Why Community Engagement Matters: A Lesson from Ottawa

Posted by Chris Steer on April 19, 2013

Like they are in many cities across the country, condos are on the rise in Ottawa. Week after week, local newspapers feature stories that generally include the words ‘controversial’ and ‘development’ side by side. The word ‘controversial’ is almost always followed with a quote from a neighbour to the proposed development, stating why the proposal is such an awful idea.

Most developments in major cities have to meet fairly stringent guidelines, but the biggest hurdle is normally not council approval, but community opposition. Simply, many of these developments are only controversial because the developer ignores the members of the community that they are looking to develop. If community engagement occurs, it’s usually after a proposal is fully developed and before council, making community consultation seem like an afterthought.

Canadians care about their local communities and their neighbours. Their community is a source of pride, so an intrusion from a perceived outsider automatically raises defenses. Community members think developers want to “change” but not necessarily “improve” their community. The battle for the hearts of the potential neighbours is the toughest fight a developer will go through.

This week, I was delighted to see an article in one of the local Ottawa community papers saying that a developer had begun the consultation process before a plan was even put in place. Mizrahi Developments held a community meeting to engage the thoughts of local residents and the community thanked them for it. The positive media and community support is potentially worth millions.

Broadview believes community engagement is so important because it starts a conversation. The community members can be heard and make a positive contribution to the discussion. Nothing says, “I come as a friend” quite like “I want to hear what you think”.

Community engagement early and often is always an investment in the future. Developers can almost guarantee smooth passage through council by ensuring the community is on their side. Communication is fundamentally important, and Broadview is here to help make sure it’s done well.

 

Want to see how Mizrahi did?  Read this: Public gets heads-up on possible ‘iconic’ condo proposal