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The Central Park subdivision west of Merivale Road will include much more than just the townhouses and single family homes now being built, if the developer Ashcroft Homes is successful in its re-zoning application.
Aside from one strip mall already approved under the original plan of subdivision when the Region owned the land, Ashcroft is seeking to add a further strip mall at 1230 Merivale, just south of Merivale Manor apartments, and a "big box" retail store at the far south end, next to Nortel.
"You will see a sign within three weeks," predicts City of Ottawa planner Cheryl Brouillard. Instead of adding another office building, as originally planned, Ashcroft would like to build a very large retail store -- about 80,000 square feet -- with the typical sea of asphalt parking facing Merivale.
Some area residents welcome the prospect of more shopping choice and a large potential employer. One rumour is that Provigo might put a superstore there. Other residents, such as the Carlington Community Association publicity director Mark Lavinskas, question the competitive position of another large grocery store. It just doesn't add anything to the neighbourhood," says Lavinskas. "I'm concerned as much for the Merivale strip who have long been suffering with dwindling profits. It's just going to slice the pie smaller. I don't think it fits in. It would certainly change my mind if I were moving in to one of those homes."
Ottawa Councillor Karin Howard feels efforts are bing made to ease the transition. "There is this spectre of what is the big box going to look like, but I am encourage by the way the developer wants to work with the community. A mixed community is a good thing. It's great for the kids to be able to skip off for a quart of milk. There is potential and I think the developer cares."
So far, Ashcroft has only submitted detailed plans to the City for about 20% of the land they own. The other plans are finished, and will be the subject of negotiations with City staff, and possible some re-zoning applications, over the course of the fall. "We are consciously developing a community where people will be able to live, shop and enjoy recreation within the city," says Suzanne Johnson, director of sales an marketing for Ashcroft Homes. "There are about 35 shops along Merivale... I would hope people see us a positive development that will make their neighbourhood more enjoyable." Johnson is particularly proud of the little malls which have stores facing Merivale and townhouses above the stores, facing in towards Central Park. This, as well as the brick facades on the housing along Central Park Drive, will give the area an "urban feel," she says. She also points out that Ashcroft is planning to build only low-rise, owner-occupied bungalows, townhouses and single family homes. The former zoning would have permitted several apartment buildings.
"Things are not going to be exactly as they were going to be, and that can be both good and bad," points out Councillor Howard. "The density is lower than it could have been. A little greenway corridor does connect Central Park Drive to the woods." Howard is more concerned about the potential impact of development on the western side of the Clyde-Merivale lands. The former Assaly lands are now held by a developer called Amresco, which is in the unfortunate position of owning everything except the one piece of land it needs for an intersection at Clyde and Maitland. That property belongs to the Department of Communications, which is not selling. Without and exit on to Clyde, Amresco can either leave the land unbuilt, or seek to have all its streets flow towards Merivale. "I don't think it's in Carlington's interest to accept all the traffic from the Amresco side and people should keep and eye on that," warns Howard.
If it looks like we don't mind a few thousand extra cars a day on Merivale, we will get the traffic. Johnson presents the traffic plan as a done deal, and no big problem. "Baseline and Merivale's traffic was substantially relieved by the Hunt Club extension," she says. "The two separate ends of Central Park Drive will easily accommodate all the traffic." She expects a bus route to run in and around the development, and has sold houses to many people who want to be close to work so that they can do without a second car. "They bike over to us now to see how their houses are coming along."
Within the development, the street pattern may not give pedestrians and cyclists a north-south route to replace the well-ward, if unofficial footpaths to Laurentian, Nortel and Loblaws. According to Brouillard, Ashcroft did agree to add some sidewalks that will let pedestrians walk to the new large store without going along Merivale. These will connect to a footpath from the bicycle path where it enters the Clyde woods. Other paths, says Johnson, would be more problematic. Neither Ashcroft or Amresco can add paths or roads leading to private property, so they will not likely leave room for access to Baseline Road. There are no recreational facilities on the map yet, but it is likely the City will look for tot lots and one somewhat sizeable park in the next phase. Again, the level of amenities depends on the vigilance of community residents. Only one member of public, and no one from the Carlington Community Association, attended an August meeting of the Region's Transportation Committee at which traffic signals for Merivale Road and Central Park Drive were approved without at fuss. "I need any support the community can offer," pleaded Howard.
If you wish to be kept informed about the Ashcroft development, call the Councillor's office at 244-5365.