Buckles: An embassy row along the Ottawa River is a very bad idea

By Daniel Buckles, Ottawa Citizen, January 25, 2021

is faced with a serious decision regarding housing for its urbanizing population. Having declared a “Housing and Homelessness Emergency” on Jan. 22, 2020, as a city we have continued to build mostly condos and single-family dwellings. Clearly these are the most profitable building forms, representing the traditional aspirations of relatively wealthy families and aging couples. They are also the easiest for builders, repeatable in virtually any location with architectural details added here and there to mimic art.

(...)It involves an application by the NCC to the City of Ottawa calling for an amendment to the current Official Plan to allow the development of embassies along the Ottawa River near the north end of Parkdale Avenue in Kitchissippi Ward. The 3.7-hectare site is literally a stone’s throw from the Ottawa River’s Lazy Bay and the Lemieux Water Treatment Plant.

The plan is bad for two reasons. First, it is tone-deaf to the desperate need for progressive and aggressive housing action in Ottawa. It was only in November, 2019 that the NCC and the city forced the eviction near the Bayview LRT station of 20 people made homeless months earlier by a rooming house fire. Meanwhile, plans to redevelop the federal government’s Tunney’s Pasture and city-owned industrial lands around Bayview Yards are barely crawling along. By contrast, approvals for new 31-story condo towers on private property along Parkdale, and near to the proposed Embassy Road, are quickly moving forward.

As Kitchissippi Ward Coun. Jeff Leiper noted in a recent newsletter, “While the City and NCC’s plans have for several years anticipated the kind of development now being proposed, we have an opportunity to take a pause and consider whether this is the right use for this valuable parcel so close to the best transportation infrastructure in the city.”

Second, the land is an important fragment of the Ottawa River’s ecological services offered to people free and potentially in perpetuity by nature. Local residents have documented approximately 130 trees on the property, including several large, healthy middle-aged examples of Red Oak and Tamarack. Some 63 bird species have been documented there, a sign of why the NCC partnered with Birds International to declare the broader riverside lands an internationally significant bird migratory route. Last spring, the NCC roped off part of the area to keep people from harassing a rare nesting owl. A Peregrine Falcon nesting in one of Tunney’s towers also frequents the site.


Connect with us