CBC.ca: LRT deal leaves Westboro ‘jewel’ open to development

18 01 2018

LRT deal leaves Westboro ‘jewel’ open to development

Agreement between city, NCC would allow 6-storey buildings on Richmond Road section of Rochester Field

CBC News Posted: Jan 17, 2018 1:29 PM ET Last Updated: Jan 17, 2018 1:32 PM ET

An Ottawa city councillor is calling for a halt to a deal with the National Capital Commission that would leave what he calls “the best part” of Rochester Field in Westboro open to development.

Under the proposal, which is tied to an agreement with the city to extend light rail farther west, 80 per cent of the NCC-owned property would be retained as open space for public use.

But the proposal, to be heard at next week’s planning committee, would rezone the remaining portion of the pistol-shaped field to allow for six-storey mixed-use buildings along Richmond Road, a change that is not sitting well with either neighbourhood groups or the ward’s councillor, Jeff Leiper, who accuses planners of rushing the process.

In his written comments on the proposal, Leiper complains rapid intensification has already robbed Westboro of most of its available green space.

‘A jewel in Westboro’

“For over a century, Rochester Field has been a jewel in Westboro. If a plan being rushed forward through City zoning by the National Capital Commission (NCC) proceeds, we’ll lose the best parts of it forever,” he wrote.

‘If a plan being rushed forward through City zoning by the National Capital Commission (NCC) proceeds, we’ll lose the best parts of it forever.’– Coun. Jeff Leiper

Leiper said the NCC’s shift from an earlier proposal to develop only the northeastern section of the field is enough reason to “press pause on the process.”

Rochester Field, bounded by the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway to the north and Richmond Road to the south, is part of an NCC-owned piece of land that includes the historical Maplelawn property and the Keg Manor restaurant.

The city’s dispute with the NCC over the land goes back to 2003, when the city’s official plan designated most of the field as major open space, limiting what the federal landowner could do with the property. The NCC appealed that designation, but the appeal was never resolved.

In his written comments to the city’s planning committee, Coun. Jeff Leiper calls Rochester Field ‘a jewel in Westboro.’

Community associations also opposed

In 2014, the city announced it wanted to run the future western expansion of the light rail transit system above ground for 500 metres along the northern edge of Rochester Field, but the NCC opposed that plan.

The two sides eventually came to an agreement to move the trains under the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway. The city agreed to pay the NCC $30 million as part of the deal, and also agreed to permit future development along Richmond Road.

The NCC’s most recent plan calls for the development of two parcels along Richmond Road, divided by a pedestrian corridor connecting to the parkway.

The Westboro Community Association and the McKellar Park Community Association also wrote to register their opposition to the NCC’s plan.

The city’s planning committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal when it meets on Jan. 23.





CBC.ca: Ashcroft facing Westboro’s wrath over convent proposal

13 01 2018

Ashcroft facing Westboro’s wrath over convent proposal

Former convent could be partially demolished, rented out for commercial use

CBC News Posted: Jan 11, 2018 8:56 AM ET Last Updated: Jan 11, 2018 1:22 PM ET

Ashcroft Homes presented its plans for the redevelopment of a 19th century convent to a room packed with skeptical Westboro residents Wednesday night.

The proposal includes demolishing the interior of the former convent on Richmond Road, as well as portions of the south and west wall, and building a modern glass structure matching its four-storey height that would also enclose courtyard.

“It was single-purpose designed as a convent and very austere,and very small rooms. The floor plans are very difficult not only for leasing the space, but also for community uses,” said Don Schultz, an urban planner for Ashcroft Homes.

The developer bought the former Les Soeurs de la Visitation building at 114 Richmond Road almost eight years ago along with a two-hectare plot of land for $12 million.

Schultz said not only has working around the convent’s original design been challenging, but the company also found issues it wasn’t expecting.

“Anyone who buys an old house finds out about a lot of the demons in the basement and in the walls and that is what
Ashcroft has been learning,” he said.

When asked if there was a structural reason to demolish the walls that would be torn down in the plan, architect Rod Lahey said it was “the reverse” and that more structural work will be needed to restore the walls that will be left standing.

Lahey, whose firm has been working on project since the land was purchased, said the floor plan expansion was “an economic decision.”

After an extended development fight where both sides went to the Ontario Municipal Board, the stone convent has been mostly untouched while a nine-storey condo was built on the edge of the land near Island Park Drive.

Combines business and community

When Ottawa city council gave Ashcroft Homes approval to develop the former Westboro convent lands, it was with the understanding that the developer would restore the convent so the community could use it.

The developer says it is keeping up its end of the bargain.

“There may be some offices or combination of businesses that would find this a unique and attractive space to have an office, but that has to be combined with community uses as well,” Schultz said.

The presenters mentioned a restaurant or a business incubator could occupy the space, but admitted the building’s low visibility from the street would limit the possible tenants.

Lack of partners ‘troublesome’

Some residents felt those examples didn’t fit their definition of “community use.”

Coun. Jeff Leiper, who hosted the meeting, said restaurants and pubs aren’t going to cut it.

“I am thinking of non-profits who could benefit from free space, or using it as a community meeting space, or as recreational space,” said Leiper.

Duff Mitchell, who lives across from the Ashcroft condos at the corner of Island Park Drive and Richmond Road, said he expected the convent would be preserved as a condition of the developer getting additional height and density for the project.

“After about eight years hearing they want to alter the convent structure and this is essential for moving forward, I find a bit troublesome — especially since they haven’t identified any partners for this project,” he said.

He said the idea of bringing commercial tenants to the site doesn’t make sense given the persistent vacancies on the ground floor of the Richmond Road development.

‘Same old, same old’

Lorne Cutler, president of the Hampton Iona Community Group, said he would’ve preferred if Ashcroft had details on a partner or financial contribution to community space rather than vague plans for its use.

“This is still the same old, same old, after seven or eight years,” Cutler said.

Leiper said there is no good will in the community to even contemplate allowing Ashcroft to move forward with the plan.

“If it’s costing them more than they expected, in the eyes of the community that is too bad,” said Leiper.

“Commitments were made. They need to stick to their promises.”

The proposal for partial demolition is expected to go to the city’s built heritage committee March 8.

Leiper said the plan will also require rezoning and consideration by the planning committee.


Link to article is here.

CBC.CA: New developer plans to partially demolish Westboro convent for commercial use

8 12 2017

New developer plans to partially demolish Westboro convent for commercial use

Ashcroft Homes to present plans to for 19th Century convent in January

Ashcroft Homes, which owns Les Soeurs de la Visitation Convent in Westboro, is proposing to renovate the site by partially demolishing it and building a glass enclosure to encase both modern and heritage elements.

Another pitched development battle is brewing in Westboro over a new proposal by Ashcroft Homes to partially demolish a 19th-century convent designated as a heritage building to make way for commercial uses.

Ashcroft’s “adaptive re-use” of Les Soeurs de la Visitation Convent will be encapsulated in glass and combine both heritage and modern elements, according to information posted on the website of Kitchissippi ward Coun. Jeff Leiper.

Ashcroft is proposing to modernize the stone building to attract commercial and office tenants.

The developer — along with City of Ottawa staff in both the planning and Heritage departments — will present more details in a public open house next month.

Expect a fight, says councillor

Leiper has warned Ashcroft to expect a fight from residents and from council.

“This is almost certain to generate a significant amount of community backlash. It will be difficult for me to support any modification to that building,” Leiper said.

The city made it clear to Ashcroft in 2010 that preserving the convent was one of the conditions it had to commit to when it was given permission to purchase the property, he said.

Kitchissippi residents will also demand Ashcroft keep its initial promise to use the 147 year-old building for community space, he said. When it was awarded the development rights to the two-hectare site, Ashcroft pitched council a vision to use the former monastery to hold neighborhood gatherings and art installations. Stores and office space were not part of the deal, Leiper said.

“There is a need for community facilities in the neighborhood,” Leiper said. “Ashcroft has a real challenge to convince the public to support the addition of more commercial space.”

The Kitchissippi councillor said there is already bad blood in the ward stemming from Ashcroft’s previous deviation from council-approved plans.

Ashcroft’s controversial redevelopment for the convent property was the subject of a three-day planning committee in 2010, where dozens of residents spoke against the plan. Ashcroft paid $12 million dollars for the property on Richmond Road at Island Park Drive.

 Ashcroft’s development on the convent lands is recognized around the city as the type of “main street development we don’t want,” Leiper said.

Leiper says Ashcroft’s development on Richmond Road, which dwarfs the convent behind it, is an example of what not to develop on a main street.

‘This place is sacred — like a church’

Ashcroft has not filed a formal land use application for the convent, according to city staff.

Glimpses of the structure built in the mid-1800s can be seen through the archways of an adjacent Ashcroft-developed glass condominium on Richmond Rd and Island Park Drive.

The stone building has sat empty for more than seven years. It is currently fenced off with its windows boarded up, and wooden support beams propping up some of its walls. Despite its state of disrepair, Marthe Ledoux, 77, said Ashcroft must keep its promise to the community to restore the building.

Westboro resident Marthe Ledoux questions the developer’s ability to attract commercial space to the site.

“This place is sacred, like a church,” Ledoux said. She has lived in Westboro for nearly two decades and resides across the street in another Ashcroft development on Richmond Road and said from the window of her modern condo, she sees half a dozen unrented retail storefronts surrounding the convent. She has doubts Ashcroft will be able to attract commercial interest in the site.

“Why would commercial space come here (to the convent) when they don’t come on the main street?” she asked.

Site needs sponsor, developer says

Ashcroft Homes president David Choo was unwilling to be interviewed, but in a brief email exchange he told the CBC restoring a large heritage site like the convent requires a “sponsor.”

“If heritage assets are to be preserved and that is what we are trying to do — then how can we achieve (this) given the enormous cost of such an undertaking…. The convent needs several millions to even begin to adapt and the question is who pays?”

Choo did not answer questions about how much his company has spent to preserve the building since purchasing it in 2010.

The public hearing for Ashcroft’s long-awaited proposal for the convent will take place Jan. 10 at Van Lang Field House at 6 p.m.



Westfest Remains Behind the Real Canadian Superstore

7 06 2013

Concerns of Westfest being forced to relocate have been put to rest.  Check out this Citizen article for more details.

What do you think of the location?

The article also notes that Katherine Hobbs is usually out of town for the local large festival.  I wonder if we’ll spot her this year?  If you see her let us know.



Westfest's Location



David Reevely (Ottawa Citizen) refers to your Hobb comments as ‘epic thread’!

6 04 2013

Your comments to Hobbs regarding the convent-site noise exemption have been noticed. Most recently by David Reevely of the OTTAWA CITIZEN. He refers to the ‘epic thread’ of resident comments on our Hello Westboro blog, and noted ‘the only person defending Hobbs was Hobbs’.

Reevely’s full article:

Reevely’s blog post on the same topic, more detail:

Original post that gave everyone something to talk about:


Will we see you at the new Westboro Farmer’s Market?

17 08 2012

Just a reminder that the new Westboro Farmer’s Market is starting this weekend (August 18, 19). According to the Citizen, the new market will set up in the park space bordered by Richmond Road and Byron, Golden and Broadview avenues on Saturdays Aug. 18 to Oct. 27, between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.

If you haven’t heard about it yet you can read more about it on the Ottawa Citizen website.

Women behind Clare Gardens honoured, Multi-year effort to clean up park awarded

14 06 2012

“Deb Chapman and Irmi Elbert remember a time when Clare Gardens Park in Westboro was used for drug deals, the cement pathways were cracked and dotted with pot holes, and the children’s play equipment was falling apart.

Now, about five years later, the two Westboro women have been awarded the Ontario Volunteer Service Awards for their efforts in cleaning up the park…” (You can read the rest of this article in EMC Ottawa West.)

Congratulations to volunteer gardener Deb Chapman and WCA board member Irmi Elbert for all their hard work!

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