Seniors' homes planned for Westboro Superstore

Longtime Westboro residents will remember the development controversy behind the big Loblaws grocery store.

By Lucy Scholey and Haley Ritchie.

Now, almost 16 years later, an Ottawa city councillor is piloting a new online consultation tool to hear what people think about an additional seniors’ residence planned for the site on 190 Richmond Rd.

Choice Properties REIT, which owns the Real Canadian Superstore property on Richmond and Kirkwood avenue, is proposing two connected six-storey towers for that site. The plan includes 193 rental spaces for seniors, including assisted living. It would front onto Kirkwood Avenue, with room for 109 below-ground parking spaces and 48 bike spots.

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper has enlisted Milieu, a new Ottawa-based consulting firm, to create a website and gather feedback on the development. The $5,000 pilot project is coming out of his office budget.

It’s partly for Mr. Leiper’s own sake. While the councillor is usually quick to say whether or not he approves a development plan, he has yet to make up his mind on this proposal.

“I don’t have a sense, right now, of what the mainstream thinking is about this development,” he said, adding that he has heard from residents who are both wary of the height and intrigued by the idea of a seniors’ residence in the neighbourhood.

“We know that density is coming in Westboro,” said Mr. Leiper. “We know that intensification is coming and the challenge is to keep the scale that is appropriate for the neighbourhood.”

Mr. Leiper will also send the feedback from the site to city planners working on the file.

That Loblaws site has a complicated history. In 2000, councillors voted in favour of the controversial store, which was seen by many as a giant grocer in a then-sleepy neighbourhood. At the time, there was a residential component on the plate, albeit in the form of townhouses. Some neighbours say the seniors’ homes should be kept to the original scale.

Mr. Leiper said Choice Properties has submitted the application for the proposal, but the project likely will not go before the planning committee until the fall.

Kim Lee, Choice Properties’ vice president of investor relations, said the project “expands the community’s offering of living alternatives within a vibrant neighbourhood,” adding the plan could still be tweaked before it reaches the planning committee.

Last week, community members met at the Churchill Seniors Recreation Centre to hear more about the plan. A second public consultation is tentatively planned for June.

What is Milieu?

The app, available on desktop and mobile, allows residents to view a long list of on-going development projects, which are mapped by neighbourhood.

The project was co-founded by Carleton University graduates Luisa Ji and Lee-Michael Pronko and was created by a larger team in Ottawa.

Clicking on a development will take you to a page showing the address, images and status of the development and planning documents from city hall.

The idea is to open up the traditional consultation process of open houses and public hearings, which take a time commitment not all residents are able to give to municipal planning issues.

“By incorporating citizen feedback from pre-consultation we aim to facilitate rapid, participatory and effective decision-making in planning and development,” reads the website.

The app also allows people to leave comments and vote in polls to give feedback to councillors and planning staff.

Mr. Leiper enlisted Milieu to do an “extra level of online consultation” and make the development application materials in a more easy-to-read format.

The city partly relies on a development application search tool to post its planning documents. Mr. Leiper said it can be difficult for ordinary citizens to use.

“There’s not a lot of pointers for people about what the various different documents mean,” he said. “I’m trying [Milieu] out as a way to create a bigger conversation online.”

Mr. Leiper is using the tool as part of a pilot project, but the platform has already won awards from the American Planning Association, the City of Ottawa and Ontario’s big city mayors.

This article originally appeared on metronews.ca on May 9