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!

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