Business leaders form part of new task force looking at ways to revitalize downtown core

downtown ottawa

A Downtown Ottawa Revitalization Task Force has been struck to tackle the challenges facing the city’s core.

The task force, announced today by Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi, brings together community and business representatives to propose creative ideas for Ottawa’s downtown core, post-pandemic.

“We need to take a deep look at the future of downtown Ottawa with all relevant and interested voices around the table,” said Naqvi in a news release. “With the continuation of hybrid working arrangements and the need for more affordable housing in the area, it is important to create a space for people with diverse backgrounds and expertise to come together to develop new ideas and strategies to reimagine the downtown of Canada’s capital city.”

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As a result of the pandemic, downtown Ottawa has changed significantly over the past two years, in large part because downtown office workers from communities across the region have changed their commuting habits. Statistics Canada estimates that 46 per cent of Ottawa’s workforce is still working from home. Elsewhere in the country, that rate is roughly 28 per cent. This has had a significant impact on businesses in the core that rely on daily foot traffic. 

In addition, demand for office space has remained between half and two-thirds of the pre-pandemic rate, according to the VTS Office Demand Index.

The task force includes social housing advocates, not-for-profit and for-profit housing developers, Indigenous leaders, sustainability advocates, local business improvement area representatives, and tourism stakeholders. 

“The creation of this task force comes at the perfect time,” said Neil Malhotra, vice-president of Claridge Homes and co-chair of the task force. “We need to build consensus on a way to move forward to bring activity back to Canada’s national capital and we’re all excited to see what we can come up with as a group representing many different voices within our community.”

The task force will study challenges to affordable, accessible housing in the area, reinvigorate local businesses by catalyzing the return of residents and tourists, provide ideas for a more sustainable environment and more inclusive community spaces that promote Indigenous reconciliation.

“Downtown Ottawa needs more affordable and social housing,” says Graeme Hussey, president of the not-for-profit housing developer Cahdco and co-chair of the task force. “With federal government employees and other office workers remaining at home, the time is right to evaluate what else can be done with all of this empty office space.”

The task force will begin meeting in August and continue over the next several months. Its recommendations will be shared with federal and municipal governments.

The task force members are:
  • Graeme Hussey, President of Cahdco (Co-Chair)
  • Neil Malhotra, Vice-President, Claridge Homes (Co-Chair)
  • A representative from the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition
  • Mary Huang, President, Centretown Community Association
  • Sueling Ching, President and CEO, Ottawa Board of Trade
  • Christine Leadman, Executive Director, Bank Street BIA
  • Kevin McHale, Executive Director, Sparks Street BIA
  • Catherine Callary, Vice-President of Destination Development, Ottawa Tourism
  • John Thomas, Founder, Azure Urban Developments
  • Christophe Rivet, Director – Strategies, EVOQ Strategies
  • Catherine McKenney, Councillor, Somerset Ward (Observer)
  • Mathieu Fleury, Councillor, Rideau-Vanier Ward (Observer)
  • A representative from the City of Ottawa Mayor’s Office (Observer)

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