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Queer community leaders brainstorm on Rainbow Village

Group forms to get project moving

FIRED UP. Ricky Barnes from Pink Triangle Services agreed to talk up the rainbow village to the Bank St BIA, which helps fund post-construction beautification, including flags and banners. Credit: Pat Croteau

Ottawa’s queer community is waiting for part of Bank St to be designated as a Rainbow Village, following councillor Diane Holmes’ Feb 2006 meeting with the community. And so far, we’ve seen nothing in the way of progress.

Meanwhile, construction is set to tear through the street from Laurier to MacLaren in less than a year.

On Apr 26, an ad hoc committee came together to discuss where to go next. The meeting was called and chaired by Gareth Kirkby, the Associate Publisher and Managing Editor of Capital Xtra, whose Bank St offices overlook the fledgling village.

“For years we’ve had no response on queer geography, when we do for health and social issues,” Kirkby said in his opening remarks.

At the Feb 2006 meeting with Holmes community businessman Glenn Crawford volunteered to sit on the Public Advisory Committee (PAC).

“I’ve been in contact with Diane Holmes since the meeting,” Crawford says. “But unfortunately I just haven’t heard a lot of response. I attended one meeting — sort of an open forum — at City Hall afterwards which was about Phase One of the project, so it was showing some diagrams and layouts of what was happening between Wellington and Laurier.”

The forum presented the plans for lampposts, streetscapes and enclosures for newspaper boxes in the area. But while the planners were asking for input, Crawford notes that their plans seemed fairly set.

“On my end, I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated because I would like to start tangibly getting involved, but I think it’s just the process of City Hall.”

Richard Holder, the city’s Program Manager for the Bank Street reconstruction, says that the Public Advisory Committee is not meeting

“Staff have been working with councillor Diane Holmes’ office to prepare a list of potential candidates,” Holder told Capital Xtra over e-mail. “Glenn Crawford is currently proposed to be on the PAC, subject to him accepting the invitation.”

The ad hoc committee would like to see the area of Bank St from Laurier to Gladstone be recognised as the Rainbow Village. At minimum, they hope that the area from Nepean to James be designated.

The consensus was largely that more community engagement with the Bank St Business Improvement Area (BIA) was needed, since the businesses and organisations in the area pay into the BIA for the street beautification projects. However, with no queer businesses along Bank St attending, the work was delegated to Pink Triangle Services, a community group that also pays into the BIA.

Ricky Barnes from PTS volunteered to approach the BIA on behalf of the ad hoc committee. “We’re going to find out where they are with respect to the Village, where they are with the redevelopment plans, and where the support is for a Village,” he says.

According to Holder, the next phase of the project is still a little ways away.

“We are starting the detailed design of Bank St from Laurier to the Queensway,” writes Holder. “We expect that construction south of Laurier down to at least MacLaren will occur in 2008 and the remaining section to the Queensway in 2009, contingent on budget approval.”

That means reconstruction could pause in the middle of the proposed Village area — a potential hazard to the street beautification efforts that would identify the Village a distinct area.

In the meantime, the ad hoc committee hopes to gain Ottawa Tourism and the Centretown Community Association as allies.