Ashcroft rep implodes on Ottawa Morning

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Bob LeDrew 7 months ago.

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  • #742638 Reply

    Bob LeDrew

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend last night’s meeting on the Soeurs de la Visitation in Westboro. I was working.

    But I’ve reviewed the Ashcroft documents that Jeff Leiper posted on his site, and I’m listening back to the interview with Don Schultz, the sacrificial lamb Ashcroft Home tossed in front of an all-too-polite Hallie Cotnam on Ottawa Morning today. Stunning.

    The designs, as prepared by Lahey & Associates, are uninspiring. There’s no proposal or indication of just how they would turn this into a viable project.

    And the Schultz interview. Holy cow. If that’s how Ashcroft thinks they’re going to win, then down is up and cats chase dogs.

    A few paraphrases:

    COTNAM: “Why not keep the original plan?”
    SCHULTZ: “Ashcroft knew what the challenges were when those discussions were taking place… Anybody who buys an old house finds about about the demons in the basement and the walls, and that’s what Ashcroft has been learning.”

    COTNAM: “Can you tell us about the community use you agreed to?”
    SCHULTZ: “To be honest with you, Hallie, I’d rather Councillor Leiper talk about community space, because I wasn’t with Ashcroft at the time.”

    SCHULTZ: “Some office is what the zoning designation is… In addition to the office spaces, we want to have as much flexibility in the uses so that there will be also space for community purposes…”
    COTNAM: “Available for rent or publicly available?”
    SCHULTZ: “That hasn’t been nailed down…”

    He didn’t provide a single data point to suggest this would work. They have no tenants in the pipeline. And they want the city to show its belly and let them knock down half the building (Which would inevitably be followed by a lamentation of “Oh, gosh, our crane accidentally hit this other wall. There’s no saving ‘er now, boys, gotta take it all down.” Or “Oh, golly, it’s SO much worse than we thought, there’s just nothing to be done but demolish the whole thing, too bad, so sad.”)

    Schultz should consider himself lucky. Kathleen Petty or Anthony Germain would have sliced him up like prosciutto.

    Is Ashcroft trying some reverse psychology here? Or just throwing spaghetti against the wall in the hope that one strand will stick? Are they this bad at their jobs? Or are they playing 3D chess while we play checkers?

    If the built heritage subcommittee of council approves this, honest to God, I’d consider leaving the city. This is that egregious.

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    #742658 Reply

    Ken Gray
    Keymaster

    Bob:

    Thank you for this comment. It is very thoughtful and on one of the issues in this community that has bothered me a great deal.

    When I was writing my column in the Citizen, I questioned: “Who will speak for the convent?”

    Then I called for prominent members of the Catholic community to stand up and be counted to save one of the most historic buildings west of Bank Street.

    No one said anything … but me. Not French as were the sisters inside, nor Catholic, just an agnostic guy who was raised a Protestant and probably the last person who should take up the cause. But as a life-long student of history (maybe that’s my religion), I couldn’t stand by and watch that building crumble.

    No one from the Catholic community, nor any other community for that matter, spoke up for the convent. I questioned Mayor Jim Watson about it at a Citizen editorial board meeting.

    All he said was that the city has had some trouble with that builder. Then nothing.

    Watson hasn’t lifted a finger to save the convent.

    Former planning committee chairman Peter Hume told me privately the city missed the boat on the convent … after the fact.

    Hume, rightly, said the city should have purchased the property, changed the zoning of the back of the lot (which raises the price of the land markedly), sold that back part to developers and took the money to make the remaining convent grounds public property and found community uses for the historic building.

    That didn’t happen. With all the condos going up in the area, all those residents probably would have appreciated some green space. Condo-dwellers are people, too.

    Now, and you could have set your watch to this one, Ashcroft said that it has problems with the convent. Last time I looked at it, there was a wooden brace against the side of the building.

    The NCC used to pull this trick. If it had an old building it didn’t require, but wanted to avoid the controversy of tearing it down … the Crown corporation was let it sit there with no maintenance until it rotted. Then they would say it had to be torn down because it presented a hazard to public safety.

    Who will speak for the convent? Well Bob, you just did and God bless ya. But nobody else did. I don’t remember Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper standing up for the convent when I was. I do remember former councillor Katherine Hobbs not taking a stand for it.

    Should the convent be saved? Well of course. But the grounds have been ruined by condos which will be there for a hundred years. Maybe Watson will make this an election issue this fall saying he will save the convent. Where were you when it mattered, Your Worship?

    Yes, the mayor becomes quite the activist when it suits his purposes. Before the last election, Watson and Hume said that the new condo to be built at Wellington Street and Island Park Drive would be held to zoning heights. Then quietly after the election, the condo was allowed the extra height for which it asked.

    Public relations and no substance.

    And now we are losing an irreplaceable building.

    Who will speak for the convent? I guess you and me, Bob. Welcome aboard.

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    #742799 Reply

    The Voter

    Don Schultz isn’t a neophyte in this field. He worked for Canada Lands and was in charge of the Rockcliffe Air Base conversion. Prior to that, he oversaw projects of a similar format in other communities across Canada.
    By the way, I’m torn in identifying my favourite part of the interview. Was it when he said that, having owned the building for about ten years and presumably having inspected it before buying it, they’ve just recently discovered that the rooms are small and it’s “austere”? It’s a convent – what did you expect?? Or was it when he did his imitation of that famous sergeant with whom he shares a name? “I know nothing!” (Hogan’s Heroes, for those who don’t get the reference.) If you’re coming forward as a spokesman for the company, it’s your job to know the answers to questions you should have known would be asked.
    I think what we heard on the CBC interview was an intentional performance by a shill for a company that, as the mayor said, we’ve had trouble with in this community in the past. He said practically nothing because there’s nothing they can say. They have absolutely no intention of developing that convent building in a way that would satisfy the community.
    They know from past experience that they can come back to Committee and Council with a downgraded plan and it will in all likelihood, after the requisite weeping and wailing, be approved with possibly some minor modifications. They also know that, if they don’t get their way, they can leave the convent unoccupied until it degrades to the point where they can claim they can’t rehabilitate it and need to knock the whole thing down. Then they’ll build a monstrous condo building and give it a nice, sentimental name like “Le Couvent”. You know, to preserve the memory and carry it forward. Maybe with a nice plaque outside.
    The threat of that last option, whether overt or not, will probably be enough to persuade this Council to take the crumbs Ashcroft is offering of gutting the interior and demolishing two of the outer walls to replace them with a glassed-in shadow of its former self. After all, they’ll still leave two of the exterior walls standing and not visible from anywhere – isn’t that what “heritage preservation” is all about in this city?

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    #742816 Reply

    Bob LeDrew

    IF you can’t (a) provide good answers or (b) represent your employer ethically… perhaps you should find another job.

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