A non-profit aiming to buy and fill a landmark Village office building says it’s interested in servicing and reflecting the surrounding community as much as possible.
Under One Roof Properties will own two of seven floors at 251 Bank St by the end of 2012, hopes to take over another in 2013 and plans to buy the building by 2014, says Diane Touchette, the founder of the organization and the director of operations at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Under One Roof’s sponsor.
The building already houses the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Bruce House and Pink Triangle Services.
The space is affordable and people can settle in for years or rent a desk for the day, Touchette says.
The goal is to create a shared workspace for like-minded people and groups engaged in progressive social and cultural missions, she adds, but that doesn’t mean existing tenants will have to move out. Tenant participation in Under One Roof and its activities is strictly voluntary.
“The AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Bruce House and Pink Triangle Services are precisely the kind of community groups we would welcome as members of Under One Roof,” Touchette says. “If we’re successful in eventually purchasing the building, we hope they will remain as tenants.”
Touchette says she hopes community events — meetings, classes, film screenings, lectures and book launches — will be a defining feature of the space.
“Ultimately, we hope the space will be what our members make of it. The more participation we enjoy from the local community, the more the visibility of the gay village will be reflected in Under One Roof’s activities,” Touchette says, noting tenants have been moving in since spring.
There’s a spirit of collaboration between tenants, says Rima Zabian, an addictions counsellor at A Better Life.
Tenants are starting to reach out to the surrounding community to build collaborations, she says.
“We’re hoping the gay village will let us know what it thinks is missing in terms of services at Under One Roof so we can look to fill the gaps,” she says.
Octopus Books, a bookstore with a social justice mission, opened its second location in the space in mid-April.
Although the store already stocks gender studies books, it’s open to stocking and placing special orders for more of the same type of books if that’s what customers in the area want, says David Robbins, the store’s communications and marketing operator.
Under One Roof Properties’ location makes sense, says Ian Capstick, chair of Ottawa’s Village committee.
The Village section of Bank St has a long history of social services, says Capstick, who is encouraging organizations located elsewhere to move in.
The Under One Roof model is a great way for the number of queer-friendly businesses and organizations in the Bank St Village to grow quickly because it creates space for many, he says.
“Although it is up to [Under One Roof Properties] to decide if they’re queer-positive or not,” Capstick says.
The Village committee is looking for board members, and Capstick says he hopes some tenants from Under One Roof Properties will step up.
Touchette says Under One Roof Properties will definitely participate in the Village committee’s Show Your Stripes campaign, which encourages Village businesses to display rainbow flags and stickers in their windows.
“The Show Your Stripes initiative fits perfectly with UOR’s current and future plans,” she says.