(Above: Aerial photo of Fairwinds. Photo by @TwitchxB)
Stittsville has changed a lot in the past few decades. From a small farming village of about 500 in the 1950s to the booming suburb of 31,000 it is today, there has been a lot of growth.
Throughout the years it has maintained a “village feel”, but we wondered if that can continue for much longer.
“I don’t know that growth is necessarily a death knell for the charm of the community,” said Tanya Hein, president of the Stittsville Village Association. “I think it just has to be done in a responsible manner.”
Her group examines new developments in the area to see if they are compatible with the community, using city plans as a measuring stick. She believes people are drawn to living in Stittsville because of the small-town charm, and wants to preserve that even with a growing population.
Shad Qadri has been the city councillor for Stittsville since 2006, and has seen first-hand the growth over the years as a business owner and councillor.
He says one of the most important components of Stittsville’s character is its unique main street.
“The one thing that Stittsville has, that other communities around it does not, is a Main Street … Orleans, Barrhaven, Kanata. They don’t have that feature.”
“So from that features perspective alone, I don’t think Stittsville will lose its current village-like feel…” Qadri said.
He says it’s important for the city to have a solid plan for growth, which is why he pushed for a Community Design Plan for Main Street.
Although Stittsville Main Street was modernized in the 1990s, the decision was made to keep larger box stores farther out on Hazeldean Road, and keep smaller and often locally-owned businesses in central Stittsville.
Sustainable development expert and Carleton University professor Gary Martin says car-oriented development is unhealthy for suburbs and the focus needs to shift onto denser, more walkable communities.
“That village character … it’s something that you can build…” Martin said, “You can design things so that it’s more likely to enable interactions between human beings, which is what community is about.”
Martin’s ideal suburb is one which puts shopping, living and recreation in a smaller area so residents can walk a short distance to wherever they want to go.
An attempt was made to build that kind of community with Stittsville Walk, a condo development at 1419 Stittsville Main Street. Only one of six buildings in the development were constructed, and the entire project has been stalled since 2013 due to lack of sales. Controversy over the site’s design was one of the reasons for the creation of the CDP.
Qadri said a more walkable community is what he’s working towards, but it won’t happen overnight. As the community continues to grow it will receive more services, including improved transit service, roads and shops.
“Up until three years ago we only had the one grocery store in the community,” Qadri recalled. “So how do you walk with a bag of milk from one grocery store all the way down to the south end of our community?”
Nobody knows for sure what Stittsville will look like in the coming decades, but we know it will be much larger, to the tune of 70,000 by 2031.
You can listen to more on this topic on a special edition of Devyn Barrie’s Stittsvegas podcast this week, including interviews with Hein, Martin and Qadri. Barrie is a student at Sacred Heart High School.)