Camille Mendoza of PrototypeD will be working with Carleton University architecture students on a community-based project in Vanier. The non-profit company aims to create connections with communities and developers, to help ensure positive growth in the city.
A new relationship sparked between Carleton University students and the Vanier community aims to create a dynamic approach to how the neighbourhood will respond to redevelopment projects.
The initiative will see 12 architecture students work with the Vanier Community Association to help create design ideas for two key properties set to be redeveloped in the near future: Eastview Plaza and St. Charles Church.
According to Mike Bulthuis, president of the Vanier Community Association, both properties are important to the community and getting residents’ ideas down on paper before a developer begins planning is a huge step.
“The goal is to ask ourselves what sort of vision we as a community have for this spot,” Bulthuis said. “In the sense of whether we come out with a concrete vision, or simply a much stronger vision, these are the kinds of steps we want to take.”
Often, he said, developers come to the community with fixed ideas and this is the type of project where residents will have the opportunity to make sure their voices are heard.
The plaza, Bulthuis added, is the gateway into Vanier and an important development site from both a developer’s and the neighbourhood’s point of view.
The connection between the association and the students was made by Vanier resident Janak Alford, who runs a non-profit design company with co-director Camille Mendoza, PrototypeD Urban Workshops Inc., which is based in the Glebe. The students will be working on behalf of the company on the project.
Alford said he is passionate about community engagement, and willingly offers up his spare time for projects such as the one taking place in Vanier.
“Long before working with this studio, I worked with communities and I have a lot of experience with communities, and balancing design,” Alford said. “In the long run, it will make the (development application) process easier, and give buy in.”
Mendoza added that having their studio help create community connections is one of the main perks for both her and Alford.
“Communities are important and helping them understand development from both the developer’s perspective and urban planning perspective is important,” Mendoza said.
The students approached the studio seeking real-world experience and at one time an architecture student himself, Alford said he was eager to help them and began developing a workshop for the students to learn how to pitch, design and promote urban planning projects.
The project is in its early stages, but Bulthuis is enthusiastic about its potential.
“This will put ourselves in a position so that we won’t always be reacting, but being proactive of what type of development we want to see and the kind of community we want to build,” Bulthuis said.
The timing for this project, Alford said worked out really well, from both the community, student and city perspective.
“The city is reviewing the official plan, Montreal Road is also being reviewed, this feels really timely to look at the sites,” he said.
And the young businessman said he believes creating this sort of connection between developers and associations will ultimately work.
“I really do think they would be open to meeting with residents,” Alford said. “One of the failings in architectural design, an architectural proposal has to be a strong business case, to really sell a vision not just a beautiful vision, but one that will be profitable. It has to be a positive economic proposal, for this project we don’t look at just designs, we look at everything we design and it has to make sense from a dollar design.”
The project will have the students design a concept for Eastview Plaza and St. Charles Church using some of their own ideas along with input given from the community.
This particular project will wrap up in May, when Bulthuis said he would like to somehow display the results of the designs at a community forum or open house.
For the association president, this project is just the beginning of what he said residents in Vanier will be participating in to promote positive development in the community.
Visit the Vanier Community Association’s website, www.vanier-association.com for more information about this project.