The swamp that become Lowertown was cleared and occupied first by the Irish, and was later inhabited by working class French Canadians. By the 1960s, the area was considered to be blighted. All levels of governments took on the Lowertown East Urban Renewal project, using a process of ‘eminent domain’ to remove landowners as well as tenants to open up the area for redevelopment. This was one of the largest and most expensive single urban renewal projects in the history of Canada. As the $35 million “phoenix style” bulldozing boondoggle proceeded, one small group of citizens fought to save a small piece of the French community, keep it more or less in place in Lowertown, and keep the French spirit alive. The result of this effort was the Parc Beausoleil Housing project.
The walk will explore the extent of planning misdirection, planned highways through the area (fortunately unimplemented), the mis-use of eminent domain to clear out people and businesses as well as the buildings, and the help that came forward to try and repair the damage. At the 'celebrations' on the completion of the fourteen-year-long urban renewal project in Lowertown in 1982, one politician called the entire project “stupid.”
We will meet in front of the ByTowne Cinema (northwest corner of Rideau St and Nelson St.). From there, we'll walk north on Nelson through the back routes over to the road named after the Co-op, Beausoleil Drive. We'll walk east on Beausoleil toward Macdonald Gardens to the Parc Beausoleil Co-op Housing neighbourhood.
This walk will be led by Patrick Chen. Patrick studied Architecture at McGill and Regional Planning at the University of Ottawa before joining the City of Ottawa in 1973 as a planner. He established the Urban Design Department within the city administration, and collaborated with colleagues at the Regional Government to ensure citizen input was obtained on various planning issues.
For more information, please visit the event listing on the Ottawa Jane's Walk website.