Downtown Ottawa Action Plan, to debut next week, draws on findings from Canadian Urban Institute

downtown ottawa
Photo by Sarah MacFarlane

At a city-building summit next week, the Ottawa Board of Trade will present a new “Downtown Ottawa Action Plan,” based on findings from the Downtown Ottawa Revitalization Task Force, launched in 2022, and on recommendations from the Canadian Urban Institute and its president and CEO Mary Rowe.

The invite-only summit on Nov. 23 gathers approximately 75 local stakeholders and community leaders at Bayview Yards to review the plan and the recommendations it contains for every level of government so OBOT can “solicit and validate (the plan) for additional feedback,” OBOT president and CEO Sueling Ching told OBJ.

“The plan will have immediate, medium- and long-term recommendations, from the time of the summit onward to the finalization, and we will be integrating the feedback we receive at the summit and fine-tuning the recommendations, including accountability and performance measures,” said Ching. The plan is expected to be finalized in early 2024.

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Rowe and the Canadian Urban Institute were hired over the summer on contract to prepare a report on Ottawa’s downtown, said Ching. Although she did not disclose the dollar value of the contract, Ching said the initiative was supported through “economic partners and pillar partners.”

Rowe has worked with national and international city-building programs, including UN Habitat, the Massey City Summit, The Art of City Building and the World Urban Forum.

“We identified the transformation of downtown Ottawa as a top priority for the city’s economic growth agenda and Mary is a national leader in urbanism with international experience and connections,” said Ching. “For us, she was able to bring to the table learning and best practices from other metropolitan cities around the world and certainly in North America.”

Rowe and her team reviewed existing plans and reports, Ching added, including data from economic partners such as Invest Ottawa and Ottawa Tourism to “inform” their findings. 

Ching also said the Downtown Ottawa Action Plan will reference elements of OBOT’s “five-pillar plan,” which was launched this past June. Those pillars are affordable, walkable, amenity-rich communities; flexible and efficient government regulation and approvals; public and private investment in infrastructure; supported growth of private- and public-sector employment; and, safety and security for employers, residents and tourists.

The Downtown Ottawa Action Plan will also be the first presentation of the findings of the Downtown Revitalization Task Force, which was launched by Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi in July 2022. A spokesperson for the task force said in October that the long-awaited task force report had been finalized, but a release date has not been confirmed.

Ching, who sits on the task force, said the recommendations from the task force report will be “integrated” into OBOT’s advocacy agenda.

 “When Yasir (Naqvi) launched the task force, it brought attention to the fact that we need to prioritize downtown,” said Ching. “There was a tremendous amount of data collection, public consultation and convening that informed those recommendations that are extremely valuable and will figure prominently in how we move forward.

“We are going to deploy those recommendations as well as align it with other economic development plans in the city to create this (Downtown Ottawa Action Plan),” she said. “It’s an input for us, as well as other data sources and work that’s been done.”

As for the public release date of the final task force report, Ching said she’s “glad people are asking.”

“It demonstrates the public knows how important this is, but they should be assured that things are moving forward.”

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