Posted by: HamptonIona | April 8, 2010

Historic Designation for the Soeur de la Visitation Convent and Site – Please Take Action Urgently

On April 14, City Council will be debating whether to give the Soeur de la Visitation site heritage status. Staff recommended that the convent and the land north of the convent to Richmond Road should receive heritage status. Planning Committee overruled this recommendation and voted to give the convent and the entire site heritage status. While this would not prevent Ashcroft from developing the site, by giving the entire site heritage status, Ashcroft will have to be much more respectful of the site and the site lines of the convent building from the surrounding community. Development will have to take into account not just the convent building but its relationship to the site as well. In addition, unlike the zoning approvals that will be required, heritage designation cannot be appealed to the OMB.

It is important that the full Council agrees to give the entire site heritage status. Councillor Leadman has been lobbying her fellow councillors and it appears that there is good support to give the entire site heritage status. That being said, our community needs to support this initiative. Living next to the convent, we have a unique perspective on what it has meant to our community which we should share with councillors throughout the city. That being said, while it would be useful for all of us to write/email the various city councillors and mayor, councillors outside of the area are much more likely to listen if they hear from their own constituents. If you have friends or family in other parts of the City, please ask them to also write their councillors on this issue.

Ottawa is not a city with a lot of heritage buildings. It is important that we preserve what we have, especially those buildings that are as unique architecturally and historically and as well maintained as the Soeur de la Visitation Convent. As this was a cloistered convent, the 5 acres on which it sits, played an important part in its history. The Sisters seldom left the property so this site was in effect their entire world. To only designate the building and part of the land would not give proper appreciation to the full meaning of the site or the nature of life behind the walls of the convent.

Interestingly, the City’s Heritage Report refers to the site as a monastery. For those of you unaware, a convent that is cloistered is also referred to as a monastery.

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