation to proceed with the project can be made to City Council.

Mr. Chenier notes further that the City "requires more information and a more in-depth understanding of all aspects of the proposed project prior to finalizing our commitment. For example, additional information is required on the overall concept for the building, including such things as the equity model and expectations from each partner, options for the City's occupancy of the space (and other participants in the public domain), and the financial structure anticipated for the initial and ongoing partnership."

More detailed discussions of the foregoing and other topics will now begin. No timetable is set out in Mr. Chenier’s letter, but it seems reasonable to assume this next phase of planning and negotiation will take several months. He concludes on an encouraging note, however, committing his team to begin the work at the partners' “earliest convenience”.

There is certainly no firm commitment yet from the City, which is clearly taking a cautious approach to the project, not least because it is based on an unsolicited proposal, which demands a high degree of due diligence and transparency. Nor should the challenges inherent in working with heritage buildings and public-private partnerships be minimized. However, with the encouragement of Capital Ward Councillor David Chernushenko, who has pressed for a clear signal of support for the project, the City has moved the community centre project forward. Residents of Old Ottawa East should be encouraged by this small step forward and watch closely for the next!

POSTED: April 2, 2018
As reported earlier, over the last several months the City of Ottawa has been meeting with The Regional Group and the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation to explore the idea of integrating a community centre into the redevelopment plans for the Deschâtelets building at 175 Main Street. The redevelopment plans include the possible inclusion of a day care, a community health centre, condominium units and non-profit housing. Based on those discussions, the City confirmed this week that they are “interested in pursuing this opportunity, and recognize(s) that this proposal demonstrates appreciable social benefit for the community.”

The next phase of discussions will involve deeper analysis of the potential uses, ownership structure, and both capital and ongoing costs of the facility. This analysis will form the basis of a recommendation to City Council on whether to approve the community centre component of the project. No timeline has been established for these discussions, but Dan Chenier, General Manager, Recreation, Culture and Facility Services, has invited discussions at the partners’ “earliest convenience”.

POSTED: March 2018
Discussions have been ongoing for several months between officials of the City of Ottawa Recreation, Cultural and Facility Services Department and The Regional Group, the developer of Greystone Village, to assess the costs and technical feasibility of creating a new community centre in a restored and expanded Deschâtelets Building. The former Oblate Fathers' residence, at 175 Main Street, is an important local landmark and a protected heritage building, which presents both extraordinary opportunities and challenges in adapting it to new uses.

Old Ottawa East is underserved, in terms of community facilities for indoor activities. The existing community centre, housed in the Old Town Hall at 61 Main Street, comprises only two rooms, only one of which is accessible to people with limited mobility and with little in the way of specialized equipment for sports or recreation programs.

The Deschâtelets Building – located at the end of the planned pedestrian street and in the geographic centre of the community - has the potential to provide multiple, purpose-built and equipped spaces for sports and recreation, including a full-size gymnasium. The now vacant residence offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a community hub for child, youth and adult programs, community meetings, health and other services, in an attractive, preserved and re-purposed heritage property. Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC), a not-for-profit housing organization, has also been studying the feasibility of including affordable housing units in the design of the new facility.

Design concepts for the project were ‎first developed by students in the Conservation Studio at Carleton's Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism, under the direction of Associate Professor Mariana Esponda. Preliminary designs were subsequently prepared by Hobin Architecture Inc. for the CCOC, some of which are shown in these drawings.

At the January 9 meeting of the Ottawa East Community Association, Capital Ward City Councillor David Chernushenko reported that a recommendation on the project is expected to come before City Council in the next two months. It is uncertain whether options for the future use of the Old Town Hall have been discussed, at this stage, should the City decide to move forward with the Deschatelets Building project. It is certain, however, that community groups are hopeful for a positive decision on a new centre and look forward to expanding their programs and services.

The following are preliminary designs for the building. The three drawings called “Community centre study” were prepared for the CCOC by Hobin Architecture Inc.

The following are the design concepts developed by students in the Conservation Studio at Carleton's Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism, under the direction of Associate Professor Mariana Esponda.