Canada’s First Official Downtown EcoDistrict Approved by City Council

Written by Monica Wu

The Nation’s Capital came one step closer to fulfilling its green vision on Wednesday October 9th, following City Council approval to develop and implement a Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan for the Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict (OCED) area.

Crucially, the carried proposal helped to secure the $20,000 needed to spearhead the project from Invest Ottawa, a municipally funded economic development agency. In addition, Council agreed to endorse the project’s application for a grant of up to $100,000 through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FMC) Green Building Fund.

The OCED is a non-profit organization that aims to revitalize Ottawa’s downtown core by making it more sustainable and economically competitive through design and practice. By placing emphasis on a more holistic, stakeholder-based approach, the organization hopes to bring long-term growth and prosperity to the region while developing the area as a green commercial space. The timing of the project comes as several departments of the federal government are vacating from the city center in favour of suburban areas.

The group’s Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan (SNAP) will focus on three main development goals: advancing sustainable business practices, adopting collaborative, innovative infrastructure, and initiating community action and training programs (Document 1). Together, these initiatives will play a key role in transforming the downtown area’s streets and spaces while significantly reducing Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions.

If approved, the FCM funding (Document 2) will be used towards “research, engagement, planning, and initial program implementation”. This includes economic and environmental analyses of key initiatives and approaches, visioning workshops with residents and stakeholders, and development of assessment and monitoring mechanisms.

Numerous interest groups have already expressed their support (Document 3) for the OCED including the National Capital Commission, Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, as well as members of all three levels of government. As a proud partner of the OCED, Ecology Ottawa is pleased with the City’s efforts in encouraging clean, smart growth, and hopes that it will continue to work closely with the organization moving forward.

While boundaries have yet to be officially established, the proposed OCED area will border the Rideau Canal to the east, Bronson Avenue to the west, Lisgar to the south and the Ottawa River to the north. The project is anticipated to begin in March 2014 and finish by June 2016.

The EcoDistricts movement began as a fairly recent phenomenon in Portland, Oregon and has since spread to several major metropolises including Washington DC, Stockholm, and London (UK). In Canada, a similar project is underway at Pearson Eco-Business Zone near the Toronto Airport, however Ottawa is the first city in Canada to officially create an EcoDistrict in a downtown urban area.

Councillor D. Holmes, who represents Somerset ward, receives a Thumbs Up from Ecology Ottawa for her remarks to Council in support of the OCED project. Additionally, members of City Council*  (Mayor Jim Watson, Councillors S. Moffatt, E. El-Chantiry, R.Bloess, D. Chernushenko, S. Blais, S. Desroches, J. Harder, M. Wilkinson, M. Fleury, S. Qadri, K. Hobbs, T. Tierney, D. Holmes, P. Clark, R. Chiarelli, D. Deans, K. Egli, P. Hume, B. Monette, M. Taylor, D. Thompson) receive a Thumbs Up for passing this motion, with the exception of Councillor A. Hubley, who receives a Thumbs Down as the sole vote of dissent.

* Absent: Councillor M. McRae

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