ASH’s Response to the University of Ottawa’s Letter Regarding the RFI

Subject: Re: Action Sandy Hill – University of Ottawa
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2013 00:31:19 -0400
From: Robert Forbes
To: Marc Joyal
CC: ASH Board, Michel Guilbeault, Vice-Recteur Ressources

Dear M. Joyal,

Thank you for your recent letter.  We welcome your ongoing dialogue with us on this subject.

As you must know from the reaction to your announcement on June 27th and subsequent discussions, there is enormous concern and disappointment among the residents of Sandy Hill that the University is not stressing on-campus residences, either on its established campus or on the significant lands that the University has recently acquired to the south.  The university campus is built adjacent to two transitway stations, soon to be Light Rail; restricting any search to being a short walk away is to ignore the benefits of the LRT system now underway, which includes a direct connection between the Lees and main campuses.

Given the significant growth in the University’s student population, we welcome the construction of additional residences. Sandy Hill has absorbed a disproportionate amount of the impact of this growth. However, we strongly disagree with the RFI process that your letter mentions, requesting proposals from potential developers with no guiding principles and no guarantees of being on campus.
The proposed residence on Henderson Avenue is also clearly off campus and will have a detrimental effect on it as a street for families, including co-operative housing. Many Sandy Hill residents remember the U of O’s commitments to preserve Henderson and the neighbourhood east of it as residential.  In return, ASH supported rezoning the east side of King Edward to ‘institutional’.

We are also concerned that no mention is made in your letter about the impact on the community of the University’s proposed expansions.

As part of this continuing dialogue we have some specific questions about the University’s strategy:
1.    Given the community’s interest in on-campus housing, what are the university’s plans for future residences on campus?
2.    Why is the University not increasing density on its current land, much of which is underused?
3.    What are the University’s intentions regarding the boundaries of its campus? We would like you to be aware that the Sandy Hill community does not support any expansion of the University into residential Sandy Hill.
4.    What specific area does a “10-minute walk from campus” mean?  Is that from any edge of campus or from Tabaret Hall, for example?

We also have several questions about the University’s view of its place in the community:
5.    Does the University of Ottawa consider itself to be part of the Sandy Hill community and if so, what mechanisms are in place to ensure that the community is an integral part of visioning and planning?
6.    Has the University done any studies on how other universities in North America, located in historical areas, value and help preserve their surrounding neighbourhoods?
7.    Does the University see Sandy Hill’s preservation as a diverse, heritage community as an added value for the University? If so, what aspects of Sandy Hill does the University want to preserve?
And some questions about the proposed partnership with the private sector:
8.    What sort of partnership is planned and for how long?
9.    What guarantees will there be for the University to continue to maintain new residences and not turn them over to the private sector at a later date?
10.    What locations have been proposed for conversion by private developers so far?
11.    What limits on height and size of new buildings do you envision?

A university will not need any lessons in history, but in the mid 19th century Sandy Hill was developed as the first suburb of Ottawa around the same time as the University of Ottawa was established. We have therefore lived together harmoniously for 150 years.  Sandy Hill residents therefore expect to be part of the discussion before any developers are brought in.

ASH is looking forward to your response to our questions.  Following this we are very interested in meeting with you and Mr. Rock at your earliest convenience.  I should note that in a very recent discussion with our MPP, Mme Meilleur, Alan Rock stated that he prefers on-campus residences.

ASH and the residents of Sandy Hill have a very strong vision of our community as one with a rich built heritage, a wide diversity of residents and beautiful green spaces – one with enormous potential and which the University will see as an asset.  We want Sandy Hill to thrive as a diverse community where families will want to live. ASH is actively carrying out its own discussions on the above questions and is looking forward to presenting its own vision of Sandy Hill.  In the spirit of our long collaboration we ask you not to issue this RFI until we have worked together to answer these fundamental questions and have appropriately defined the scope of the request.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Forbes, MASc

Action Sandy Hill |Action Côte de Sable
250 Somerset Street East | 250, rue Somerset Est
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6V6

ASH Response to Univ of Ottawa 11-Aug-2013