2 min

Will gays be involved in detailed redesign of Bank St

City planner says no guarantees, despite community demands

Gay designer Glenn Crawford wants to sit on the Public Advisory Committee that will oversee the detailed design work for the gay village on Bank St. Credit: Pat Croteau

The redevelopment of the gaybourhood’s main strip won’t happen until 2009, and there’s no guarantee that queer ideas will be adopted.

The Bank St renovation design proposals are supposed to be overseen by a Public Advisory Committee (PAC), but the city’s project manager says there’s no assurance that the committee will have a queer representative.

And city councillor Diane Holmes seems to be trying to reduce expectations within the gay community.

A PAC is made up of a cross-section of groups with a special interest – for example, business groups, resident associations – in how their neighbourhood is redeveloped during major city construction projects.

Usually, those who sit on the PAC are accountable to a specific organization and report back to it. There are no guarantees a spot will be purposely opened up on the PAC, project manager Richard Holder says. But, he adds, if a gay community representative comes forward, “there’s no reason why a space can’t be made.”

Meanwhile, Holmes notes that some residents and businesses located in the gay district aren’t so positive about having a gay village on Bank St. And streetscape details will depend on what area businesses want because “the Business Improvement Area will be paying for things like signage and benches.”

The renovations were slated for development starting next spring, but have been delayed, says Holder. He cites difficulties working on the street at the same time as a rapid transit line is under construction. Instead, redevelopment of the Glebe section of Bank will be moved up, while the gay section from Laurier to Gladstone will see detailed design work delayed until 2008.

Holder first suggested a delay might occur in a presentation to a public meeting Feb 15. And Holmes recently sent out an e-mail to the 100 or so people who attended the meeting, noting the construction won’t happen until 2009, and that the PAC won’t meet until 2008.

Holmes brought a sign-up sheet to the Feb 15 public meeting and encouraged two representatives of the gay community to join the PAC.

Seven people signed up for the PAC at the meeting. Since then, the list has been whittled down as people changed their minds about sitting on the committee.

“People called back and said they didn’t want to be part of (PAC),” says Holmes. “We will be calling people again to get involved late 2007 or early 2008.”

Glenn Crawford is one volunteer who has a clear commitment to serving on the PAC. He signed up because “the concept of the gaybourhood is important.

“I didn’t have a visible queer community when I was growing up,” he says. “I live in the area, and I work in the area. I want to feel a sense of belonging in the community at large, a recognition of the critical mass of people and businesses in the area, and a validation of our existence.”

Crawford says he can bring his skills and experience as a designer to the streetscape designs.

“I’d like to help create an attractive, appealing area. I think it’s an achievable goal,” says Crawford.

Crawford is disappointed that the gay section of Bank St will be the last of three areas to be reworked. But there are advantages to the delay, too.

“It gives us time to figure out how the concept of a gaybourhood will be shaped and what physical symbols, banners and street signs will be used,” says Crawford.

And it allows time for educating opponents of a rainbow village about the benefits.

“I don’t understand why there’s a misconception about excluding straight people,” he says. Creating a more visible gay community in Ottawa “could rejuvenate tourism and be a positive thing for everyone.”

In the meantime, Crawford wants to attend meetings dealing with the reconstruction, to help him become a better representative.

“I’d like to meet with people, and get an initial feeling about what they want to do and what their visions are. How do we brand (the gaybourhood)? What are achievable goals? What’s realistic?” says Crawford.