Chinatown building sold for $1 to become youth centre
Somerset West Community Health Centre would take over 755 Somerset St. W. from city
- The finance and economic development committee approved the sale at its Feb. 4 meeting.
- It needs full council's approval on Feb. 12.
The Somerset West Community Health Centre has plans to make a stone building in Chinatown into a community-based centre for children and youth programs if Ottawa city council approves selling it to the organization for one dollar.
The non-profit organization is already the only paying tenant — it operates the Nanny Goat Nursery — and is looking to expand its Early Years play groups and other programs.
At the same time, the City of Ottawa is looking to drop the Dalhousie Community Centre, a 114-year-old former school, from the list of properties it must maintain.
"It all came together seamlessly," said Naini Cloutier, executive director of the Somerset West Community Health Centre, which also has its headquarters around the corner on Eccles Street and a satellite building on Rosemount Avenue in Hintonburg.
Those buildings house everything from primary care physicians and mental health counselling to Chinese-language groups for expectant mothers, whereas the Dalhousie Community Centre will be focused on children.
"We're looking forward to this building becoming a child and youth hub and... being a space where the neighborhood can come and gather."
City spent $4M in upgrades
The city's finance and economic development committee will be asked Tuesday to waive rules and approve selling the building at 755 Somerset St. W. to the non-profit organization for that nominal amount instead of putting it on the open market.
It's appraised at $3,380,000.
They spent nearly $4 million on upgrades in 2017 and 2018, most of which went toward restoring the building's stone façade.
But city staff admit in a report that the building is underused — half the space sits empty. Revenues don't cover the costs of running it, either, so selling it would mean the city would no longer be on the hook for future maintenance.
A youth drop-in, The Door, and a social recreation organization called Rec Link also use space inside. A city-run adult drop-in program called Open Door would move to nearby McNabb Recreation Centre if the deal goes ahead.
But city staff in the recreational and community services departments were unable to identify a municipal use for the old stone building, so staff now recommend it be sold to the Somerset West Community Health Centre on the condition it be used for community programs.
Area still needs municipal facilities: association
The area's community association, however, is concerned about the city divesting of a municipal facility at a time when it's approving more and more housing in the way of high-rise towers and infill development.
"The City of Ottawa has a responsibility in neighbourhoods that are intensifying to make sure that they have the kinds of services and supports you would expect for any resident," said Mike Powell, president of the Dalhousie Community Association, which represents residents in Chinatown, Little Italy and LeBreton Flats.
Powell points out that Plant Recreation Centre is very busy, and he hopes the city has a long-term plan for meeting the needs of residents.
Cloutier said Somerset West will encourage other community groups to to take up space in the Dalhousie Community Centre.
"So really a better utilization of that building by making it truly into a community centre," Cloutier said.