a peek inside the fishbowl

18 Oct, 2006

Letter from a neighbour

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Westboro

Dagne Forrest, a friend and neighbor, kindly gave me permission to reprint a letter that was just published in the Ottawa Citizen.

Here it is … some additional comments follow below:

Much space is given in various Citizen stories to residents who don’t want their neighbourhood landscapes to change due to urban intensification in Westboro and Gloucester. While concerns about appropriately scaled developments are legitimate, the fact is that intensification is here to stay. It’s a far more responsible option than continued suburban sprawl, and has a lot to offer Ottawa in terms of sustainable development.

In my own neighbourhood of Westboro, I’m hoping that Domicile’s nearly completed nine-storey Exchange condominium tower on Richmond Road will bring in more residents who will get out (on foot, not in their cars) and make great use of our local shops and restaurants. Even with the revitalization that has gone on here, the main strip in Westboro is pretty quiet most evenings, unlike the Glebe area.

I was unable to attend the community consultations in Westboro, but it was interesting to read of architect and developer Barry Hobin’s impressions that local residents were cool to the proposal to convert the Maison Jeanne d’Arc building into condominiums. If that’s true, this is a time when someone should have demanded how environmentally responsible it is to bulldoze a sound building in favour of building 20 dwellings. I can’t believe that there isn’t legislation in place requiring Mr. Hobin and other developers to make use of existing structures, and to build in an environmentally responsible way.

I encourage builders across Ottawa to consider the legacy they are leaving their children and their children’s children, and to start building more responsibly, instead of just going for the biggest bangs for their bucks. I’d also encourage Ottawa’s citizens to open their arms to urban intensification. We all have something to gain from it if it’s done well. I’m looking forward to a continued influx of people to Westboro, who I hope will make our community businesses even more viable and our neighbourhood even more vibrant.

Dagne Forrest,

Thank you Dagne, for letting me post your letter. Thank you as well to those who have commented here – and stopped me in the streets (!) – to share your opinions about development in Westboro.

Dagne is right when she writes we have something to gain. We do. Bridgehead will sell more coffee and Lululemon will sell more yoga gear. I’m not against development. I’m against short-sighted development. I don’t like suburban sprawl, but I also don’t like infill housing that refuses to take neighbors into account.

Infill houses should not push the boundaries of height and width. Infill housing should not be ostentatious and visually overbearing. Shouldn’t these kinds of homes meet some kind of additional criteria so they fit the style and character of a neighborhood? My other concern: twenty housing units should not be plunked down in the middle of this kind of community without a traffic study.

I’ve been wondering why Hobin’s plans haven’t been more widely circulated. Is it because he knows they’ll cause an uproar?

If there is anyone reading this who was at his “community consultations” please let me know. I’d like to hear how you heard about it, who was there, and what was said.  

1 Response to "Letter from a neighbour"

1 | Ross

October 26th, 2006 at 2:50 pm


Thanks for creating some web presence for this issue, Andrea. I strongly support keeping the main 1934 elements of the Jean d’Arc building in place in the neighbourhood, as I find it an attractive building, built with substantial materials and exhibiting some charm and detail.

If we always knock down buildings when they get 60, 70 or 80 years old, pretty soon we’ll have nothing of any interest.

Plus, the idea of grinding all that stone and brick and wood up and throwing it into a landfill seems like a colossal waste to provide 20 houses, no doubt wrapped in vinyl and hidden behind a garage… like so much of the architectural junk created these days and endorsed by the city.


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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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