Sunday, June 16, 2024

Pellerin: Carlingwood Mall could be a perfect community hub

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I urge the new owners to follow the successful examples in Quebec City and create an affordable, accessible 15-minute neighbourhood.

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When someone buys a shopping mall, it makes the news. No doubt some in Ottawa will be upset by the sale of Carlingwood Shopping Centre to a pair of real estate investors. I see it as a great opportunity to build a complete community in an area perfectly suited for such a development … provided the new owners get it right.

Below are my not-so-humble suggestions for their project.

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A complete community is one that fulfils the needs of residents to live, work, shop and access services in close proximity. You can call that a 15-minute neighbourhood, too.

Anthem Properties Group of Vancouver and Streamliner Properties of Toronto have partnered to acquire the 632,700-sq.-ft. property at the corner of Carling and Woodroffe avenues, which boasts a massive Canadian Tire — and a lot of parking.

The mall, which opened in 1956, has 90 stores and service providers, including a Loblaws, a gym, a few banks, a charming Coles bookstore staffed with wonderfully knowledgeable book-loving employees whom I hope will get to stay in their jobs, a dollar store and various other outlets.

It’s serviced by transit, near a public library, good schools and professional offices. It’s also home to at least one social-walking club for seniors in the winter so they have a safe, and warm, place to exercise and yammer.

My attentive reader may remember the Quebec City mall-redevelopment story I wrote about last winter. The firm behind that project is also busy planning the redevelopment of two smaller Quebec City malls.

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One, Place Quatre-Bourgeois, is in Ste-Foy and the other, Galeries Charlesbourg, is in the suburb of the same name. Both buildings are about one-third the size of Carlingwood, and plans for their redevelopment include a whole bunch of housing — of which a significant portion is affordable, plus another 10 per cent that’s accessible. Oh, and they’re not just two-bedrooms-plus-dens. There are larger units for families.

That’s something Bay Ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh would very much like to see at Carlingwood. “It’s really hard for families to live in that neighbourhood unless they bought a house 25 years ago,” she says. She would like to see 15 per cent of new units be affordable and, as chair of Ottawa Community Housing, she looks forward to working with the new owners on this project.

Wide consultations are key to success, Quebec City’s William Trudel, CEO of Trudel Innovation, told me last winter. Consultation “may appear costly upfront, but it helps design the best possible project, smoothes discussions with elected officials and shows respect for the community.”

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The new Carlingwood owners haven’t publicized their plans as far as I can tell but I, for one, urge them to follow successful examples such as the ones in Quebec City and redesign the space to be a “city within the city” that is affordable, accessible and conducive to human happiness. This means lots of greenery, shops with a “main street” feel, spaces for people (very much including teenagers who never have fun places to go unless they are old enough to drive), easy access to transit and if they really want to hit the jackpot with their municipal councillor, a bike path, too.

Kavanagh says she’s encouraged that one of the new owners, Alan Greenberg, grew up in the area and appears to lean green in his business dealings. Carlingwood needs some green love, she insists, noting that “the bar is low. It’s all asphalt.”

“To say I am excited to provide my years of leadership in both real estate and green technology to a development of this scope and substance, is an understatement,” Greenberg told the media. “Our aim is to create prime urban communities where people live, work and play.”

I’m excited, too, to see this space turned into something that will make Ottawa feel like a home, not a parking lot. Welcome, new owners. I look forward to the consultations.

Brigitte Pellerin (they/them) is an Ottawa writer.

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