Ottawa Citizen: Developer commits to ‘anti-displacement’ in major transformation eyed for Manor Park rental community
Posted April 12, 2021
Posted April 12, 2021
A developer is proposing a major transformation of a Manor Park community where there are hundreds of affordable rental units, but instead of drawing backlash the company is being credited for listening to residents’ concerns early in the planning process.
Lalit Aggarwal, president of Manor Park Management, said the time was right to submit the development vision to city hall, with the municipal government considering a new official plan and the units in the company’s Manor Park Estates deteriorating.
Aggarwal said he knows there’s been anxiety in the community over an impression that demolition and construction are imminent.
“It couldn’t be further from the truth,” Aggarwal said in an interview.
The Aggarwal family has owned the 35 acres of Manor Park Estates along St. Laurent Boulevard, north of Montreal Road, for about 30 years. The family’s vision would turn the Estates community — which is made up of Manor Park Gardens near Hemlock Road and Manor Park Heights along Brittany Drive — into a redesigned mixed-use neighbourhood.
There are about 650 townhomes on the properties and they are more than 60 years old.
The redevelopment vision calls for 4,061 units to replace the aging housing stock by building apartment buildings of varying heights and some townhouses, plus new retail spaces and parks.
The proposed master plan and official plan amendment recently filed at city hall is the start of a project that could take 25 years to play out.
Aggarwal calls it a “25-year conversation.”
“I’m trying to be true to consultation, to process and to input because I don’t have all the answers,” Aggarwal said.
Central to the positive response Aggarwal has been receiving so far is his commitment that no tenant will be left without an affordable home because of the company’s redevelopment plans.
“I couldn’t sleep at night if people thought I was displacing people for profit. That’s not our value system,” Aggarwal said. “I’m trying to earn trust.”
Another developer, Timbercreek, ran into controversy after proposing a major redevelopment of an affordable housing community in Heron Gate through a similar process, which has included public consultations, but also evictions.
Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King said his office met with the Aggarwal and the community association before the COVID-19 pandemic to discuss long-term planning for the community.
“One of the key things, since they’re a major landholder, is ensuring people will not be displaced. They were very committed to that,” King said.
“They made it very clear this would not be a Timbercreek scenario. They’re going to ensure that, when construction does occur, people will have homes within (the developer’s) portfolio or they would make other arrangements.”
An update to the city’s official plan, which is calling for more intensification in established communities, is an important factor in the future of the Manor Park redevelopment.
Aggarwal said if Manor Park is going to welcome more residents one day, the city should know now what kind of infrastructure will be required, such as the size of pipes for drinking water and the kind of public transit appropriate for Montreal Road.
King said master planning exercises with input from residents are critical to for creating “more rational” development.
The Manor Park project is one of several master planning opportunities in Rideau-Rockcliffe ward.
King said Ottawa Community Housing assets in the Overbrook community are also approaching the end of their lives, plus the city is looking at future development opportunities at the baseball stadium on Coventry Road. All of that follows another major residential infill development in his ward at the former Rockcliffe military base.
Elizabeth McAllister, president of the Manor Park Community Association, said the development vision for Manor Park Estates would “dramatically change the densification” of the area.
The community association might have some disagreements about usual development issues, like the height of buildings, but it sees potential to work with the developer on shaping the vision.
McAllister credited Aggarwal with engaging with the community association early, considering the necessary “social infrastructure” between buildings and talking with people to understand their visions for the neighbourhood.
Aggarwal said a consultant on his project team is phoning every tenant to collect feedback.
Still, Aggarwal will need to reassure some residents that he’ll honour his commitment to make sure tenants have affordable homes when construction begins. Some tenants have been renting there for 40 years.
Aggarwal said monthly rents at Manor Park Estates are currently about $900-$1,100 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,100-$1,300 for a two-bedroom unit.
Suzanne Starkings, a member of social-justice organization ACORN who lives in Manor Park, said she delivered about 400 flyers to residents of Manor Park Estates last month warning them about “demoviction” in light of plans proposing to replace existing homes.
Starkings said ACORN and residents of the community want more details about what Aggarwal means when he commits to keeping rents affordable in new development.
ACORN wants the city to adopt an anti-displacement policy — something that Aggarwal said he supports — so that tenants still have access to affordable housing in cases where the landlord redevelops a property.
“No one should be priced out of their neighbourhoods,” Starkings said.
Article by Jon Willing for the Ottawa Citizen