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Rainbow village plan inches forward

Bank St gets three gay reps at advisory table

THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET. Glenn Crawford looks forward to advancing the rainbow village cause between design projects at his company, Jack Of All Trades. Credit: (Etienne Ranger)

The city handpicked the community advisors who will help decide what to do after Bank Street is torn up in 2008 and three gays made the list, Capital Xtra has learned.

Glenn Crawford volunteered after a Feb 2006 public meeting called by city councillor Diane Holmes after the community spoke up on the need for a gay village through the pages of Capital Xtra. In April, the queer community formed the Rainbow Village Community And Business Association to work on gay geography issues including the formation of a rainbow village along Bank St. Crawford is representing the RVCBA.

He will be joined by Ricky Barnes representing Pink Triangle Services and non-profit housing director Catherine Boucher (winner of a lifetime achievement award for queer activism at the 2006 Heroes ceremony in October).

Others will represent the interests of cyclists, the disabled, and defenders of Ottawa’s historic architecture — all in addition to two powerful groups: the Bank St Business Improvement Area (BIA) and the Centretown Citizens Community Association.

They will sit on the panel advising the city on the redevelopment strategy for Bank St between Laurier and the Queensway.

“The important thing is that there’s a rainbow community and it’s centred around eight or nine blocks of Bank St that we’re already using,” says Barnes.

The Feb 2006 meeting drew an unexpected crowd of over 100 people supporting creation of a rainbow village. They spoke in favour of implementing visual designation that would create a positive atmosphere for our community while also upgrading the street in a way that includes all merchants and others who live, work, play and shop along Bank St.

Their selection could bode well for the fledgling rainbow village if Crawford and Barnes can persuade the city to introduce some type of marker, setting off a portion of Bank St as gay-friendly. That could mean flags, street signs, posters or plaques, says Barnes.

Barnes was working for Vancouver MLA Tim Stevenson when Davies Street gained its official status as a gay neighbourhood in that city.

He’s mindful that businesses on Bank St overwhelmingly supported the idea of the creation of a rainbow village, according to a survey conducted by the BIA in 2002.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we won’t meet with any opposition,” he says.

He points out that the construction couldn’t be happening at a better time.

“This is a very opportune time for us to be getting our act together,” he says.

The rainbow village project appears to be benefiting from other good timing as well.

The Rainbow Village Community And Business Association, a network of gay groups located around Bank St, is represented on the committee by Crawford (see below). Getting involved in the redevelopment project is just one plank in their strategy to get the area recognized.

The Ottawa Official Plan, the provincially-mandated document detailing the city’s development goals, is up for renewal every five years. First written in 2003 after amalgamation, it’s up for revision in 2008.

Meanwhile, the city’s patchwork of zoning bylaws, a holdover from the amalgamation of 38 regional bylaws, is being rewritten into a Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw, with consultations running into the fall.