Delayed west-end francophone centre poised to move ahead

The future of the troubled Grant School site on Richmond Road is looking more secure now that two city committees have passed a plan to convert it into a francophone hub.

French school board recieves $8.9 million from the province for the project

A concept drawing for Maison de la francophonie de l'Ottawa, formerly the site of Grant School on Richmond Road. (City of Ottawa)

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  • The planning committee unanimously approved the application on March 27.

The future of the troubled Grant School site on Richmond Road is looking more secure now that two city committees have passed a plan to convert it into a francophone hub.

The original plan to refurbish the west Ottawa site and create a community space for French speakers faced financial obstacles and delays in 2016, leaving neighbours worried the long-vacant historic building would become derelict.

Now, the French public school board, Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario (CEPEO), is poised to complete that vision with funds from the provincial government.

"It's very important that the community … know that there's a place where they can speak French and have services in French," said CEPEO chair Linda Savard.

Project wins city approvals

The school board plans to demolish an old addition and construct two new buildings on the site.

The centre will be called Maison de la francophonie de l'Ottawa.

The city's finance and economic development committee agreed Tuesday to sell the land needed for the new buildings to the board for $2 million, and on Thursday the built heritage sub-committee approved the design.

The school annex, built in 1949, will be demolished and replaced with two new buildings as part of the school board's plans. (City of Ottawa)

"This has been a long running project in Bay ward, and although it faced challenges and slow progress, it is now on the cusp of being completed in a timely fashion and serving the needs of the west end community," Coun. Mark Taylor wrote in a city report where he asked other councillors to support the proposal.

The project was able to move forward in December after the provincial government announced an $8.9-million contribution to the new hub.

That money will be used for construction, while the school board will cover the cost of purchasing the land.

Francophone population booming

The school board plans to use the buildings for a number of community resources, including a daycare, a community gymnasium, adult classes and French-language services.

Savard said those services are sorely lacking in the west end, even as the francophone population booms. Right now there are about 20,000 francophones in west Ottawa, she said.

"Every French school in the west end of Ottawa is full," Savard said.

City council will debate final approval for the project on March 28. If everything goes as planned, the school board hopes to begin construction and open the centre's doors in early 2019.