Residents living near the site of the 2011 Beechwood Avenue fire have made it loud and clear to the firm redeveloping the site that they want their shopping district restored.
For nearly two years since fire devastated the site, area residents have been struck by the loss of retailers along the main street strip. A local food service, a watch repair shop, dry cleaners, barber shop, diner and a Home Hardware outlet were all destroyed in the blaze.
Now, as the Minto Group prepares to develop on the site, residents are calling for the return of retail to the area, making their views known during an event where preliminary plans for 7-23 Beechwood Ave., 409-411 McKay St. were presented at a New Edinburgh Community Alliance-hosted event on Jan. 16.
“It would be great to have a higher number of retail spaces,” said Tobi Nussbaum, a facilitator for the meeting. “Try and come up with a retail plan and create one that reflects the community’s needs.”
Suggestions included expanding retail to McKay Street, having many small, independent shops with reasonable rent.
Another resident described it as the community’s “essential needs.”
The meeting invited residents to hear from Minto representatives in what the community alliance described as a friendly and open environment. The event featured both a presentation from Minto and a working discussion where participants could share their views.
The design features an eight-storey, mixed-use development with retail planned for the Beechwood Avenue frontage, an open courtyard planned for the corner of Beechwood and McKay, with residential use for the McKay frontage. Preliminary plans predict 157 residential units and 188 parking spaces, with some surface parking at the rear of the building for the retail stores, accessed via McKay Street.
The building is envisioned as a glass and concrete structure, stepping back from the street at five storeys to give the appearance of a smaller building.
Architect Prishram Jain, from the Toronto firm TACT Architecture Inc., said he used the neighbourhood’s existing community design plan as a guideline.
“I think it was a fantastic document and wish more communities had this type of document to follow,” Jain said.
As the view from Beechwood Cemetery to Parliament Hill needs to be unimpeded, Jain said his initial plans to build a 10-storey building were scrapped.
“This building in no way affects the view,” he said.
For some residents, however, the glass design was unattractive.
“This looks like a Toronto building being placed in an Ottawa neighbourhood,” said Gemma Kerr, one of the working discussion participants.
Other commenters called for red brick to be used, as was a feature of the former structure. Delivery for the retail stores, traffic congestion and parking access were also raised as concerns.
David Sacks, president of the New Edinburgh Community Alliance, said the meeting was meant to compile all of those concerns into one report to hand over to Minto for further discussion.
Brent Strachan, vice president of development at Minto, agreed to remain active with the community during the planning and development stage.
“We will keep this dialogue open,” he said.
The report will be made available on New Edinburgh Community Alliance’s website at www.newendinburgh.ca before February. Full design plans and details are available on the city’s website at www.ottawa.ca. Comments concerning the design must be made before Feb. 4. Another city-planned meeting is scheduled to be held this winter.