25-year plan for Little Italy one step closer to reality

·4 min read
A file photo of traffic on Preston Street in Ottawa's Little Italy district at night. An ambitious vision to develop this area over the next couple of decades is one step closer to reality. (CBC - image credit)
A file photo of traffic on Preston Street in Ottawa's Little Italy district at night. An ambitious vision to develop this area over the next couple of decades is one step closer to reality. (CBC - image credit)

An ambitious vision to develop Ottawa's Little Italy district over the next couple of decades moved one step closer to reality Thursday.

Council's planning committee unanimously approved the long-range development blueprint for the Corso Italia Station District — as Little Italy is now being called in official city parlance — that envisions 7,000 new residential units in buildings that will range from four to 30 storeys in the area around the Trillium Line LRT station currently under construction.

The district is located generally bordered by Somerset Street to the north, Highway 417 to the south, Breezehill Avenue to the west and Booth Street to the east. Like most new urban plans, this one calls for increased density, and promises to maintain Preston Street, Gladstone Avenue and Somerset Street West as "traditional mainstreets" with maximum heights of six storeys.

One of the special features of the district is Gladstone Village — a new 1,110-unit development being planned by Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) that combines mixed-income and private and public housing, where at least half the units are expected to be deemed affordable.

The first phase of Gladstone Village is expected to be started later this year, with the expectation that 340 OCH units would be ready to be occupied by late 2025.

The first phase of Gladstone Village, pictured here, is expected to be started later this year, with the expectation that 340 Ottawa Community Housing units would be ready to be occupied by late 2025.
The first phase of Gladstone Village, pictured here, is expected to be started later this year, with the expectation that 340 Ottawa Community Housing units would be ready to be occupied by late 2025.

City purchase of property 'a rare opportunity'

The development of the community plan was originally started in 2013, but was put on hold in 2015 when the federal government decided to sell off the former Plouffe Park warehouse in the middle of the district.

Part of the property was purchased by OCH in 2017 for Gladstone Village for $7 million.

And on Tuesday, the finance and economic development committee will vote to purchase the lands at 1010 Somerset St., which will be used to expand Plouffe Park to one hectare — a hugely popular proposal as the area is starved for green space — and a possible expansion of the Plant Recreation Centre.

On Tuesday, the finance and economic development committee will vote to purchase the lands at 1010 Somerset St., which will be used for a one-hectare public park.
On Tuesday, the finance and economic development committee will vote to purchase the lands at 1010 Somerset St., which will be used for a one-hectare public park.

This land, together with the property purchased for the Gladstone Village, "presents a rare opportunity for the City and OCH to create a legacy development project," according to the staff report.

The plan also includes the possibility of a French-language public school, and the Algonquins of Ontario have expressed interest in being involved in the project in order to provide space for Algonquin artists, employment and economic development opportunities for Indigenous people, as well as youth mentorship and job skills development.

"The notion that we're going to get a real park … is significant in terms of its impact on the downtown and on the green space available for us and for everyone in the downtown," said local area Coun. Catherine McKenney. "This is the type of community that we need to be building everywhere in this city."

Little opposition at meeting

Only two public delegates spoke against the Corso Italian Station District plan, including representatives of Canadian Bank Note.

The company has a facility on Gladstone Avenue, and the owners are concerned that the future development of the area will change the rules around allowable levels of noise, which could cost Canadian Bank Note millions.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, who represents the Little Italy area and is council's liaison on housing and homelessness, says this is the sort of community that should be in every part of Ottawa.
Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, who represents the Little Italy area and is council's liaison on housing and homelessness, says this is the sort of community that should be in every part of Ottawa.

"We're in the process right now of trying to re-engineer our HVAC system at a significant cost," the company's vice-president Gordon McKechnie told the committee. "If this [process] had been done in a different way with compliance with the city's own rules, we wouldn't be here today. And that's why I am upset."

However, city staff assured him that any noise mitigation measures imposed on the company — which has been there for years — would be covered by whoever was building the new development, even if the developer is OCH.