Greystone Village is a 26-acre development project in the heart of Old Ottawa East between the Rideau Canal and the Rideau River. Settlement in the area, which used to be called Archville, goes back almost 200 years to when the Catholic monastic community, Les Oeuvres Oblates de l’Ontario, built the main building on the Édifice Deschâtelets land in 1885. This was three years before the Village of Ottawa East was incorporated.
Ottawa At Home chatted recently with Josh Kardish, Manager of Land Development at The Regional Group, about the historic land they purchased from the religious order. They are working with EQ Homes and architect Barry Hobin on the project and he discusses how the developers had a significant obligation to create something that would fit into the community and respect the land’s deep history.
HOW DID THE PROJECT PLAN COME TOGETHER? The Ottawa East Community Association and the previous landowners created and approved a Community Design Plan, with a list of objectives we used for the project. For example, there’s a maximum level of development and a maximum height of nine stories. The previous landowners were supportive of the retention of the building, Édifice Deschâtelets, and the tree-lined allée. And the Old Ottawa East Community Association especially wanted a plan with principles of environmental sustainability.
WHAT IS AN LEED-ND CANDIDATE COMMUNITY? It’s a rating system that moves beyond the environmental envelope of the home and looks at the sustainability at the community and neighbourhood design (ND) levels. For example, it looks at tree cover, storm water retention, connectivity of sidewalks, room for bicycles, and so on. Currently we are one of two LEED-ND communities in the city, Lansdowne is the other.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS TO REPLACE THE TREES YOU HAD TO REMOVE? There will be a major replanting and we’re making an incredible investment in trees and how they’re planted. We’ve devised a series of engineering solutions that allows us to get bigger, more robust trees with a greater canopy and additional barrier systems to protect the tree roots from the building foundations.
WHAT IS PLANNED FOR THE RIVERFRONT? The Rideau River Conservation Authority has been a great partner. They were involved in the site-design plan so we knew they wanted to keep that corridor completely natural – and that’s what we’re doing. But there were those who wanted to see the waterfront used and integrated into the development. That’s been the biggest single hurdle.
WAS THERE A LOT OF SOIL CLEANUP REQUIRED ON THE SITE? We’re a little past the halfway point on what is currently the largest approved brownfield remediation application in the history of the city of Ottawa. It’s a benign and inert chemical in the ground, but we needed to go through the process and we went in eyes-wide-open about the expense and the timeline. We’re proud that we’re using the backfill from the Confederation Line pit, which saved greenhouse gas emissions from trucking that out of the city.
WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR COMMERCIAL SPACE? We’ve planned for a base population to support existing commercial services. We’d like to find a grocer for the community, and perhaps a restaurant or pub. And we’ve had interest from coffee shops, doctors, dentists, and so on.
IS THERE A LOT OF WORK TO BRING SUCH AN HISTORICAL BUILDING UP TO DATE? The religious order had been there for over a century. It was an educational facility and monastic residence. The outside is designated heritage and will stay as is, but the inside will be taken down to studs and rebuilt. (Items of historical value, including the doors to the chapel, were already removed.) This was a building that was the centre of the community but few got to use it.
The plan right now – we have a letter of intent signed with the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation and we’re hoping to work with the City of Ottawa – is to repurpose the building and turn it into a public community centre, non-profit housing, and some space for the Sandy Hill Health Cooperative. These new community-anchored uses will carry the building for another century or more.