Burgh Business Briefs (October 2021)

By Andre Gagne, Christina Leadlay, Randy Mar and Tamara Miller (this article appeared in the October 2021 edition of the New Edinburgh News)

Jasper restaurant has been sold

The New Edinburgh News has learned that Jasper Sports Pub at 18 Beechwood Ave. has been sold and that a new restaurant will take its place in November.

The new owner, Donald Wingell, tells NEN that his plan for the bistro will bring a new form of dining to the neighbourhood under the brand “Dhruvees.”

Donald Wingell is also the founder and CEO of Wingell Hospitality Group, an Ottawa-based Hospitality Consulting and Management Company. They represent global food service brands for Canada such as Dilmah Tea, Arun Spices and Golden Roots products.

Jasper opened in spring of 2019 as a fine dining establishment. Following the first government-mandated pandemic shut-down, it re-opened in August 2020, which saw them shift to pub fare. Jasper’s owner, Andre Schad sold the restaurant to Donald in September 2021 in order to focus on his patio businesses Tavern on the Falls and Tavern on the Hill.

According to a Sept. 24 Facebook post, Andre will be launching a third location, Tavern at the Gallery, located in the hidden courtyard garden (formerly known as the Sunken Garden) at the National Gallery of Canada on Sussex Drive. Open from 11 a.m. until late, the Tavern at the Gallery’s menu will include handmade pizza, poke bowls, oysters and charcuterie.

We look forward to learning more about this new neighbourhood dining experience. Best of luck to Andre and his team, and welcome to Donald! –TM

Fresh-baked donuts on Springfield

What are lukomades? Without Googling, your first thought might be a bird found only in the Galapagos, a small village in the Mediterranean, or the full name of that uncle everyone just calls “Lou.” Not even close, but you can ensure your taste buds get the delicious answer. Just walk down to the corner of Springfield Road and Beechwood Avenue and into Mr. Luko, New Edinburgh’s newest gourmandise and coffee place.   

Need more urging? “Lukomades are little, round Greek doughnuts that are fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside,” explains Nabil Mittry, co-owner of Mr. Luko, adding that the scrumptious little morsels are “served hot and topped with a flavour [of the] customer’s choice.”

Some of those choices include Nutella, pistachio cream, white chocolate, and cinnamon sugar. And on top of this (literally) you can add some Oreo crumble, shredded coconut, salted peanuts, and more! If that isn’t enticing enough, there are specialty versions of the treat, such as tiramisu cream, mixed berry cheesecake, and triple chocolate. Did we mention the fresh fruit medley?

Nabil explains that everything is prepared fresh daily, right in the shop, with premium ingredients.

Mr. Luko opened in April on Bank Street before bringing a second location to 1 Springfield Road (in the former Second Cup location). The team hasn’t let the pandemic limit their drive for deliciousness. Having to limit the number of people inside for pick-up orders only shortly after they opened was tough, but they rode out the public health restrictions and were finally able to open their doors this past summer. 

“All the community is really happy to support us as a local business that’s growing up fast and are satisfied with the service we’re offering,” says Nabil. “You can clearly notice that from each honest review added from their side.”

With so many types of lukomades to try, you might not notice the other baked goods in the store. This writer sampled an apple fritter that will make you forget all other apple fritters. Yes, it’s that good, perfectly paired with some organic coffee.

“Our apple fritter is a hit for sure because of its huge size, affordability, and unique taste,” explains Nabil. “We also have the pistachio-filled donut, which is also an item to try, for sure.”

If you want something a little more adventurous, Mr. Luko also serves up Lebanese cocktails in both strawberry and avocado flavours, topped with fresh ashta: a Lebanese cream. The kids will probably be more interested in the cotton-candy or cookies-and-cream milkshakes, though. All of this before we mention: they serve breakfast!

Beyond the two shops in Ottawa, Nabil says the goal is to expand the Montreal-based Mr. Luko brand even further: “We surely are ambitious to grow faster and open a chain of Mr. Luko all over Canada and working hard to achieve that goal.” –ARG

Mr. Luko is located at 1 Springfield Road. Learn more at mrluko.ca

Spanish-Latino cuisine coming soon

Curious pedestrians peering in the window of 224 Beechwood Ave., intrigued at the signage already in place, will be rewarded very soon.  

Renowned chef Daniela Manrique Lucca and her partner and front-of-house manager, Gustavo Belisario, are bringing an exciting culinary experience to the former Sutherland restaurant space.  

In the next few weeks, the doors will open upon an exciting blend of the esteemed Soca Kitchen restaurant and the upstart Plantain Cartel, along with a well-stocked mercado (market).

“Everyone has been so welcoming since we took over this space and we have fallen in love with the neighbourhood!” said Chef Daniela in an interview with NEN. The Soca Kitchen is her creation: her vision for Spanish-Latino fusion, connected to roots in her native Venezuela.  Diners will see many favourites on the menu, including an oyster bar, seafood tower, selected jamons (dry-cured hams), patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), cod ceviche, and empanadas and taco platters, among others.

Just like the original Soca location on Holland Avenue which opened in 2014, the Beechwood Soca will initially be open for dinner only but will eventually open for brunch once things settle down.  

First developed as a “ghost kitchen,” Plantain Cartel specializes in patacones: artisanal plantain sandwiches which will be available all day. They make a great gluten-free meal option! The Cartel team make the patacones in-house from scratch, meaning no two are alike. Plantain Cartel will be a casual, express-dining option, offering delicious foods eat-in or to-go as well as signature frozen cocktails, wine, and beer.

Soca’s loyal and experienced staff will help to ease the transition to two locations, complemented by new staff. They will have opportunities to take on new roles and many will be able to work closer to home.

Plantain Cartel’s mercado will offer a wide variety of Spanish specialty products: olive oils, concervas(preserves), marinated olives, sauces and aiolis, potato crisps, and much more.  Adding to the take-away options will be a variety of Soca’s frozen foods and a selection of refrigerated cheeses and charcuterie items.

And if opening a second restaurant isn’t excitement enough for Daniela and Gustavo, the couple are expecting a baby daughter in November!

Congratulations times two to Daniela, Gustavo, and the whole Soca team – welcome to New Edinburgh! –RM

The Soca Kitchen will open this fall at 224 Beechwood Ave. Contact 613-695-9190 or thesocakitchen.com or info@thesocakitchen.com.

Dentist takes over former fitness studio

Soca Kitchen isn’t the only new business opening soon at 224 Beechwood Ave. Taking over the former EPIC fitness space (sadly, a victim of multiple pandemic shutdowns) is the dental practice of Dr. Luc Ducharme. In an email interview with NEN, Dr. Ducharme says that for the past four or five years he has been looking to expand the practice at 156 Beechwood Ave., where he and associate dentist Dr. Olivier Julien have been since 2004. But finding a 4,500–5,000 sq. ft. space on the main street had been a challenge. Until recently.

“The most important factor was remaining on Beechwood,” explains Dr. Ducharme. “This space [at 224 Beechwood Ave.] was ideal for a dental clinic: ground-level, lots of windows, on a corner, directly on Beechwood and next to a pharmacy,” and with convenient parking, too, he says. 

Construction began in March 2021, transforming the former fitness studio into a dental clinic, which Dr. Ducharme says “is a complex project due to not only for leasehold improvement, but mostly due to all the special dental equipment.” He anticipates opening the new clinic in November 2021.

Born in Ottawa, Dr. Ducharme obtained his dental diploma from the University of Montreal in 1995. He practiced for eight years on Montreal Road before moving to Beechwood Avenue in March 2004. Along with Dr. Julien, who has worked with Dr. Ducharme for 15 years, the practice includes six hygienists, four assistants and four receptionists. “I intend in the near future to hire another associate dentist to better respond to the demands of the community,” says Dr. Ducharme. His clinic offers a wide variety of services including orthodontics, Invisalign, implants, sedation for patients who suffer from dental anxiety, and endodontic treatment (like root canals). They also deal with dental emergencies, and new patients are always welcome.

As for his old clinic space, Dr. Ducharme tells NEN he is “presently working with an agent as to subleasing my present location.”

We wish Dr. Ducharme and his team all the best in their new space at 224 Beechwood Ave. Learn more by calling 613-749-1785 or at drlucducharme.com. –CL

Local barbering returns to Beechwood


For those who’ve been missing a stroll along Beechwood Avenue for their regular haircuts, two brothers – Louis and Yasser Fahs – have come to the rescue.

The enterprising brothers opened Beechwood Barbershop in late September in the former Imperial Barbershop location at 10 Beechwood Ave. (next door to SushiMe). Louis brings the barbering expertise, and Yasser the business acumen to their latest venture.

They plan to keep much of the familiar furnishings and décor and maintain the six existing chairs, which allow for proper physical distancing in keeping with current public-health protocols. Initial service at launch will focus on barber cuts; other services such as beard and facial treatments will be introduced as restrictions on personal care services are lifted in the future.  

In launching this endeavour, the brothers have dropped in at several local coffee shops and pubs to get their ear to the ground regarding clients’ needs. “We know this a great family area and want to bring a much-needed service to the community,” said Yasser. To further the neighbourhood connection, they’ve sought out skilled local barbers and are confident there will be familiar faces tending to customers’ needs.

To introduce themselves to the neighbourhood, Beechwood Barbershop will offer half price barber cuts in the two weeks following their opening, so keep an eye out for the open sign in the window.

A warm welcome to Beechwood Village, Louis and Yasser!

The Beechwood Barbershop is located at 10 Beechwood Ave. For details or walk-in/call-in appointments, call 613-842-8383 or visit bestprosintown.com/on/vanier/beechwood-barbershop–RM

Cannabis shop applies for permit

There’s a potential new occupant for the space left vacant by Sundae School at 131B Beechwood Ave, next to Bridgehead. NEN has learned that Munchies Cannabis has submitted an application to open a retail store at this location.  

All cannabis stores in Ontario are regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The AGCO ensures that retailers are selling cannabis in a safe, responsible and lawful manner. Regulations include:

  • not selling cannabis to anyone under the age of 19;
  • not operating a retail store within 150 meters of a school; and
  • acquiring the required Retail Store Authorization, Retail Operator License and Cannabis Retail Manager License.

All active applications for cannabis Retail Store Authorizations are available to view on the AGCO online portal (agco.ca) and stores are required to have a 15-day public notice period. The public notice period for Munchies Cannabis’ application closed on Sept 16, 2021, with no new details listed on the website as of publishing time. –TM

Dental team retires after 33 years

In September, Dr. John Martins and Dr. Patricia Prud’homme of Martins + Prud’homme Dentistry at 200 Beechwood Ave. announced their retirement from dentistry after 33 years – 27 of which were spent on Beechwood Avenue. 

In a message to their clients and the community, they said “it is with mixed emotions that we announce our retirement in September and pass along our beloved practice.

“We wish to convey our sincerest appreciation for the tremendous support that we have received over the years from this wonderful community. Thank you for your kindness, your warm friendship and for entrusting us with your care. It has truly been an honour and a privilege.

“As we bid a fond farewell to our cherished patients, we look forward to happy endings and new beginnings.”

Drs. Martins and Prud’homme are partners both in the clinic and in life. John tells NEN that he and Patricia met in dental school and were married in 1989, a year after graduation. They have practiced dentistry together since 1994.

NEN has learned that the dental practice has been acquired by Dr. Lokesh Malik, who has begun contacting clients.

NEN extends a big thank-you to Drs. Martins and Prud’homme for their many years of support as regular advertisers in this newspaper. We wish them all the best in their retirement. –CL

Outdoor market wraps up Oct. 9

The Beechwood Market has just a few more weeks of open-air activity before reverting to an online venue for the winter season.

A community presence since 2014, the Beechwood Market has become many things to its visitors and vendors. In describing the market, President Chris Penton suggests that it “has become a comfort, an expectation, and an integral part of our community; a chance for residents to listen to live music and truly support local businesses, whether it be online, onsite, or on their front porch!”

With the steadfast support of many of its sponsors, vendors, and visitors, the market has thrived through three moves to its present location at Optimiste Park and online at beechwoodmarket.ca. On Saturdays from early June to Thanksgiving (Oct. 9), Beechwood Market offers an outdoor market experience at Optimiste Park (43 Ste. Cecile St.) featuring a wide variety of artisanal baked goods and prepared foods, eggs and poultry, local craft beer, and fresh – often organic – produce and fruit. The friendly community vibe attracts families, seniors, and young singles.  

At the online Market, shoppers will find more than 30 local vendors, and hundreds of kitchen staples. Weekly pickup, arranged at the time of order, will move to the New Edinburgh Park Fieldhouse (203 Stanley Ave.) beginning Oct. 16.

Fans of community markets will note their expanding presence across the city. Beechwood Market’s offshoot, the Elgin Market, opened this past summer in Boushey Square on Waverley at Elgin Streets. Chris Penton is working not only towards a community market framework to guide market deployment city-wide, but also collaborating with other community associations to host markets on Preston Street in Little Italy, in Alta Vista, and in Hintonburg next summer.

There are also tentative plans for a Christmas Market in December at the Chartwell New Edinburgh Square, 420 MacKay St. Check the market’s website for the latest.

The Beechwood Farmers’ Market runs Saturdays in Optimiste Park, 43 Ste. Cecile St., until Oct. 9 before moving exclusively online for the winter. Contact 613-883-1012; beechwoodfm@gmail.com or visit beechwoodmarket.ca or localline.ca.

Your Pet Palace moves to Vanier

A long-time resident of 78 Beechwood Ave., local pet groomer Your Pet Palace has relocated nearby at 264 Olmstead St. in Vanier. The move was necessary to make way for the forthcoming Minto Beechwood II development on that block (see details, page 1).  

Clients can expect the same services from owner Diane Campbell and her team: full pet grooming, medicated shampoos, flea treatments, and nail-trims while you wait. Contact Your Pet Palace at 613-747-6568 or yourpetpalace@rogers.com. Please note: appointments are available by phone only. –TM

The community hub along the river

After weathering a number of pandemic-related closures since March 2020, the Rideau Sports Centre (at 1 Donald St.) has had a “magical” summer – success which the team plans to carry into the autumn. 

“We have approached each lockdown with a ‘dare-to-dream’ challenge,” Carrie Cuhaci, the RSC’s director of sales and marketing, tells the New Edinburgh News. “We viewed the closures as an opportunity to make further investments in the property and take great leaps in our offerings. It also enabled us to keep as many staff employed as possible and expanded their skills. Each time we re-open, our clients would return excited to see what we improved,” she said.

During their second COVID summer, RSC was able to safely host dozens of weddings, round-robin tennis drop-ins, and a 28-team ball-hockey league, run full-day children’s camps, and open The Bridge (its second-floor restaurant) seven days a week.

“We invested and opened the largest outdoor fitness centre in Ottawa,” said Carrie, describing an outdoor area on RSC’s four-acre property along the Rideau River dedicated to yoga and fitness classes and an outdoor gym.

Carrie credits the RSC team with being very nimble in adapting to ever-changing public health guidelines with very little guidance or advance notice from the provincial government. As of Sep. 22, sports centres like RSC are among the places requiring proof of vaccination or exemption with government-issued identification.

“Anyone can play any sport anytime at RSC – there is no membership required,” said Carrie, noting that all RSC sports, services, restaurant, and bar are available to everyone. In a beautiful location on the Rideau River between Vanier, Overbrook and Sandy Hill, RSC is a convenient community hub: a place to meet friends for a game, a meal, or a drink by the firepit.

This fall, RSC is offering a full slate of activities for all ages. There is a new “Tennis Pathway” for adults and juniors, as well as coach-run, level-based play programs. Yoga classes are available daily in the outdoor Zen tent, with offerings for all levels. Fitness classes are running both indoors and out, morning and evening. Plus: the beach volleyball court and outdoor ball hockey rink are available to rent (call 613-749-6126 to check availability). 

There are non-sports activities, too! The RSC Book Club takes place the first Tuesday of each month. Drop in to discuss fiction and non-fiction in a friendly, COVID-safe environment (registration required). Also, the RSC Outdoor Market is a monthly event featuring an eclectic selection of products – from flowers to candles, food and clothing – for sale from local vendors.

NEN thanks the Rideau Sports Centre for their continued support and wishes the team a busy and active fall season.

The Rideau Sports Centre is located at 1 Donald St. Learn more about RSC’s activities at rideausportscentre.com. Contact the restaurant at thebridgepublichouse.com. –CL

Park life special feature: Residents share what they love and want to improve in the park

Compiled by Christina Leadlay (this article originally appeared in the June 2021 edition of the New Edinburgh News)

New Edinburgh Park, Stanley Park…. Whatever you call it, the greenspace along the Rideau River from Sussex Drive to Beechwood Avenue is one of the top reasons we choose to live in this neighbourhood.

The New Edinburgh News presents a special feature on “the park” complete with maps, rules, history and stories about what makes this greenspace unique and worth protecting. 

But first, let’s hear from local park users!

Every day throughout the year, a variety of people use New Edinburgh’s park for many different reasons. Some access the park multiple times a day; others use the park in many capacities – as pedestrians, cyclists, dog walkers or with their children. The New Edinburgh News reached out to residents via email and asked them:

1) What is your favourite thing about the park?

2) What would you like to improve about the park?

The following responses have been edited for length and content.

Karen McDonald, Crichton Street. Retired person, pedestrian, dog walker

I love walking my dog from our house, along the river path, past the play area and tennis courts, through the little woods, past the canine swimming hole, though the big off-leash area, and if it’s a nice day, around Rideau Hall and back home again. I love seeing all the people of different ages and family configurations enjoying the park. 

Room for improvement: Somehow getting the litterers (including fellow dog walkers) to pick up after themselves. More garbage cans, perhaps? Also, keeping cyclists off the shoreline pedestrian path, especially now that there is a continuous paved bike path through the park. Would more signs help, or more barriers, such as big rocks, at strategic points to make it more difficult for [cyclists] to access the dirt path?

Kathy Kealey, Dufferin Road. Dog walker
The best thing about the park is its use by all residents, young and old, human and animal.

I’d like to see our park enhanced by the addition of a small, multi-use pavilion for yoga, small concerts, outdoor painting classes, and shelter from inclement weather. A few drinking fountains, cobblestone paths to cut down on muddy walkways, covered benches to shelter from the sun, and more garbage receptacles would make the park much more user friendly.

Frances Middleton, Stanley Avenue. Family with young child, dog walker

Our favourite thing about the park is its natural beauty; how it’s so green and has various types of vegetation. We also love the different views that the park has to offer, whether you’re taking it in from a bench or standing in the off-leash area and looking across Rideau River to Parliament.  

As long as the flora and fauna wouldn’t be negatively impacted, it would be nice if the bank between the tennis courts and workout area and the Rideau River could be restored to something more natural. You can’t tell from the path itself, but from across the river the crumbling retaining wall is a bit of an eyesore. More benches along here could be nice!

Michele Carini Bruinsma, Stanley Avenue

What I love: that it’s an off-leash dog park with lots of green space.

Room for improvement: More rubbish bins, plus replacing the broken ones. How about recycling bins for glass, plastic, and trash and one specifically for dog poop, which are standard in European public parks and now even in Kitchener, Ont.

Saman and Dorothy, Crichton Street. Recreational users and nature lovers

What we love: The proximity to the river, the green landscape, the wildlife (particularly birds), the change of use and landscape over the different seasons.

To improve: More frequent garbage collection from the bins; complete the planting of grass near the water storage tank facility; maybe have more volunteer cleaning drives for the banks of the river.    

The Shepherd Family, MacKay Street

I’d like to see many more wildflowers to attract the monarchs. The old monarch garden seems to have disappeared. I’d also like to see more “NO BIKES ON THIS STRICTLY WALKING PATH” signs. It is most irritating to have bikes roaring past on the walking path.  

Karen Squires and Richard Aubry, River Lane

I love how the park brings our community together, right in the heart of our beautiful city. I think everyone benefits from this amazing green space and I’m so pleased that it’s now back in full use again [after years of infrastructure work]. We must continue to protect our green spaces to ensure they are natural, clean, and safe for everyone.

I think more effort in keeping the entire park area clean is very important. There is still a considerable amount of garbage left behind on Stanley in and around the park. There needs to be more accountability when groups use the park for events to ensure there is zero “garbage footprint” left behind. With more people using this limited space, there should be more support to ensure green space is protected and clean. We continue to lose trees for a variety of reasons (i.e., climate change) so trees and bushes need to be replanted to ensure we maintain our limited green space, moving forward, for all to enjoy.

Eileen Olexiuk, River Lane. Senior, retired person, pedestrian 

I love the river, the trees, the birds, and other small animals that live there: the peacefulness of nature. I also love the activities, especially for young people: cycling, soccer, baseball, skating or just playing on the equipment.  

What I would like to see improved is restricting cyclists to using the bike lanes, and not taking the walking paths along the river. We need better signage strategically placed and visits by bylaw officers until such time as respect for all users is recognized.  

Jill Nowell, Dufferin Road

I think that finally the city has built us a wonderful new park for our neighbourhood. I love all the trees that have been planted and keep finding new paths to wander about while walking my dog.

However, it is taking a very long time for the seeded grass areas to grow and as a result we get very muddy areas when it rains, and this destroys the new grass trying to grow. The areas now need to be covered with sod.

Deepee Khosla, River Lane

My favourite thing(s): I love going for walks along the river. In the winter, the skating rink is a blast.

It would be nice to have a section of the park planted with native [species] to encourage more wildlife. Perhaps something similar to what’s been done at Remic Rapids.

Raewyn Khosla, River Lane. Nature Lover

I love walking through the park watching the trees go through the seasons.

I’d love to see an area of the park dedicated to native plants, a rewilding project with an urban meadow theme using native flowers, trees and grasses that will attract more diverse insects, birds, and wildlife. This is something that is happening internationally in cities as biodiversity is threatened and development and agriculture eat up natural habitats.

Justin Swan, River Lane. Family with young children, cyclist, pedestrian, sports & rec user

[I love] the waterfront. It provides great views of the downtown, Parliament, and Minto Bridges – a unique perspective of our capital.  

[I would make improvements] to evolve Stanley Park into one that is internationally renowned and a top-three destination in the capital. This would include expansion of the park through amalgamating Porter Island, Bordeleau Park, the Rideau Falls, and Stanley Park via a new pedestrian pathway “loop.” The loop would connect new destinations within the park as well – a small outdoor theatre on Maple Island, a seated patio at the new junction framing the view of the Parliament, a canoe dock, and a new and expanded fieldhouse worthy of hosting a variety of events and programming. Let’s be bold! 

An idea to help Beechwood Village become a 15-minute neighbourhood

By Chris Penton, Beechwood Market president. This article appeared in the April 2021 edition of the New Edinburgh News.

Much noise has been made of the race to create 15-minute neighbourhoods in Ottawa. Beechwood Village is certainly part of that race. Like many neighbourhoods in the urban core, we have a variety of amenities. But, also like many neighbourhoods in the core, we are missing some too. Beechwood Village is more of a … 21-minute neighbourhood. 

Arguably every corner of Ottawa is a 21-minute neighbourhood. The additional six minutes comes from trips to Costco for 3kg of peanut butter, to the dentist you have been with since you were a child and, ironically, to fill up the tank for the next trip for peanut butter.  

In a city ruled by strip malls and suburban development, the need to leave your neck of the woods has become inevitable. To feel shame about the departure is not only wrong, but futile. Beechwood area businesses don’t need your guilt; they need your help. They need your business and they need you to truly get behind the #SupportLocal movement. It is too common for Ottawans to point out what is missing, quickly groan, and then jump into the car to get it. 

For years you have been told that there is no hardware store, chocolate shop, or vintage diner because commercial rents are too high. This is probably true.

What if there was a way the City could step in and help change our shopping landscape? Consider the following.

Just as there are incentives to build affordable housing (tax breaks for exceeding seven units, rent subsidies for up to 20 years for landlords and so on) there could easily be incentives to open up affordable commercial space to smaller stores and services. Mandate developers and landlords to offer a quarter of their commercial square footage at a reduced rate. Since the concept already applies to residential units, why not commercial? In doing so, local residents get a service for which they have been asking; small businesses get a chance to prove themselves; and landlords fill spots which may very well have stayed empty for years. 

The City of Ottawa talks a mean streak when it comes to supporting local enterprise and bolstering small businesses in order to create 15-minute neighbourhoods. However, extending patio licenses into the coldest months, offering up endless food truck licenses, and promoting an obscure ‘buy local’ passport are band-aid solutions. Bring in solid measures like mandated affordable commercial space and you’ll see ice cream shops, family-owned hardware stores, and bakeries reappear.

In order for these sorts of things to happen, residents must buy in. Firstly, continue to support your existing main-street businesses. Secondly, ask your local politicians why commercial rents are so high. Tell them which amenities you’d like to have within walking distance. Another sensible step is to call the Quartier Vanier Business Improvement Association (QVBIA). Charged with attracting new businesses to your main street, they want to hear from their shopping public. 

 There is no reason why Beechwood Village couldn’t be a 15-minute neighbourhood. But it will take more than talk to allow us the short walk.

Chris Penton is the President of the Beechwood Market, Ottawa’s online farmers market: beechwoodmarket.ca. A community builder, he is a past-president of the Vanier Community Association, current board member of the Vanier BIA, and ran for municipal office in 2019. A version of this column appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on Feb. 12, 2021.

City’s draft Official Plan is worrisome and aggressively anti-urban

By Ray Boomgaardt. This article originally appeared in the April 2021 edition of the New Edinburgh News.

In November 2020, the City of Ottawa published a draft revision of its Official Plan, intended to guide the growth of the city for the next 25 years. It invited public comments on the four volumes (Vol. 1 alone is more than 250 pages long). The Board of the New Edinburgh Community Alliance (NECA) submitted its comments on Mar. 12 (find our submission at newedinburgh.ca). Our City Councillor Rawlson King has invited residents to make any further comments to his office.

The City terms its revisions to its Official Plan as a “New Official Plan.” That’s actually a fair description, because the New Plan reverses many of the policies of the existing Plan. The extreme departure from existing policies is very strange – even bizarre – because the existing Plan is well written, has been regularly updated by Council, and seems to have served the City rather well. The New Plan is full of empty jargon, reverses not only well-established policies but also many recent Council decisions, and attacks fundamental rules and procedures protecting Ottawa’s urban neighbourhoods. 

Having been critical of the City in the past, it feels strange to be suddenly noticing all the merits of the existing Plan. But that is perhaps the easiest way to convey to you, dear reader, how worrisome this revision, the draft New Plan, is. 

Fifty years ago, the ideas of urban-renewal activist Jane Jacobs lead the citizens of Toronto in their campaign to stop the Spadina Expressway. In 1979, those same ideas galvanized New Edinburgh to stop the Vanier Arterial. Perhaps the writers of the New Plan were indulging in some black humour when they decided to label the Queensway, Ottawa’s expressway, a scenic route (yes, really!). But we digress. This article is not about that bit of Orwellian nonsense, although we do think it illustrates how poorly thought out and aggressively anti-urban the New Plan is.

One of NECA’s core values is our commitment to Jacobs’ understanding of what makes a city thriving and liveable: the city is made up of neighbourhoods. The existing Plan, was also explicitly based on this idea. The proposed revised Plan talks about developing “15-minute neighbourhoods,” but then repeatedly undermines urban neighbourhoods.

Let’s look at some examples.

An overview of the Plans

The existing Plan states: “This Plan manages this growth in ways that reinforce the qualities of the city most valued by its residents: its distinctly liveable communities, its green and open character, and its unique characteristics.”… “The environmental integrity of the city is reinforced throughout the Plan.”

The New Plan replaces these four commitments – to community, greenspace, unique characteristics and environment – with a far weaker and vaguer sentence: “we will need to find ways of supporting city neighbourhoods … as healthy, inclusive and vibrant places,” offering vague support for “healthy, inclusive and vibrant places.”

For existing urban areas, “healthy” seems to mean adequate parks and recreation facilities, and might even be construed as a back-handed reference to environmental integrity (i.e., a weakening of existing policy, but not a complete reversal); “inclusive” seems to mean more high-density buildings without lawns or trees (what the Plan calls the “missing middle,” i.e., with no accommodation for communities, greenspace, or unique characteristics); and “vibrant” seems to mean rapidly transforming with high-density infill (the existing Plan supports infill, but doesn’t require it to be dense, and does make it subject to the four commitments.)  

NECA has been fighting for the four commitments in the existing Plan to be respected by new development proposals; the New Plan simply deletes the commitments altogether. 

Secondary plans

NECA and other community associations have done a lot of work on our vision for the development of the Beechwood Avenue corridor. The new draft Official Plan proposes to designate Beechwood from the St. Patrick bridge to Hemlock Road as a “Mainstreet Corridor.” The good part of this proposal is that new projects along the Corridor are required to have ground-level commercial units and to provide extra-wide sidewalks. 

On the other hand, there is a series of additional elements that community associations would like to see included to help ensure appropriate development along Beechwood. Under both the existing Plan and the draft New Plan, secondary development plans can be initiated by the City, and, when approved, become part of the Official Plan. 

However, the draft New Plan introduces a new prerequisite for secondary plans: “the City shall require a landowners’ agreement. This Agreement shall be provided to the City prior to the commencement of the Secondary Plan. The … agreement shall include … how development and density are to be distributed, as well as how the costs of studies and plans will be divided.

In short, landowners who do not agree with a proposed planning process can veto it simply by not signing a landowner’s agreement.

Again, the City has simply deleted the prior ability to receive community input. 

Dealing with growth

The New Plan notes that provincial policy requires the City to designate enough land to account for growth over the next 25 years; and that the City expects to grow to 1.4 million people by 2046, an annual growth rate of about 1.2 per cent.

Over the past 30 years, the number of living units in New Edinburgh has probably grown at a rate of more than 1.2 per cent annually. So you might think that the City would use us as a model for the future. You would be wrong.

The New Plan proposes that 47 per cent of the growth will occur within the existing urban boundary (this is targeted to rise to 60 per cent by 2046, sec 2.2.1(1)), 46 per cent in the currently undeveloped land at the periphery of the urban boundary, and seven per cent in rural areas. So far, so good.

The New Plan goes on to state: “The target amount of dwelling growth represents the proportion of new residential dwelling units, excluding institutional and collective units such as seniors’ and student residences, based upon building permit issuance within the built-up portion of the urban area.”

Apparently, seniors’ units do not count. Really: that’s in the New Plan! New Edinburgh has three long-term care facilities built in the last 30 years. But they wouldn’t count under the New Plan’s math. 

Dealing with intensification

Fun fact: the draft New Plan uses the word “transect” as a noun, with a meaning unknown to either the Oxford or Random House dictionaries.

Here we go. In the inner urban “transect” (which includes New Edinburgh), the New Plan provides that “The minimum residential dwelling density …for each lot” is 80 units per hectare. This intensification requirement would apply to any new construction in New Edinburgh outside the Heritage District. The density requirement along Beechwood Avenue is 80 to 160 units per hectare.

A hectare is 10,000m2. So, at 80 units per hectare, each unit occupies 125 m2, or 1,345ft2.  This is the exterior dimension, so the interior living space on each floor would be about 1,200ftassuming 100 per cent lot coverage. Therefore, if one wants to build a two-storey 1,800fthouse (at 900ftper floor) on a 1,200ft2 lot, there is only 300ftof space for lot setbacks, a deck and parking. For lots that have approximately 15m frontage or wider, at least 50 per cent of the units developed on that lot must have three or more bedrooms. 

If you know the size of lots on your street, you can calculate what requirements a new development would need to meet. If a lot is 50×100 = 5000ft2 (464m2), the building would need to have four units to meet the standard, and two of them would need to have three bedrooms, since the lot is more than 15m wide. Assuming 50 per cent lot coverage, 2500ft2, and three floors, this provides 7,500ft2, or approximately 1,900ft2 for each unit (exterior dimensions).

Remember, these are minimum requirements. Presumably the by-laws will be amended to permit this kind of intensification. 

Conclusion

You tell me. What’s up with City Hall?

Ray Boomgaardt is a board member of the New Edinburgh Community Alliance.

10 years since the Beechwood fire

By Christina Leadlay. This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2021 edition of New Edinburgh News

This year marks 10 years since fire gutted a section of Beechwood Avenue between MacKay and Crichton Streets. On Mar. 16, 2011, fire started in the basement of the Home Hardware store. All told, six businesses were lost, a number of people were left homeless, and countless others were evacuated or affected by the disaster. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and many of the businesses have since relocated within the community. 

New Edinburgh News reached out to some of those people affected by the fire to ask them all:

What is your lasting memory from the Beechwood fire of 2011, and what did you learn about the community in the aftermath?

Below are their answers, which have been edited for length and content.

Heather Matthews, owner of Sconewitch (35 Beechwood Ave.)

“Around 10 o’clock that morning I noticed a lone police car parked across Beechwood Avenue at MacKay. The officer was standing in the middle of the street facing the hardware store. He was soon joined by a single firetruck. I couldn’t see anything happening from outside my shop until moments later when the smoke poofed out of the second floor [of the hardware store] and emergency vehicles began to arrive from all directions. 

At 10 p.m. I stood in the Metro parking lot with neighbours and watched as the fire fighters poured water on the dying embers of some of my earliest childhood memories. [The fire] had a devastating impact on local business. Sales at the SconeWitch took seven years to recover to pre-fire levels.

Eric Passmore, store manager at Nature’s Buzz (relocated to 55 Beechwood Ave.)

“It was a surreal day losing our shop to the fire. It took us nine months to reopen and there was a ton of risk involved with that effort. However, when we did finally open our doors again, we were met with nothing but support and kindness from this incredible Beechwood community!”

Tracey Black, owner of Epicuria (relocated to 357 St Laurent Blvd.)

“My lasting memory of the Beechwood fire was watching a traffic webcam of the scene until the early morning hours and seeking information the following day as many of us tried to understand the impact of what had happened. I recall the real loss felt by the neighbourhood, and customers continuing to call months later to see how we were doing. The value our community places on its small businesses really hit home when we reopened a year later, and struggled during the first few days to keep the shelves stocked!”

Kellyann Riley, barber at Lester’s Barbershop (now owner of Kelly’s Barber & Beauty and KBB Boutique, 30 Marier Ave.)

“My lasting memory of the Beechwood fire is just being there and watching your life change in front of you and not really realizing that’s what was happening. Lester’s shop was fine for most of the day, and then it wasn’t. I kept thinking ‘We’ll be back in a little bit,’ but of course that wasn’t the case.

I learned two things when it was all said and done: that block really was a hub and represented what Beechwood was known for: community. The support from everyone before, during and after the fire has never ceased to amaze me, even after all this time. People live and breathe Beechwood and I think that is a very special thing you don’t see very much anymore.”

Paul Williams, owner of the New Edinburgh Pub (now owner of Whispers Pub, 249 Richmond Rd. in Westboro)

“My lasting memory of that day was the fear that the wind would change direction and take out the Pub. I’ll never forget the number of emergency vehicles and the acrid smell in the air. 

Now your question regarding what I learned about our community: ‘Generosity’ comes to mind. It was a pleasure for [my wife] Tracy and myself to operate a business in New Edinburgh for 26 years. It always felt like we were in a small village. The village came together for our fundraiser, helping to raise over $20,000 for the victims of the fire. It’s a very close knit community where everyone looks to help out others. We have many examples of the charitable acts from this amazing community.”

Leesa Sereda, tenant at 409 MacKay (now living near the Central Experimental Farm)

“One of my lasting memories is the week-long physical exertion and trauma of working alongside a professional restoration team to remove all my belongings from my soot-contaminated apartment. The community was very generous in donating over $30,000. 

The board of the Crichton Cultural Community Centre [now NECTAR] was very thoughtful in their distribution of these monies amongst the affected tenants, considering individual situations. The annual Lumière Festival on Aug. 20, 2011 offered an opportunity to show appreciation to the community, so I installed solar-powered lanterns in the trees spelling out ‘thank you’ on behalf of myself and the other affected tenants. It was comforting for me to see people stop by and I hoped that they appreciated its significance.”

Joan Mason, then-president of the New Edinburgh Community Alliance (NECA)

“That day, we lost one small block of shops that met most of the community’s needs. It was a fun place and we all cared for each other. Like New Edinburgh, it was a rare survival! The smoke was toxic, but so were the months of broken promises and insincere consultations, until we ended up with just another concrete canyon. We  can only hope that the huge changes that the world is experiencing will right many wrongs. New Edinburgh was a superb template of a walkable, workable community.”

Cindy Parkanyi, editor of the New Edinburgh News (now president of NECA)

“After the initial shock of this devastating event, what struck me most was how quickly the community was able to mobilize to provide help to those directly affected. The Crichton Cultural Community Centre (precursor to NECTAR) quickly sprang into action to be a central point for gathering information from those in need of help and those offering help.  The New Edinburgh Pub, and specifically Paul and Tracy Williams, put together a fundraising event, which was extremely well-attended.  

At the time, we had no idea how long and how deep the effects to our main street would be, particularly in what was once a vibrant and community-centre shopping area – now a veritable retail dead zone, with more like it coming (the Claridge project comes to mind) if we don’t shake some sense into the City’s planning department and committee. It is odd that the lasting effects of a devastating fire would resemble so closely the current pervasive transformation of our 15-minute neighbourhoods.”

****

Due to concerns about the smoke’s toxicity, residents from the nearby New Edinburgh Square (NES) retirement residence had to be evacuated overnight. Some residents shared their memories of that experience:

Archie Bowen and his wife were having her birthday meal at Fraser Café. Archie calls a police cruiser and a fire truck pulling up in front of the restaurant. Officers came in. Was the retirement home threatened, they wondered? “We had seen a lot of smoke on our way to the restaurant,” he remembers. “It was a very exciting dinner. We hadn’t counted on the entertainment.” Shortly afterward, the Bowens moved into NES where their apartment afforded a sad view of the devastation just across the street.

“It happened so quickly,” recalls NES resident Deborah Sparks of Mar. 16, 2011. She remembers feeling a sense of concern when the amount of heavy and thick smoke continued to drift into the NES building. She was so appreciative of all the people who helped with the evacuation including all the NES staff, the fire department and The Good Companions. Miss Sparks still very much misses all the village-like stores, including the hardware, bakery, and ice cream shop. The eyesore of the building’s remains that remained for so long was always a sad reminder of what was lost. 

“We sure miss the convenience of those friendly little shops,” says Bob McLachlan, who in 2011 had been living for just over a year at NES with his wife Marg. Bob was at the dentist when Marg phoned with news of the fire. When the order came for all NES residents to be evacuated due to the fire’s toxic smoke, Bob, Marg and the little retirement community were soon being smoothly evacuated by bus to the safety of a staging facility nearby.

From there, they were quickly despatched to stay a few days with family, friends or at a local hotel. Bob recalls people scurrying in and out of the gallery at the corner of Beechwood and MacKay, carrying paintings to a waiting van. And there was a certain NES staff member, a server whom everyone called Big Sam, who greeted every arriving evacuee at the staging centre with a most enthusiastic hug. “Maybe it’s the sense of collective vulnerability, but people do seem to close ranks when they are threatened like that,” Bob recalls. ­

The day after the evacuation, resident Joyce Lowe returned a bit too early the day only to discover NES had not been cleared by the Fire Chief for the residents to return.  Happily, she found The Clocktower Pub was open! Joyce was deeply saddened by the loss of so many valuable small businesses in our community, but she continues to make a point to buy local and support our community.  –with files from Keith Newton and Catherine Scrivens-Bourque