A healthy community has to be safe, to offer all needed services and to support its residents and its businesses in ways to help them work together. In the case of Lowertown, it also must provide attractive products for tourists and it should be home for a diversity of retailers, restaurateurs and public institutions.
Lowertown is being undermined by the concentration of services for the homeless; the illicit drug trade; a high incidence of crime; the truck route through its centre; the proliferation of bars; and the failure to protect its built heritage. Lowertown is on the road to becoming the “Lower East Side” of Ottawa. Tourists are already being advised to stay away.
Recent examples of the thinking from the city illustrate how lost we are.
The new draft Official Plan for the city makes no commitment to deal with the truck route through Lowertown, and it would create a special district for the ByWard Market focused on patios, large-scale public events and a party culture.
By creating large patio zones available free to the private business owners, the city is basically favouring bars and restaurants and undermining small retailers who don’t need patio space. Good downtown communities are diverse; they are not entertainment zones or the preferred destination for all the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.
Here is what the city, the province and the federal government should do to save Lowertown:
• Establish a vision and a governance model for ByWard that balances the interests of businesses, residents and institutions.
This content was originally published here.