Public Space
A New Park is Coming to South Keys Centre

A New Park is Coming to South Keys Centre

We want your input on the design of this new park! Be sure to complete our survey.

If you’ve visited the South Keys Shopping Centre before, it’s likely you didn’t really stop to look around. This is no accident: the existing “big box” retail is designed for you to easily drive to a store, walk in, and walk out without much hassle. Aside from the seasonal patio in front of the Starbucks, you’re unlikely to see anyone gathering or hanging out at South Keys Centre. 

Well, that’s about to change! The City is currently reviewing an application to build two mixed-use towers at South Keys Centre which would result in the creation of the first public park in this community.

Why does this matter?

Today, every square foot of land at South Keys Centre is privately owned, mostly by SmartCentres REIT. Privately owned land is used for private uses — in this case retail and parking. With the transfer of some lands to public ownership, the opportunity arises for the community to gain a new public space. 

What could this become?

The amount of land proposed to be transferred to the City is 0.53 hectares, equivalent to about the size of a football field. It is a long, narrow shape stretching from Daze Street to the entrance to South Keys Station and forms the first half of the “South Keys Transit Plaza”, which is imagined in planning documents as a “high quality public plaza” and an “urban courtyard gateway” to the station entrance. Other elements mentioned in the Community Design Plan include:

  • At-grade retail in surrounding developments facing the plaza to “activate” the space
  • Pick-up and drop-off areas adjacent to the plaza for people taking transit
  • A broad pathway leading from the street to the transit station
  • Public art
  • Playground equipment
  • Games, fitness stations, benches, and picnic tables
  • Shade
  • Minimum 30% tree canopy

The importance of getting it right

The South Keys Transit Plaza is one of many eventual public spaces that will be created as further development occurs over the coming decades. As the first one, it is essential to get its design right to set the tone. A well-designed space will create a place where people feel comfortable travelling through or just hanging out in. The first phase of development includes 446 units and the plaza will be the primary park land for these residents. What is a parking lot today will become something much more valuable in the future.

BSKC’s role in the process

From day one of our formation, the South Keys Transit Plaza has been one of our top priorities:

  • We attended the first meeting for the proposed development in December 2021 and submitted comments, which the City is currently reviewing.
  • We have individually met with Councillor Diane Deans, SmartCentres REIT, OC Transpo, and the City’s Parks department to inquire about the space and emphasize the need for community involvement in the process.
  • As part of our Spring Walk, we engaged with 50 community members in a walk of the future plaza from end-to-end, inviting people to imagine what the future space could become.

The Councillor and City stakeholders have heard loud and clear that we care deeply about this space and that the community needs to be at the table for all decisions related to its development. So far, we have only received information by asking (and sometimes prodding); we are confident that soon we will reach a point that the City understands the need to proactively engage us as part of the process.

Where is this at in the process?

The City is currently negotiating between its own departments and with the developer on the size and shape of the land parcel that will become the plaza. While the design of the plaza itself is still a topic for future discussion, the land transferred to the city will ultimately enable (or inhibit) the success of the future plaza.

Key decisions to be made at this stage include:

  • What portion of the space will be for “transit” uses (ticket machines, pickup-dropoff) versus “park” uses (playgrounds, sitting areas, patios)
  • Ensuring that the land transferred to the city is of high quality (no major buried utilities that would inhibit tree growth, ensuring access for Para Transpo, seamless connections to the proposed towers)
  • How the private development will interact with the transit plaza (ground-floor retail, seamless pedestrian flow)

Time to have our say

As the City and SmartCentres ponder key decisions about the future of the space, the time is ripe for all residents of Ottawa with an interest in this space to share their voice. BSKC strives to be the voice of the community on this issue and in order to do so, we need to hear your ideas, thoughts, questions, and concerns.

We want your input on the design of this new park! Be sure to complete our survey.

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