Talks heat up on the future of Deschâtelets

By Don Stephenson

Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard convened an April 24th meeting to discuss options for the redevelopment of the heritage-designated Deschâtelets building, the former Oblate Fathers’ residence on Main Street.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the City of Ottawa recreation, heritage and land development divisions, the developers of Greystone Village, Ottawa Community Housing (OCH), the Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) and the Community Activities Group (CAG).

The participants shared a vision of mixed community uses of the building, which could include a community centre and community housing, in addition to the preservation of a heritage landmark and community green space.

One of the proposals for the Deschâtelets building would provide pedestrian access through the main entrance to connect to the river path. Image by Barry J. Hobin & Associates

One of the proposals for the Deschâtelets building would provide pedestrian access through the main entrance to connect to the river path. Image by Barry J. Hobin & Associates

The Regional Group, the current owners of the building, continued to welcome proposals for community use and pressed for early decisions by the possible partners in the project. City officials acknowledged both the need for indoor facilities in Old Ottawa East and the extraordinary opportunity represented by the Deschâtelets Building.

While noting that authority to participate in the project rests with City Council, city officials reported on the concrete steps being taken to design and identify funding sources for the community centre portion of the development.

These steps include a public notice to seek expressions of interest to supply land to the city for the development of a community centre, a procedure required to enter into formal discussions with developers.

The importance of increasing access to affordable housing in Old Ottawa East was underlined by OOECA, a view strongly supported by all organizations present. Stéphane Giguère, CEO of Ottawa Community Housing, expressed an interest in exploring options for partnership in the development as a possible equity partner.

David Kardish, Vice-President of The Regional Group, also advised the meeting of expressions of interest in the Deschâtelets building from two local school boards. OOECA and CAG met with representatives of one of the boards, the Conseil des Écoles Catholique du Centre-Est (CECCE), on May 2nd, to seek details of their intended use of the building. The representatives of the community were encouraged by those discussions, including the board’s vision for the preservation of green space and shared use of complementary facilities. CECCE was encouraged to consult further with the community, at a future meeting of OOECA, and undertook to meet with OCH to explore the possibility of integrating affordable housing into their project.

Councillor Menard undertook to reconvene the group in the next few weeks, with appropriate additions, with a view to reaching consensus on a partnership for community use of the building and an eventual recommendation to City Council. None of the participants in these discussions underestimated the challenges, but all were convinced of the rare opportunity represented by the Deschâtelets building to preserve our built heritage and create a vibrant community meeting place.

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