Developer's 'social contract' unsigned as Heron Gate approval looms

·3 min read
Hazelview, formerly known as Timbercreek, proposes keeping just five existing buildings at Heron Gate, including three highrises seen here. All lowrise buildings are to eventually be demolished to make way for new buildings and a city park. (Kate Porter/CBC - image credit)
Hazelview, formerly known as Timbercreek, proposes keeping just five existing buildings at Heron Gate, including three highrises seen here. All lowrise buildings are to eventually be demolished to make way for new buildings and a city park. (Kate Porter/CBC - image credit)

With just weeks to go before plans for the redevelopment of Ottawa's Heron Gate community head to city hall for approval, advocates for tenants facing eviction say the developer has yet to sign a "social contract" with the city.

The legally binding agreement between the city and Hazelview Investments, previously known as Timbercreek, would be a first in Ottawa, and would tie the developer to five community commitments.

For advocacy group ACORN, the most important of those is a promise not to demolish any more units until tenants can be rehoused in new units at the same rent.

Hazelview has to sign on the dotted line. - Alta Vista Coun. Jean Cloutier

A second commitment would see 20 per cent affordable housing in a redeveloped Heron Gate, though ACORN would like to see 35 per cent.

"People don't trust Timbercreek now because of what has happened in the past," said ACORN advocate Mavis Finnamore.

Mavis Finnamore lived in Heron Gate for 30 years before her rented townhouse was demolished to make room for a trio of six-storey buildings. She continues to advocate for her old community through ACORN.
Mavis Finnamore lived in Heron Gate for 30 years before her rented townhouse was demolished to make room for a trio of six-storey buildings. She continues to advocate for her old community through ACORN.(Kate Porter, CBC)

Vote approaching

Heron Gate residents have been forced to leave their affordable units in two mass evictions. Finnamore had to move after receiving her notice back in 2015, but has continued to fight for those who remain.

She'll take part in a noon-hour rally on Saturday to push for the social contract to become part of any planning committee approval.

Alta Vista Coun. Jean Cloutier said the evictions were traumatic for residents, and he wants to keep the community as intact as possible.

"Hazelview has to sign on the dotted line. Hazelview has to commit to those affordable housing units in Heron Gate, and they have to do so now," said Cloutier.

Cloutier said he has slideshows and notes from community meetings over the past two years in which Hazelview made promises, but he has yet to see a final, legally binding document.

The five social commitments presented by Hazelview during a public meeting in March.
The five social commitments presented by Hazelview during a public meeting in March.(City of Ottawa)

Time is getting tight. The vision for Heron Gate's redevelopment could land at Ottawa's planning committee on June 24 or July 8.

"We continue to work earnestly with the City of Ottawa to finalize the details of the Heron Gate master plan along with a social framework that meets the current and future needs of the community, the city and Hazelview," said Colleen Krempulec, Hazelview's vice-president of brand marketing and corporate social responsibility.

"We are invested in this neighbourhood and remain committed to supporting a sustainable, affordable and diverse community that supports the long term viability of Heron Gate."

Social contract a roadmap to follow

"The social contract is a big ask. It is groundbreaking. It is far-reaching. I understand that," said Cloutier. But he points out Hazelview is asking the city for significant changes to allow more than 50 new buildings and 6,400 new residential units at Heron Gate.

The contract, which would commit Hazelview to build affordable housing with large family units, provide training opportunities for residents and include green space in its plans, could become a roadmap for other developments to follow, Cloutier said.

Finnamore said she also hopes Heron Gate can set a precedent for other areas, such as homes near Woodroffe Avenue "facing knockdown and development" when Stage 3 of light rail is built.

"Nobody wants to be out there tenting in the park," she said.

Hazelview has changed the proposed heights of buildings at Heron Gate from its original 25-year plan presented in 2019, which included a 40-storey tower. The tallest are now 25- and 26-storey buildings along Walkley Road.
Hazelview has changed the proposed heights of buildings at Heron Gate from its original 25-year plan presented in 2019, which included a 40-storey tower. The tallest are now 25- and 26-storey buildings along Walkley Road.(Hazelview)
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