You think the riots in Vancouver were bad? Wait until Bells Corners business owners, incensed at the BIA boondoggle, take to the streets.
I’ve heard a juicy reliable rumour that the business community in Bells Corners has finally had enough and is on the point of booting Alex and disavowing Rick.
Journalists and other sleuths, sensing that the Bells Corners Fiasco story is only going to get bigger, have been asking me for information on the formation of the Bells Corners BIA.
I told that them that if they want to know what’s really going on they should consult this document and visit OttawaCityCouncilWatch.com for breaking news.
You’d think that the identity of the members of the BIA board wouldn’t be secret, but, as with anything RC is involved in, hard info is hard to come by. Here’s my best guess – representatives from: Scotiabank, Cock/Bull, Sew for it!, General Dynamics, whoever owns the Randall’s plaza, Al’s, Electrical/Plumbing, Turf’s Up and Local Heroes.
I’m also reposting a ‘discussion’ from my old blog, the one that was shut down by dirty tricks a few days before the Oct. 2010 election:
hibou, March 7, 2007
I LOVE Bells Corners, especially Lynwood Village – it’s a great place to live.
It’s hard to argue with Mr. Denley that the commercial strip is a stomach-churning monstrosity. But will the formation of a Business Improvement Association (BIA) be a panacea?
What sort of changes would a Bells Corners BIA look at? Are we talking bigger and better commercial signs? An expensive and elaborate marketing campaign? A few flower pots hung from hydro poles? If that’s the extent of it I can’t get too excited.
The councillor wants to move us in the direction of the ‘fine model’ set by the Merivale strip – a clogged, pedestrian/cyclist-unfriendly ugly stretch of crass consumerism – is that what we want for Bells Corners?
On the Merivale strip a slew of American big box stores have moved in, worsening the traffic and crime problems in that area. We still have an unsightly row of huge parking lots lining the street. People fire up their cars to hop from parking lot to parking lot, fighting the traffic all the way. I saw three accidents in 20 minutes the last time I was out there.
I’m not sure that constructing a lot of big box stores to compete with the same big box stores located in other nearby neighbourhoods is going to improve Bells Corners for the people who live here – but when you boil it right down that’s Chiarelli’s vision. Scary.
There will be benefits, I guess. Local residents will be able to find retail employment without having to leave the community. If consumers drive to Bells Corners to get the latest t.v. here instead of going to the Centrum, they may stop at some of the numerous ugly BC strip malls to buy some more stuff, thereby perhaps reducing the number of boarded-up stores. Maybe the Hooters and the Vox will reopen and increase the variety of junk food available?
I’m not necessarily against BIAs – look at the positive change produced by the Westboro BIA. But it benefited from a lot of City tax dollars, as the basic streetscape was redone, providing onstreet parking, new infrastructure for pedestrians, new human-scale lighting standards, benches, etc. I don’t imagine the City is planning on investing any serious money in Bells Corners except for the tax dollars that are being used to support RC and the creation of the BIA.
Who would a BIA benefit the most? Huge players like Staples, General Dynamics, Loblaws, the local big landlords, etc. or the Ma and Pa little stores? Some of the average business owners on the strip don’t have the deep pockets of the corporate giants and won’t be able to stay afloat if yet another tax is imposed. Collateral damage, I guess.
And yet they will no choice but to pay this levy if the majority of the businesses vote yes – the bill will be added to their property taxes.
How much would local businesses have to contribute to pay for the BIA (the part that is not subsidized by the taxpayer)? Is the tax based on square footage, gross sales, profits, or what?
Local consultation has been promised. What form will it take?
The bottom line for me is coloured by a green perspective. We have some serious environmental problems to solve, unless you believe that global warming is a myth and that we can just sit back and wait for a technological breakthrough that will solve the crisis so that we can continue to blithely overconsume.
The biggest problem is not a dearth of places to buy consumer products. Maybe our efforts should be focussed on solving the real problems?
We need residential intensification in Bells Corners and the help of a City councillor who isn’t financed by developers.
Bells Corners BIA could become reality
Devon Babin, NepeanThisWeek
Bells Corners will be getting a Business Improvement Area (BIA) if College Ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli and the Nepean Chamber of Commerce have their way.
Creating a BIA in Bells Corners is something Chiarelli campaigned on during the most recent municipal election and progress is already being made.
As it stands, if there is enough support for the BIA, the chamber will move its office on Queensview Drive to Bells Corners where the BIA and the chamber will jointly work out of one location.
“Their purpose is to build up business and support business in Nepean so it helps them achieve their goal,” said the councillor.
“Secondly, if there is going to be a BIA office and a chamber office, it makes sense for both to pool their resources as much as they can.”
Over the last few years many businesses in Bells Corners have shut down and the area is no longer a popular destination for people to go. Instead it is merely an area people drive through to get to other shopping locations such as the Kanata Centrum.
“We’re going through what, I guess, they call retail leakage,” said Nepean Chamber of Commerce chair Gavin Leishman. “Stuff is going to the Kanata Centrum because it is all new and pretty, and Barrhaven because it’s all new and pretty. And we kind of got ignored in Bells Corners.”
Chiarelli has high hopes for the BIA, comparing Bells Corners’ current situation to one that the Merivale Road area was in about a decade ago. The area, Chiarelli said, lacked a focus. A BIA was created and it was decided that electronics would be that focus.
“Now Merivale Road is the electronics hub of Ottawa,” said Chiarelli.
Along with having a bustling consumer electronics market on Merivale, other businesses have prospered from the increase in consumer traffic. The Bells Corners BIA will also give a louder voice to businesses in the area when dealing with the municipality.
“We can certainly increase our representation to the city,” said Leishman. “Whereas one business will have a small voice going to the city talking about things, if we have 200 or 300 businesses, tenants and business owners in Bells Corners, it will give us a much louder voice.”
Leishman said the BIA will work hard at economic development and physical improvements. There are nine businesses that are boarded up in Bells Corners, most of which are visible from the main drag of Robertson Road. By attracting more businesses to the area, and actively making physical improvements, such as holiday decorations, Bells Corners’ image can be turned around.
“Even if you talk about the RCMP moving into Barrhaven, [staff] are not all going to live in Barrhaven,” said Leishman. “They are going to spread out. They are going to go as far as Bells Corners. We need to give people a reason to stay here.”
The plan is to have a functional BIA in place by January 2008. Two preliminary meetings have taken place over the past two weeks and a standing committee has been created. At the meetings, a handful of businesses from that area, city representatives, politicians, members of the chamber and others were on hand. So far there has been nothing but support for the project. Chiarelli said that input from area residents is very important to him and something he will ensure as the BIA develops further.
More discussions will take place at a large breakfast to be held in the next few weeks. Leishman said with the response so far, he wouldn’t be surprised if hundreds of people attend.
Businesses unite in Bells Corners
Devon Babin, NepeanThisWeek
“If we don’t get in there and compete in a united way, we will be beat by those uniting against us.”
This was the message Coun. Rick Chiarelli made extremely clear at a meeting in Bells Corners Tuesday morning.
Upwards of 30 representatives from local businesses were on hand for what was the next step in forming a Business Improvement Area (BIA) in Bells Corners.
“Bells Corners used to be a destination and it’s quickly becoming something you drive through on the way to Kanata or something you drive through on the way to Ottawa,” said Chiarelli.
There are currently 13 BIAs in Ottawa, all of which are competing for the same business.
In order for Bells Corners not to be left behind, a BIA must be formed, Chiarelli said.
A committee has already been formed with Chiarelli and representatives of the Greater Nepean Chamber of Commerce leading the charge.
Their focus now is to get Bells Corners businesses to follow suit.
The community has a lot going for it including a lot of unique businesses and supportive residents, which Chiarelli said is the exception compared to most areas. “They are a big customer base and they are also your neighbours,” he said.
Darrell Cox from the City of Ottawa spoke at the meeting, giving the crowd a detailed explanation of how a BIA works, and where its priorities should be. Those priorities, according to Cox, are special events, promotion of the area, retaining and attracting businesses and making physical improvements to the area.
In order for a BIA to be formed there is a process that must be undertaken. One of the key steps is allowing for objections from all the local businesses. If enough local businesses object to the BIA, the city cannot create bylaws focusing on businesses in the area on behalf of the BIA.
“From what I know, across Ontario, there has not been a BIA that has been objected to,” said Cox.
To further instill the importance of a BIA into the crowd, Gerry LePage of the very successful Bank Street BIA spoke to the group.
“Out of sight, out of mind. That’s the game at city hall,” he said.
One of the most important aspects of a BIA is the presence it can have at city hall. LePage said there is money to be won for BIAs from the city, but representatives must be at the city level looking for the money and talking to the right people.
“You’re either conspicuous by your absence, or you’re conspicuous by your presence,” said LePage.
Chiarelli echoed the statement saying a BIA gets a lot of respect from council and the city because it shows a united front in a concentrated area.
According to LePage there are 250 BIAs in Ontario and 2,500 nationwide with the numbers continuing to grow.
“Nothing continues to grow if it doesn’t work,” he said.
Coun. Chiarelli, representatives from the Greater Nepean Chamber of Commerce and area businesses already onboard will be going door-to-door and meeting with business owners over the next few weeks to build support. After that the next step is sending a letter to the city to get the ball rolling on the process of officially starting up a BIA in Bells Corners.
Any businesses looking for more information on the BIA should call the Greater Nepean Chamber of Commerce at 613 828-5556.
Gerry LePage of the Bank Street BIA encourages Bells Corners business owners to form a group of their own.
Not all small business owners in Bells Corners are enthusiastic about the BIA idea.
One local owner gave a one-finger salute when he learned that his City tax bill would rise because of this initiative.
He questioned whether a Bells Corners BIA would benefit the “big boys” (Loeb, Staples, Loblaws, Canadian Tire, etc.) more than the ma and pa businesses that are struggling to stay in the black.
Councillor Rick Chiarelli will be answering questions about the Bells Corners BIA in the Lynwood Park community building 7 Sycamore Dr, at 7 p.m. (editor’s note- RC didn’t show.)
j-guy: In my view, a BIA is badly needed unless we want the heart of our community to decay even further. Without a healthy commercial center to the “town” we will become like Barrhaven where we have no local services.
The businesses currently are not willing to take actions to clean-up and improve the appearance of the strip. A BIA should force a clean-up. I find the negative views above surprising as the only other option to a BIA is to do nothing and support further decay.
Good points, j-guy.
I wrote something negative, but I’m not saying that a BIA would be bad for Bells Corners.
I was just questioning what form the BIA will take and whose interests will be served by it.
A BIA can benefit both businesses and the community – look at the improvements in Westboro. Businesses are raking in the profits, residents get upgraded sidewalks and lighting and other pedestrian-friendly improvements. Homeowners benefit from skyrocketing house values.
Store rents have more than tripled along Richmond Rd. so some smaller businesses have been forced out of the neighbourhood, but almost everyone has benefited from the Westboro BIA.
But it was a private/public project – the City invested a lot of money in the Westboro BIA’s improvements. In the case of Bells Corners the only City investment is likely to be just Rick Chiarelli’s office expenses.
I feel that it’s important that all members of the Bells Corners community, including residents and small business owners, have a say. Otherwise there’s a danger that the big box stores will benefit while residents get only small cosmetic improvements and small businesses that are already struggling just get a higher tax bill.
First impressions not always right: Bad rap not warranted as Bells Corners continues to improve
Devon Babin, NepeanThisWeek
It is no secret that Bells Corners has had better days, at least visually. The main drag, or “the strip,” that runs through the heart of Bells Corners is in need of a serious overhaul, and because of this, the entire area seems to be getting a bad reputation. If one peels back the layers of the neighbourhood, it is soon becomes evident that reputation is not, necessarily, a valid one.
“There is no question that the Bells Corners business strip got complacent,” said College Ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli. “When it was hit with competition from Westboro … and from Kanata, it suddenly became a place to drive through instead of a place to drive to. But we are addressing that. Everyone in the business community there realizes that it is a problem and we’re going to fix it.”
The Nepean Chamber of Commerce, Chiarelli’s office and local businesses have been working on forming a Business Improvement Area (BIA) since the start of the year. Earlier this month an interim executive was put in place to continue growing the BIA, ideally making it an official BIA in the near future.
“Our main focus, right now, is to put the letter into Ottawa city hall, into council, for them to approve the BIA,” said interim chair Dalia Bortolotti, who also owns Harmony Floral & Gifts in Bells Corners. The basic premise behind the BIA is the idea of having power in numbers. While one voice is hard to hear, a group of businesses banding together can garner a lot more attention, especially with the city, according to Bortolotti.
“A collective voice is always stronger than a single voice,” she said. “And by forming the BIA it opens other doors for us in respect to how we can have things done, especially through city hall.”
Chiarelli, who is a director with the burgeoning BIA, said he and his team plan to visit every business owner in Bells Corners before the end of the summer to keep them informed and garner support for the BIA.
So far they have had a lot of positive feedback.
“We haven’t had any negative people,” said Chiarelli.
The goal for the official letter to go to city council is the end of August. After it has been accepted and approved by council, it is smooth sailing from there.
A lot of the reputation given to Bells Corners isn’t warranted. Despite some areas of the strip being in a state of decay, there are a lot of upsides to the area. General Dynamics Canada and high-tech company Chipworks are just two of the major employers in the area. Large employers like these are the envy of many communities, because they keep people from the area in the area.
“[Bells Corners] is one of only two sustainable communities in Ottawa where we have as many jobs as we have adults who live in it,” said Chiarelli.
A self-sustaining community helps ensure residents stay in the area, rather than moving to the supposed greener pastures elsewhere. Chiarelli said Bells Corners has one of the largest concentrations of people in the city that have lived in their community for 35 years or more. This means there will soon be a large turnover to a younger generation, many of whom have lived in Bells Corners all their lives.
“We’re on the edge of a massive turnover in Bells Corners, to a younger generation,” he said. “If you can realize that is happening, you can really make great things happen in your community, where as if you don’t realize it is coming, it can be a disaster.”
Nikki Statham is a 25-year-old single mother who has lived in Bells Corners her entire life. For Statham, along with her son Isaiah and the rest of her immediate family, Bells Corners is not just a place to live for her, but a home.
“I grew up here,” she said. “I can walk down the streets of Bells Corners at three in the morning and not even think twice about looking over my shoulder. Maybe that’s because I know almost everyone on every street.”
Both Statham and Chiarelli point out the great schools, churches and stores in the area that are literally walking distance from most homes.
“I’d rather live in Bells Corners than Kanata, that’s for sure,” said Statham.
Still, there are some concerns, mainly revolving around youth in the area.
Like a lot of communities, many youth in Bells Corners are often found loitering in parks or in front of stores.
“We need a place for teenagers to have fun,” said Chiarelli. “There is a whole community of teenagers that socialize every night. They move from Mac’s Milk to Tim Hortons – they are all over. It’s a definite kind of flock movement.”
And Statham agrees, teenagers have too few options of activities to pass the time. “We should have a Boys and Girls Club in Bells Corners, to keep them off the street, rather than drinking in Bruce Pitt,” said Statham.
Although there is a drop-in centre in Bells Corners, there used to be more but they have been scaled back because of budget restraints, according to Kimberly Sanders, the youth program co-ordinator for the Nepean Rideau and Osgoode Community Resource Centre. Much like the skateboard park in Nepean’s Centrepointe area, Chiarelli is hoping to have a similar skateboard park built in Bells Corners.
A lot of work still has to be done, but the needs of the community have been addressed and if the people of Bells Corners continue to work toward improving the area from a business standpoint and that of the entire community, a great neighbourhood can be that much greater.
“There is a strong community in Bells Corners,” said Chiarelli.
photo captions: The people and businesses of Bells Corners are looking to return the community’s great reputation. Al’s Steakhouse (left) has stood for years as a popular Bells Corners attraction. (Right) An example of the many boarded up former businesses in Bells Corners.
Bells corners needs facelift
Randall Denley, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008
I don’t know who the developer is who wants to get rid of the mobile home park in Bells Corners and build housing, but hallelujah. If it’s done right, the new housing would be some long overdue good news for what must surely be the city’s bleakest commercial strip.
People like to complain about Merivale Road and St. Joseph Boulevard, but nothing can top Bells Corners’ bizarre jumble of car dealerships, failed restaurants, dodgy strip malls, doughnut shops and vast, empty parking lots. This aging commercial strip is a textbook example of what happens when there is no planning or forethought. Just the fact that there is actually a mobile home park there tells you something about the tone of the place and how little perceived value this land has.
Bells Corners’ former raison d’être was to provide shopping for Kanata, back when that area lacked it. Now that retail has grown rapidly in Kanata, Bells Corners is suffering.
One sometimes sees pedestrians in Bells Corners, but the car is king there. Almost every business is set back from the road and has parking in front of it. Sound 1970s thinking. The blocks are long, the streetscape bleak and the attractions few.
“You could imagine someone walking on the sidewalks, but it doesn’t happen,” says Councillor Rick Chiarelli, who represents the area.
Some of the businesses have improved their appearance in the last few years, but progress is slow. The most recent development was the good little Thai restaurant moving out of the strip mall with the sex shop and taking over the premises of the failed Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. In Bells Corners, this constitutes good news.
The real good news for Bells Corners is that Chiarelli is on the case. The councillor actually lives in one of the suburbs that abut the commercial strip and he’s well aware of its failings.
There are 17 boarded-up businesses in Bells Corners and “that’s just not acceptable,” Chiarelli says. He particularly singles out the Vox, a derelict building that has been the home to several failed restaurants and has been empty now for years. City property standards staff need to determine if the building is even fit for reuse, he says.
While acknowledging that redeveloping the mobile home park would mean dislocation for its residents, Chiarelli says the subsequent housing development would increase Bells Corners’ population by about one-third.
The decision on what to do with the mobile home land is critical, he says, “because it will determine the economic future, one way or the other.”
Chiarelli wants the area’s businesses to band together in a business improvement association so they can take joint action to improve what could ultimately be an attractive main street. He has already met with about half of the 300 business owners and is confident that an association will be formed.
In Ottawa, development typically comes either downtown or in the new suburbs. We don’t look at the former fringe areas that would have constituted the edge of the city in the 1960s. We’re missing great opportunities. Richmond Road in Bells Corners runs parallel to the Queensway and is about two minutes drive from it. It’s far easier to serve with transit than the suburbs we are building farther out and the commercial strip uses space so wastefully that there is all sorts of potential for intensification.
Some of the ingredients for success are already there. General Dynamics Canada has a large office campus. It lacks street presence, but it does bring in potential customers for the street’s businesses. A new call centre draws more employees to the area. There are a number of attractive-looking seniors homes. There are also perhaps half a dozen excellent restaurants in Bells Corners. It has schools and a library, too. What’s missing is the feel of real streets, with people on the sidewalks.
Residential intensification is the solution to that problem, and a creative approach by the city could unlock the potential of this failed commercial strip. Flexible zoning that encouraged commercial and residential development along the sidewalks would be a wonderful start. For the corporations that own some of the street’s largest enterprises, this land is now nothing more than the underutilized fringe of a parking lot.
The best opportunity to refashion the street is right around the corner from the mobile home park. Loblaw and Zellers share a vast parking lot at the main intersection. It’s far larger than they require. Development fronting the street would mean easy money for the corporate owners and a big change in the feel of Bells Corners.
If we want to make our city more attractive and livable, we need to fix some of the mistakes of the past. Bells Corners would be a great place to start.
Search for truth
Chair, Ottawa Greenspace Alliance
Re: Sweet vindication for crusading engineer, Feb. 5.
Hats off to Ted Cooper. He selflessly committed himself to the greater public good in his fight against the ill-conceived plans to fill and develop the Carp River floodplain. It is greatly appreciated that Citizen reporter Patrick Dare and columnist Randall Denley brought Mr. Cooper’s story to the people of Ottawa since he has been silently working under difficult conditions on their behalf.
Mr. Cooper’s actions highlight the importance for each of us to search for the truth and not be afraid to speak up when you believe something is fundamentally flawed.
Three cheers for the “crusading engineer” in Kanata!
He’s helping Ottawa residents in general by showing that sometimes (not often, but sometimes) the whistleblower can come out on top after daring to take on the top bureaucrats.
Mr. Cooper refused to cry “uncle” when City bigwigs and greedy developers moved ruthlessly to crush someone who put the public good ahead of private privilege.
He’s also helping Bells Corners residents in particular.
If they build a few thousand fewer units along the Hazledean/Robertson/Richmond Rd. corridor, that means there’ll be a lot less traffic clogging up the Bells Corners main drag once the whole area from Kanata to Stittsville outside the Greenbelt is filled in with cookie-cutter suburban sprawl.
It’s a better idea to intensify within the Greenbelt.
Why not here in Bells Corners?
For example, at least twenty families could move into the VOX, and there’s room for another dozen or so in Hooters. There’s no shortage of derelict strip malls people could colonize.
anonymous writes: Its people like Randall that i really can’t stand.I bet he just drived down robertson raod said oh this is awful.There is alot more to bc then robertson road.A lot people do not work in bc they just like to live here and there is alot of pluses to living here.Sure there is probleams like any where.I think the main probleam some how to cut down on teen crime.I aslo think part of the big up is we are not a area like kanata with stores every hwere not everyone wants that.I love how mr Denley says ya its bleak,bizarre he goes on to say he does not think the city should spend any money to fix it up.Now does this make any sense at all.
Denley wrote “nothing can top Bells Corners’ bizarre jumble of car dealerships, failed restaurants, dodgy strip malls, doughnut shops and vast, empty parking lots. This aging commercial strip is a textbook example of what happens when there is no planning or forethought.”
Hard to argue with that.
Someone at the Chamber of Commerce told me that they’re now compiling (finally) the results of a survey of the over 200 businesses in Bells Corners and if enough of them agree to have their tax bill increased (the amount is based on the square footage of their commerce) then it will go to Council sometime in July.
Bells Corners BIA’s long journey almost at an end
JENNIFER YOUNG, This Week
The quest for a Bells Corners Business Improvement Area will be one step closer to completion following a breakfast meeting on Aug. 19.
Concerned business owners and the Greater Nepean Chamber of Commerce have been toiling for almost two years, trying to get the organization up and running so it can help revitalize the Bells Corners area.
“I’m hoping it will revitalize the business district in Bells Corners. I know it will help address some of the issues we have here in Bells Corners.
“One of them is some of the abandoned businesses have been allowed to remain run down,” said Dalia Bortolotti, interim chair of the Bells Corners BIA.
The Greater Nepean Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the project because it also wants to see the area and its businesses prosper: something that has been difficult for them to do recently.
“The reason for a BIA in Bells Corners is to try and spruce it up and stop it from being a drive through to everything else. Right now it’s kind of like a McDonald’s drive-thru. People just drive through there to go into other parts,” said Gavin Leishman, chair of the Nepean chamber.
“There’s an exodus of businesses leaving the area and we need to get it built up again.”
After the meeting on Aug. 19, which will be held at Al’s Steakhouse in Bells Corners at 8 a.m., the proposal will be sent to city council where it will come before council on Sept. 10.
Once blessed by council, letters will be sent by the city to all business owners in the area asking their views on the proposal.
Owners will then have 60 days to let any objections be known.
“If one-third of the people respond in a negative manner there will be no BIA. The chances of that happening are extremely small,” said Leishman.
Both Leishman and Bortolotti are hoping the 60 days will only be a formality.
Based on surveys conducted previously, almost all businesses owners seem to support the idea.
“The response has been overwhelmingly in favour,” she said. “We weren’t even expecting to have such a positive response.”
“We’ve done a survey of almost 200 businesses with extremely phenomenal positive results,” said Leishman.
In order to make sure businesses understand what a BIA entails, members of other BIAs such as the Bank Street BIA have been consulted. “Geographically, Bank Street and Bells Corners are different but the challenges can be similar,” said Bortolotti.
If successful in its formation, she hopes the new body will hold such events as a winter festival and Leishman sees such upgrades as Christmas lights in December and having flowers planted for the spring and summer months.
Following the commenting period, if the proposal is successful, Bortolotti hopes the BIA will be fully functional by the beginning of January 2009.
Bells Corners BIA meeting lacks attendees but not determination
JENNIFER YOUNG, This Week
The early starting hour of the Bells Corners Business Improvement Area meeting on Aug. 19 did not deter business owners dedicated to helping rejuvenate the area and increasing business.
A crowd of about 20 business owners and business representatives trickled into Al’s Steakhouse on Richmond Road to hear the latest news regarding what they see as a much-needed BIA.
“It’s at the point where something serious needs to be done,” said Debbie Irvine, who attended to represent the interests of the Bel-Air Motel and Peter’s Gas Bar. “I’m all for it. I just really hope we can see it through.”
“I think it is a bit of hope that something is going to happen,” echoed Farah Farah, co-owner of Spahara in Bells Corners.
He has seen his business slow as the situation in Bells Corners has declined. He said he chose Bells Corners for the business initially because it was a bustling place but is now seeing customers migrating to other parts of town.
“Twelve years ago it was a good idea,” he said.
While he still has questions about how the BIA will be run he said he hopes something can be done to bring people back to Bells Corners.
The BIA is something many of the owners at the meeting hope will be able to turn the image of Bells Corners around.
The image right now seems to be best captured by the pictures found on the pamphlets for the meeting, the boarded up former Hooter’s restaurant and the dilapidated Vox Lounge.
“These should not be the landmarks in Bells Corners,” said Dalia Bortolotti, interim chair of the Bells Corners BIA.
Gavin Leishman, chair of the Greater Nepean Chamber of Commerce, also attended the meeting, giving his and the chamber’s full support. He said it is in the immediate area’s best interest as well the chamber’s to develop the BIA. Based on an earlier survey, he doesn’t predict much difficulty in getting businesses to approve of it either.
“Our main purpose is to find a way to make Bells Corners a viable alternative,” he said. “We have well over two-thirds of businesses in Bells Corners who want something to happen.”
City representatives worked at the meeting to answer any questions and settle any concerns businesses might have had. They also pointed to the example of how the Westboro BIA has managed to revitalize its area and even draw people to it through its very successful Westfest.
Darrell Cox, an economic development consultant for the city, said there is no reason why Bells Corners can’t have the same success. “Anything that will drive people to the areas, that’s what you want to do,” he said.
He said a BIA would not only help bring people to the area but also help local businesses when trying to lobby city hall, which for one person can be an arduous task. With a BIA behind them, businesses would have more of a collective voice.
“A lot of busy owners don’t have the time to make phone calls to city hall about problems,” he said.
The BIA proposal is expected to go before city council this September. At that point letters will be sent out to business owners asking for them to respond within 60 days with any concerns or reasons against establishing a BIA. If one third of businesses reject the idea the city cannot pass the bylaw.
If the BIA manages the approval rating necessary, it should be operational by January 2009.
anonymous writes: You leave Clasixxx alone. Those people maintain a wonderful establishment with many tasteful adult miscellanea, and they are 24-karat solid gold, all of them.
sanonymous writes: “People like to complain about Merivale Road and St. Joseph Boulevard, but nothing can top Bells Corners’ bizarre jumble of car dealerships, failed restaurants, dodgy strip malls, doughnut shops and vast, empty parking lots.” (Randall Denley)
So less landscaping is going to help?
Dymon Self-Storage is asking the City to let them off the hook and reduce the green buffer along Robertson from 3 metres to 1.8 metres.
I guess they figure that Robertson is shabby enough already so why bother? And no doubt cutting back on greenspace is cheaper for them.
Here’s their justification for trying to get out of their responsibilty to the community to obey planning guidelines:
“Robertson Road is characterized by automobile-oriented, small and medium scale commercial uses. A reduced landscape buffer should not negatively impact the surrounding area… which is characterized by industrial type development.”
The way to make “the strip” better is to improve greenspace, sidewalks, lighting, etc.
Cutting back on the City’s required greenspace buffer doesn’t seem like a step in the right direction.
Maybe Dymon thinks that the magnificence of their warehouse (“visually stimulating… designed and constructed to meet Dymon’s high architectural standards”) will compensate for the reduced greenspace.
Wonder if Gary’s at Robertson and Richmond asked for a variance to get their greenspace buffer reduced to nothing- the parking spaces go right up to the sidewalk.
strangebrew writes: Thanks for posting this, hibou. I’ve sent comments to the planner, and asked to be notified of public meetings concerning this development. If we can get enough Bells Corners residents interested in enforcing even minimal development standards along “the strip”, we could “evolve” the area into something less hideous and more people-friendly. I’m happy that there will be a BIA, but that’s no guarantee that the area will be substantially improved from the point of view of non-business owners. For example, wouldn’t it be great to have real bike lanes along the length of Robertson/Richmond, and to turn it into a real avenue, with a strip of grass, planters and trees down the middle? I doubt many businesses would support those changes, though.
VOX ON THE ROCKS
Hugh Adami, Citizen
That rotting Bells Corners eyesore, once known as the Vox Lounge, will be around a while longer.
Considering it took a judge 18 months to decide that Petro-Canada can buy the building so it can knock it down and clean up gas-contaminated soil, tourists should have at least all of 2009 to visit the attraction while the ruling is being appealed.
Gas from leaky underground storage tanks at a former Petro-Canada service station next door to the old Vox seeped into soil at both properties. The station was demolished in 2003 so that the soil could be removed and replaced. Both tenants in the other building, the Vox and a restaurant, had to vacate it to allow Petro-Canada to clean the soil there. Instead of razing the building, the oil company tried unsuccessfully to get at the dirty earth by removing a huge section of the floor.
Meanwhile, Tony Isaac, who was about to sell the building when the oil leak was revealed, defaulted on his mortgage with National Trust. Petro-Canada eventually offered to buy the building for almost $1.2 million, while Mr. Isaac’s debt with the trust company kept piling up.
Besides ruling that Petro-Canada can buy the building, the judge ruled that Petro-Canada can pay National Trust $200,000 for lawsuits brought on by Mr. Isaac against the oil company. Michael Hébert, Mr. Isaac’s lawyer, says the claims in the lawsuits run between $2 million and $4 million. The latter ruling, he says, allows Petro-Canada to buy itself out of a potential costly lawsuit for a mere $200,000.
That is the main reason for Mr. Isaac’s appeal. Deloitte and Touche Inc., the court-appointed receiver for the property, is also appealing another part of the ruling. The judge gave Mr. Isaac permission to sue Deloitte and Touche, which Mr. Isaac believes mismanaged its role as receiver. Court permission has to be granted for lawsuits against court-appointed receivers.
In the meantime, Mr. Hébert says Petro-Canada has decided not to proceed until the appeals are heard.
“(Isaac) is going out of his mind,” says Mr. Hébert. “He’s determined. He’s like a dog with a bone.”
Neighbouring restaurants such as the Cock and Bull Pub and Eatery, and Al’s Steakhouse and Seafood have complained that the eyesore hurts business. The city was also counting on a resolution, especially as it was criticized for allowing National Trust to let the condition of the property deteriorate. It wasn’t until The Public Citizen made a number of inquiries about the building last August that the property was finally cleaned up.
But new graffiti suggests vandals are returning, and a wire fence is virtually bent to the ground on one side of the building. After hearing the news that the building wouldn’t be coming down soon, Linda Anderson, Ottawa’s new bylaw boss, promised the city will inspect the site every week and issue repair orders if required “until (the property) is redeveloped.”
Longstanding eyesores to be torn down ‘as early as spring’
Hugh Adami, Citizen
photo caption: For decades, until 2005, these two homes were owned by Ernest Daly. They are now owned by Sime Vranjkovic, who says he is planning to tear them down ‘as early as the spring.’
For years, residents near two derelict houses in Bells Corners have been wondering about Ernest Daly and when he planned to tear down the buildings.
Mr. Daly and his family lived there for three decades or so before suddenly moving away in the mid-1990s.
The two houses, one of which Mr. Daly built for himself and his wife soon after they were married, sit within metres of each other, near where Moodie Drive connects to Richmond Road. The Dalys lived in the other, older house for some time, too.
Residents near the western fringe of the Arbeatha Park subdivision have probably the most to complain about as they get to see the boarded-up eyesores whenever they look out their windows. But even motorists who drive by the properties can’t believe the sagging sights. Brian McDougall, who lives kilometres away, e-mailed The Public Citizen, suggesting the houses be blown to smithereens.
Maisie Ginn, a senior who unfortunately has a perfect view of the property, remembers Mr. Daly, his wife, Wenda, and their children. Mrs. Ginn says Mr. Daly, an electrician, was “a mild-mannered person and he would do anything for you.”
People remember staring at the couple in disbelief as they would sometimes drive around Bells Corners on a tractor.
At one point, Mr. Daly wanted to build a convenience store as well as sell gas on a small parcel of land just north of the houses, says Gord Hunter, a former Nepean alderman and now Ottawa councillor. Arbeatha Park residents weren’t keen on the gas pumps, so Mr. Daly eventually abandoned the plan.
Later, he wanted to develop some townhouses on another property he owned on the Richmond side, but that never got off the ground either, largely because of residents’ concerns.
After that, the once affable Mr. Daly wasn’t as friendly anymore, and would often be heard arguing with residents he thought had helped kill his townhouse plan.
The Daly properties were basically abandoned after the family moved, though Mr. Daly would occasionally come around to check the houses. Police and the fire department were regular visitors over the years as the houses were hangouts for unwelcome visitors. About two years ago, they were boarded up, leading some residents to believe the end was near.
Nothing doing. Even College Councillor Rick Chiarelli seemed unsure of the status of the properties a couple of months ago, and other city officials were wondering if Mr. Daly was still alive.
But Mr. Daly is alive. The Public Citizen found him and his wife living in an old rundown house on Woodroffe Avenue, near Carling.
Mr. Daly declined requests for an interview after answering the door on Monday. He acknowledged he was Ernest Daly, but refused to comment on the Bells Corners properties. “I want to be nice to you, so I’m asking you to leave,” was all he would say.
The Woodroffe house is not connected to hydro and is powered by noisy generators, one of which sits outside the front door. On the front lawn, there’s a circular saw in a milk crate, blue tarps are scattered about, and an old truck and car sit in the driveway along with guess what: An old red tractor.
The city has investigated five property standards complaints this year and one in 2007.
According to various real-estate agents, the Dalys have, in recent years, sold numerous parcels of land in Bells Corners, for several hundreds of thousands of dollars. They also have an asking price of $350,000 on their Woodroffe property, which is being advertised as land for redevelopment. They’ve been offered that amount, but have not accepted.
A property titles search at the Ottawa courthouse yesterday revealed that the Dalys sold the Bells Corners property with the two derelict houses plus a second parcel, for $199,000, back in 2005.
Sime Vranjkovic, who owns the Adria Auto Collision Centre on Bank Street, bought the property and says he may develop it. There’s room for about 15 townhouses on the site. Or, he says, there are other development opportunities. He could even resell the land if the offer is right. He had the houses boarded up after numerous break-ins.
“I bought (the property) as an investment,” he says, adding he owns other parcels of land in Ottawa. What he’d like to do is buy a large parcel of land beside the property, which is also owned by Mr. Daly.
When are the two eyesores coming down?
“As early as the spring,” he says, revealing that “my wife says I should tear those houses down. She says they’re ugly.”
Mr. Vranjkovic says a house-moving contractor is willing to give him $3,000 for the bungalow that the Dalys built. The other house would be levelled, he says.
Linda Anderson, Ottawa’s new bylaw chief, says the city can’t legally raze the properties itself unless they’re structurally unsafe and pose a danger to the public.
Meanwhile, Mr. Vranjkovic says he thinks it was Mr. Daly who showed up at his garage several months ago, seeing if he was willing to sell him the bungalow in Bells Corners. The two had never met. The heavy-set man seemed to have some sentimental attachment to the house, Mr. Vranjkovic says, but he wouldn’t identify himself.