Affordable women’s housing and infill proposed for Institut Jeanne d’Arc

By Craig Lord –

A few dozen residents attended a public consultation on October 27 to hear about a proposed development for 373 Princeton Avenue, the current home of Les Soeurs de l’Institut Jeanne d’Arc, a convent and place of respite for many women over its long history.

The proposed development is actually a partnership between Uniform Developments, Cornerstone Housing for Women, and the Sisters themselves, who have said they’d like to see the property continue its mission to support women in need after they move in November.

Cornerstone, a non-profit that provides support and affordable housing to women in transition, may be just the group to do so. For its part, it proposes an interior renovation of the Institute’s building to provide 41 affordable housing units for the women. The rest of the property would be developed with infill housing by Uniform, who presented a proposal for sixteen units of mixed single, semi-attached and smaller townhouse units.

Architect Barry Hobin presented his visions for the rest of the property and a number of priorities. These included maintaining the tree line around the property and scaling infill properties to the same size as the “mother house” (the Institute) and surrounding housing. The mother house would not be expanded or altered in any way, save for the interior renovations done by Cornerstone.

Sue Garvey, executive director of Cornerstone, says her discussions with Sister Yvette of Jeanne d’Arc began two years ago when she and a friend first noticed the building at 373 Princeton Avenue. She found out it had a long history of being a place of refuge for women and a light bulb went off.

“I was just thinking, what an incredible sanctuary. I was thinking about some of the women that I work with coming to live in this place,” she recalled while speaking to the audience.

Sister Yvette called her this past summer and said she was looking for someone to carry on the Sisters’ legacy. That’s when Hobin and his team got involved, and when discussions between the partners, still in the early stages, began.

Official applications have yet to be submitted for the property, but the process will now move forward.
Cornerstone will be applying for a grant from Action Ottawa, a coffer of provincial and federal government funds distributed municipally, to purchase half of the property and partially fund their renovations.

After the presentation, Sue told the Kitchissippi Times she expects the project will cost upwards of $5 million and that they hope to know if they receive the grant by January. Additional costs will be covered through Cornerstone’s own fundraising efforts. If all goes well, she anticipates a move-in date of January 2018.

“We will be good neighbours,” Sue told the audience at the close of her presentation.

The process is a bit more time-consuming for Uniform. In order to develop on the rest of the lot, it will need to apply for re-zoning, which will require further public consultation and need to pass through the planning committee and city council before construction can begin. Even if the process slows down for Uniform, however, Cornerstone can move ahead with its proposal independently.

Councillor Jeff Leiper conducted the public consultation and gave his own thoughts on the development. He said he considers Uniform’s proposal “legitimate,” and in keeping with the level of sensitive infill that would be appropriate for the neighbourhood.

He told the Kitchissippi Times that any complaints he received were based on misconceptions and rumours about a massive adaptation to the motherhouse. He says at this time he has received no complaints about Uniform and Cornerstone’s proposal.

Indeed, the consultation was a calm, respectful affair with few questions. Many residents approached Jeff Leiper, Sue Garvey and Barry Hobin following the presentation to pass on their initial approval of the proposal. A majority of attendees said, when polled, that they live in the Princeton neighbourhood.

There will be further consultations with the broader neighbourhood as the development application process continues.

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