How neighbours worked together to turn “Elm” into “Brae”

Brae Crescent

Most people on Elm Crescent were pretty fond of their street’s name, and not at all happy when they found out that the city wanted to change it.

Elm Street was one of several in our area that City of Ottawa officials said needed to be changed to avoid confusion with similar-sounding street names in the city. 

The new street names were announced last week, and I was surprised to see that 73% of Elm residents (44 of 60 who cast a vote) picked “Brae Crescent”.  How come there was so much consensus on that name, when other streets had lower participation and less agreement? (Over on Meadowland Drive, the “winning” name was Turtleback Way, with only 2 of 10 votes.)

On some streets, residents launched petitions or didn’t cast a vote at all. Over on Elm, many homeowners came together and found a novel way to reach a consensus.

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“What I like the most about it is that we (the residents) worked together as a group to come up with the name,” says Bob White, a homeowner on Elm Crescent.

In September, homeowners on the street received a ballot with 46 names that they could choose from as a new street name.  With so many choices, the chances of one name coming through as a clear winner seemed slim.

White says that 49 neighbours participated in a five-round voting process to whittle the choices down to the eventual winner.

“In the first round, only one name received more than for votes (Cape Cod received five), meaning, in theory, that using the City’s process (one vote, one round) the winner would have received less than 10%  of the votes (5/60),” he says.

With each round of voting, the number of choices was narrowed down. Brae eventually ended up as the winner, receiving 33 of 49 votes. Residents were then free to mark their own official ballots as they pleased.

“The fact that Brae ended up with 44/60 votes in the official vote shows that the majority of our residents were involved (and cared) in the process, and that they had a say in the winning name,” he says. “And that the majority will be happy with it (even though it was not their original choice).”

White says that his initial pick was “Polar Bear”, but he’s happy with the outcome.

“It’s short, simple, and easy to say… It also has some significance to our crescent, because it refers to the hill at the north end of the crescent (by the old Caldwell house).”

Other residents who we reached out to seem happy with the name as well.

“Brae wasn’t initially my first choice, but it’s the overall most popular and I did vote for it.  It has good connotations for me, The banks and braes of bonny Doon, etc., and conjures up peaceful countryside images to remind us of what used to be,” wrote Keldine FitzGerald by email.

“I am content with it as a selection over some of the other choices.  If another renaming elsewhere in the city should take place my hope for the city would be to learn from this experience and be more involved in facilitating and encouraging residents to have their say,” wrote Victoria Hart.

Sounds like a great model for the City to  trying out for their next round of name changes, wherever those may be!


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4 thoughts on “How neighbours worked together to turn “Elm” into “Brae””

  1. All 7 residents of Bell Street tried to change their name to something that mattered to us historically!
    Jim Bell of Bell Plumbing still lives on the street but that’s not enough to keep the name. We tried Belpitts (a combination of Bell and Colpitts) but that was rejected. There were other names offered by us and they were all rejected!!
    We are now going to be Bobcat Way!!! Better than Beluga Way or Polar Bear Way but still doesn’t have a connection to our community!!!
    I sincerely hope that no other community has to go through this…it’s very frustrating trying to deal with the city!

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