The Department of National Defense has officially confirmed that it will be moving to the former Nortel campus on Moodie Drive, turning aside last ditch efforts to block the move by outside politicians and bureaucrats.
The announcement is the best news Bells Corners has received in almost twenty years! It was the key piece we have been banking on as the cornerstone of our long term economic strategy for Bells Corners. Background: Bells Corners has been struggling with the declining customers base for the past two decades. Why? Barrhaven and Kanata residents used to have little choice but to come to Bells Corners. But that changed when stores were built in Barrhaven and Kanata. Shoppers were suddenly able to opt for the new retail sectors in their own neighborhoods instead. A second major hit to the Bells Corners commercial strip came with the collapse of Nortel.
In setting a primary economic recovery strategy for the strip, we have been working closely with local merchants through the BIA and with economic development staff. We all knew the only solution was to bring more customers to the area - people living there and people working there. That meant we had to identify the unique competitive advantages this area enjoys over other areas and we needed to position our infrastructure and recruiting efforts so that, when a major employer arrived, we would be able to combine that infusion with the natural advantages in the area to produce synergy. The upcoming arrival of the first wave of 3,300 DND employees is exactly the breath of life that Bells Corners needs. When the DND site is fully populated, very soon after that, there will be over 9,000 employees - far more than were lost at the collapse of Nortel and potentially enough to replace a significant number of the Bells Corners customers lost to Kanata and Barrhaven.
I want to thank the many Bells Corners residents and business people who bought into the direction which is now about to pay off for everyone.
I have made abundant efforts to ensure that the last City budget included improvements to the area; such as the $2.6 million Robertson and Moodie intersection expansion which will, as early as next year, become very necessary to accommodate the influx of new commuters. Our strategy of promoting the introduction of the Holiday Inn, and possibly an additional hotel, ensures that we are able take advantage of our unique positioning as the western gateway to the capital for the 70% of tourists who are here, not to see the Parliament Buildings, but rather, to go to our festivals and hockey and soccer tournaments. But it also ensures that we will be able to benefit from the thousands of business travelers every year who will be coming to Ottawa for meetings at the DND complex.
We also made successful efforts to ensure that lands along, and just behind, the strip were re-designated to allow for the kind of development we would need in order to welcome increases in both population and the customer base.
We have already positioned the Bells Corners strip in the City’s Official Plan so that new office buildings needed to support DND, and companies dealing with it, can be built. We have been working with an applicant as it acquired the old Vox site and made plans for an office complex in anticipation of success on the DND front. As well, we have already laid the groundwork to allow mixed residential development on properties behind the north side of Robertson Road. As former Mayor Ben Franklin once advised me, if you are the one who analyzes the conditions properly, works hard and makes all the right preparations, you can be the person standing on the beach, holding the surfboard when the wave actually hits. My family and I have made Bells Corners our home for many years now (long before it fell within my jurisdiction on Council) and so I know first hand how badly the area needed this win and how positively the six year integration plan really will improve the standard of living. So let me be the first to say; Have a Very Merry Christmas Bells Corners!