Vicky Smallman
Shaping Kitchissippi With You

2006 Ottawa Municipal Election
Ottawa Council • Ward 15

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Future of Wellington Street rests in residents' hands

NewsWest, Pg. 15 - May 25, 2006
By Maureen Keenan

"Here is our chance to actually build rather than fight something, and I think that is what people are excited about," said Vicky Smallman, loyal Kitchissippi resident and a director with Creative Neighbourhoods, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping communities promote creative use of public spaces.

The "what" that people are excited about is having a say in the future of Wellington Street, which will be getting some long-awaited attention from the city. Council has approved funding for a community design plan as well as for road reconstruction for the main street between the 0-train tracks and Western Avenue. The street will be going through some rough times while it is ripped up to have water and sewer lines replaced, but both projects will happen concurrently. Community activists view the two initiatives as an opportunity to rethink and revamp Wellington into a main street to be envied.

Working the strings behind the city processes is Creative Neighbourhoods. Under the project name, Wellington Street Works, they-along with local businesses and community groups-have already started working the lines.

"Because we have been organized locally we have been able to influence the city's process by making sure the road reconstruction does not happen before the community design plan is finished, which is not what happened in Westboro," said Smallman. Although Wellington Street Works actually got its start before the community knew a design plan was on the horizon, membership in Creative Neighbourhoods has increased significantly as residents become more interested in influencing the outcome of the 20-year vision for development.

Residents are being encouraged to get their creative planning juices flowing by marking in their ideas on a map of the Wellington Street area. Inked suggestions have ranged from wider sidewalks to community gardens to a sculpture park.

"I think people who live or visit this area are looking for a creative, constructive way to contribute to the future of the neighbourhood. People care a lot about this area and I think having a positive thing to do captures people," said Smallman.

The job of Wellington Street Works is to ensure that the ideas make it into the community design plan. "Having several community and business associations as well as engaged individuals speak with a common voice or to common concerns creates political pressure ...and makes it difficult for the city to do something contrary to what the community has said it wants."

According to Smallman most people involved in the organization believe in a walkable community with a diversity of small businesses, plenty of greenspace and usable public spaces, but a vision for the Wellington Street area will result from what residents have to say. "People have very concrete ideas about what they'd like to see happen, they just aren't ever asked."

Smallman said that while it doesn't seem like rocket science to ensure that the process happens in a way that fits with the community's priorities, it does take effort and motivation for it to be successful and the hope is that the design plan for Wellington Street will be a model for other community design plans.

Anyone wanting to be part of the vision can send an e-mail to info@creativenieghbourhoods.ca.

For those wanting to inscribe their suggestions in Magic Marker, the map of Wellington Street will be making its next appearance at the Hintonburg Community Day on June 3 at the Hintonburg Community Centre.

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