By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, February 2019)
Last month the city announced the John Howard Society as the winning bid for the supportive housing project planned for 289 Carling Ave. The site, which is currently a small parking lot at the corner of Carling Avenue and Bell Street South, has been a source of discussion and concern among much of the neighbouring community since its future as a location for supportive housing/housing for the homeless was made public in 2016.
Programs and services
For some, that feeling of concern continues. When many people think of the John Howard Society, they think of its work supporting men coming out of jail. However, the society also provides a wide range of programs and services to diverse client groups that include youth and adults, both men and women, from a wide cross-section of social, ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. In addition, the John Howard Society provides supportive housing to youth and adults, men and women (and their children) who have experienced homelessness. The latter issue – homelessness – will be the focus of this particular location, as its first priority will be to house homeless individuals living in a shelter, who are on the City of Ottawa’s housing priority list. They may also be drawn from other areas, such as other John Howard Society housing sites, or hospitals (as it’s expected that some residents will have mental health issues). The residence is also expected to be co-ed, and will include men and women aged 18 and older.
The intent will be to provide “longterm supportive housing” to these residents. The “supportive” part of that term refers to a team of people who will be on site to provide a variety of supports. This includes a residential manager who will be responsible for the overall management of the property and tenants, evening and overnight staff to ensure the safety and security of both the tenants and the community around the clock, as well as teachers, social workers, health workers and staff providing general counselling and recreational and leisure activities.
While the Request for Proposal envisaged that the building would have 40–60 units, this development comes in at the low end of the spectrum, with 11 one-bedroom units and 29 bachelor apartment units planned, for a total of 40 apartments. The building itself is divided into two sections – a six-storey tower and a three-storey podium. (It should be noted that the site, zoned as Arterial Main-street, actually allows for nine stories.) The apartments will be located in the tower, with communal amenity spaces and support services housed in the podium. In addition, the podium will house office staff for approximately 30–40 staff members (though not all will be on-site simultaneously), as the John Howard Society is planning to move their head office from their building on St. Patrick Street in Lowertown to this building. The top of the podium will provide outdoor amenity space in the form of a private terrace on the west side of the building (facing Bell Street South). There will be 29 parking spaces included in the development, with both at-grade and underground parking planned.
This early concept drawing is just a preliminary drawing. The design still needs to go to the Urban Design Review Panel, an independent advisory panel of volunteer professionals who provide feedback on the design, including factors such as character, architectural treatment, lighting, signage, servicing and sustainability or green technology considerations. The John Howard Society must also obtain site plan approval from the city prior to finalizing the design.
While the construction timeline still needs to be solidified and is subject to change, construction is expected to start later this year, likely in the summer or fall, with occupancy set for some time in 2021. Generally speaking, it will take approximately 18 months from the start of construction to residents moving in. There may be activity on the site earlier, however, as environmental remediation needs to take place prior to the start of construction.
For its part, the John Howard Society, while acknowledging there may be challenges in the local community’s acceptance of the project, is excited about finding a new home in the Glebe Annex. “We’re looking forward to meeting nearby residents to make our transition to this location as seamless as possible,” said Christine MacIntosh, the John Howard Society of Ottawa’s associate executive director. To that end, the society intends to undertake a community outreach campaign, which includes a public information session tentatively scheduled for early March.