Blueprint for new downtown core in Barrhaven endorsed by City of Ottawa committee

A new proposed Barrhaven downtown secondary plan was presented to the City of Ottawa's planning committee on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. City of Ottawa

UPDATE: Ottawa city council unanimously approved the Barrhaven downtown secondary plan on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

Ottawa’s planning committee has endorsed a major refresh of the blueprint for Barrhaven’s town centre that envisions transforming the area into a proper, walkable downtown core with a civic and cultural centre at the heart of the community.

Right now, the town centre’s growth and development are driven by a 13-year-old community design plan and secondary plan. However, “a large portion” of the town centre remains underdeveloped and anchored by big box stores, despite the goals in those plans and “the rapid growth in the surrounding community,” a staff report to the planning committee noted.

“To date, there remains untapped potential of the town centre to be formed as a mixed-use, transit-oriented node for the Barrhaven community,” the report said.

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Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder says the suburb’s population is swelling and the community is ready for a developed downtown core, especially given the area will eventually be the intersection of two rapid-transit corridors.

“It’s a game changer to be approaching 100,000 people,” Harder said on Thursday.

Barrhaven is located southwest of Ottawa’s downtown core. The suburb’s town centre is 165 hectares of land bordered by Strandherd Drive to the north, Longfields Drive to the east, the Jock River to the south and the Kennedy-Burnett stormwater management facility to the west.

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Richcraft Homes and Minto Communities, two of the major landowners within Barrhaven’s downtown area, initiated the move to refresh the design plan at Harder’s request. Representatives for the two companies said they have consulted with residents, community associations, businesses and landowners on the new plan over the last two years.

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On Thursday, staff presented their proposed new Barrhaven downtown secondary plan to the planning committee. Under the proposed plan, the area north of Chapman Mills Drive would be a mixed-use neighbourhood, while the land sandwiched between the road and the Jock River would be predominantly residential.

The new proposed vision for Barrhaven’s town centre presented to the City of Ottawa’s planning committee on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. City of Ottawa

The plan proposes expanding the Strandherd retail district “to support the growing community.” Staff argued that commercial use of this land is more “suitable” in the short- and mid-term and that this land could be built up later if the market supports intensification.

The plan also proposes revitalizing Barrhaven’s road, cycling and pedestrian networks, creating more “complete streets” that “[reinforce] the pedestrian experience and improve the public realm.” Chapman Mills Drive — an arterial road set to be expanded west past Longfields Drive and serve as a main transitway through the town centre — would be “prioritized as a mixed-use corridor.”
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A civic complex — defined as a community square and “gathering space” — would be located off Chapman Mills Drive. Harder has suggested a performing arts or cultural centre be built there, saying her constituents have been asking when they will get their own Shenkman Arts Centre, referring to the creative hub in Orléans.

A rendering of what a proposed civic complex in Barrhaven’s future downtown core might look like in the winter time. Ottawa’s planning committee endorsed a new blueprint to guide the growth and development of Barrhaven’s town centre on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. NAK Design Strategies

Chapman Mills Drive would also feature an entryway to a linear park that connects to the large green space by the Jock River, which has been proposed as a district park and “transition” from the town centre to Barrhaven’s south end.

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The plan also proposes adjusting density targets and rejigging minimum and maximum building heights for designated land parcels within the town centre. Height limits would range from a minimum of two storeys to a maximum of 30 storeys, depending on “proximity to transit, compatibility and transition.”

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Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper said he thinks the secondary plan proposes the “right direction for Barrhaven” but called the expansion of retail space “a big red flag” for him. He questioned opening more room for “large format” stories when the ultimate goal is a compact, walkable, transit-oriented town centre.

Paul Black of consulting firm Fotenn Planning and Design said demand for retail is increasing in Barrhaven, and this development approach protects the land for long-term growth.

“If we were to develop the lands as purely residential, intensification is more difficult at a larger scale,” he said. “The retail areas, in the short term, they respond to the needs of the community while over [the] long term, they provide opportunities for intensification and growth around the transit stations.”

Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan expressed concern about how parking fits into the new vision given the plan’s goals to increase density and spur job growth in Barrhaven.

City planner Sean Moore said the plan doesn’t propose reducing parking and that the city would require future development applications to include underground parking.

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The planning committee on Thursday approved amending the city’s official plan — its master blueprint for growth — with the new secondary plan for Barrhaven’s town centre and repealing the current South Nepean town centre community design plan and secondary plan.

The proposed new Barrhaven downtown secondary plan still needs approval from Ottawa city council.

A map of the cycling network plan proposed in the new Barrhaven downtown secondary plan, which was presented to the City of Ottawa’s planning committee on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. City of Ottawa

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