This morning I was washing the dishes at home and was thinking about Ottawa. What came to mind was a gift I gave my wife in our early twenties when we were just best friends. It was a frame with three slots for pictures. I filled the first two slots with pictures of my wife and I when we were children and teenagers and left the third slot open for a picture of us when we became adults.
It reminded me of a blog post I wrote last year where I said that in Ottawa's childhood we were a small lumber town, in our adolescence we're a political capital, and I asked what Ottawa would be in its adulthood. Like with the frame I gave my wife, the third slot is a mystery.
Another key part of that gift was a biblical passage I got my sister to write in calligraphy just inside the frame."Though your beginning was small, your latter end shall be great." (Job 8:7) We've embraced this as the story of our lives and it has inspired us to persevere through life's disappointments.
I thought about how true this statement was for so many great people in the Bible. It seemed the more humble their beginning the greater they became in their end. Their humble beginnings became a spring board into greatness and national and international leadership. A outcast shepherd boy who became King of Israel. A persecuted shepherd boy who became the Prime Minister of Egypt. A son of slaves who became a prince of Egypt. A poor girl that became the Queen of Babylon. Hey, even a baby born in a manager that became a deity. A lot of these people were the youngest in their respective families. Though their beginnings were small, their latter ends were definitely great!
My thoughts went back to Ottawa's humble beginnings as Bytown, a rough and underdeveloped lumber town. It didn't have glorious or successful beginnings like Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Kingston. Even worse, if Canada was a family with its cities being siblings, Ottawa would be one of the younger ones.
Like the men and women above, Ottawa was the least likely leadership candidate due to its humble beginnings and age. In fact if Twitter were around when Ottawa was named the capital we would've seen a lot of tweets like, "#Ottawa? WTF? #fail".
The stories above have some themes. People who have humble beginnings are often ridiculed, but in the end they may end up leading and becoming a resource to those who once ridiculed them.
I have many friends and loved ones who love to insult Ottawa. But when it comes to individuals, companies, cities, and countries, don't mistake humble beginnings for a lack of greatness or leadership potential because humbling times are actually a launch pad into, and preparation for, greatness and leadership.
In the global economy we are seeing countries who had glorious beginnings, colonizers like Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Spain, being humbled and countries that had humble beginnings, the colonized, rising to greatness like China, Brazil, South Africa, Latin America, and even Canada. If you look into commerce, cities and other sectors you will see the same reversals under way.
I'm excited about Ottawa's humble beginnings and youth because they provide the best launch pad into greatness and national, even international, leadership.
Bytown, though your beginning was small, your latter end shall be great!
A few weeks ago Chris Drew (@chrisjamesdrew) asked me for my thoughts on a Globe and Mail article about the uploading agreement and the Ontario provincial election titled, "McGuinty courts McCallion in the battle for Ontario's suburbs". The article started by showing that big city mayors are increasingly becoming influencial in provincial politics. Dalton McGuinty was trying to leverage the success of my former mayor Hazel McCallion and Tim Hudak was trying to leverage Mayor Rob Ford's success in breaking the Liberal stronghold in the City of Toronto. The main issue at hand was the PC Party's inability to commit to upholding the current uploading agreement which repays municipalities millions of dollars per year for the downloading of services during the Harris years.
Randall Denley, PC candidate in Ottawa West-Nepean, argued that the province can't afford to continue with the uploading arrangement and that cities should focus on getting their fiscal houses in order.
“The municipalities are disappointed
because they’ve been given free money, essentially, from the provincial
government...Now reality has hit, and they’re
not very happy.”
Now I wouldn't call it "free money" since for years municipalities paid out millions of dollars to provide services downloaded from the province.
I was first introduced to this debate about the uploading agreement when our mayor Jim Watson attended the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) meeting last month. PC leader Tim Hudak was unable to promise that the current uploading agreement would be upheld. This led to some pretty heated back and forth tweeting between Mayor Watson and PC MMP Lisa McLeod.
very concerned what you said at AMO- that you wouldn't commit to the
final 5 years of the upload agreement signed by AMO and Prov"
"@MacLeodLisa. So will you fight to reverse your leaders policy to not honour this deal that benefits ALL 444 municipalities?"
"@MacLeodLisa he was asked by journalist if he would honour upload agreement and he would not commit! Delegates are not pleased."
The tweets went on for a while.
I've been a conservative supporter since I started voting 13 years ago; I've never voted otherwise even at the provincial level which I find least exciting and with which I'm the least engaged (perhaps odd for someone who was born and raised in the provincial capital). I've volunteered for the federal Conservatives and have worked for a Conservative MP on the Hill. But as someone who is a strong believer in the role that cities are increasingly playing in the national and global economies, this issue created a conflict in my heart. I'm a conservative supporter who would like to see the uploading agreement upheld.
As some of you may know from my Twitter updates, two weeks ago my son unfortunately destroyed my laptop which left me unable to write or blog for a few weeks. Thanks to some great friends I have a laptop to use until I buy a new one. This means I'm able to resume blogging and writing. You'll be hearing from me over the next few days. Until then.
The second half of my visit to Toronto took me to my parents' house in Mississauga, the second largest city in the Greater Toronto Area. Since we moved to Mississauga from North York in 1991 the city has gone from an almost rural town to a suburban, and increasingly urban, centre. The population was 383,000 when we moved and has grown to about 800,000. The farm house, fields and horses across the street from our house were replaced many years ago with executive townhomes and a mid-rise condo. The odor of cow manure that blanketed the neighbourhood for years is long gone.
A few days before we returned to Ottawa my wife and our friend had gone ahead to shop at the Square One shopping centre. As I arrived to meet up with them I thought about what I was going to do because this was a rare occasion where I was exhausted and I didn't want to shop.
Then I looked up across the parking lot and saw my refuge- the new public square, Celebration Square. This project by New York-based Project for Public Spaces (PPS) was under construction before I moved to Ottawa so I was eager to see it. Luckily my baby bag doubles as a camera bag so I headed over to take some pictures.
As I approached the square it was rather empty which is to be expected outside of work hours. There were some children and young teenagers running through the water feature in front of city hall, a few people sitting at tables, and some people gathered around a street food vendor. One street food vendor was selling crepes of all things. The street that once ran through the area was now gone linking the front lawn of the central library with the former square in front of city hall. The square was branded very well and had great signage including electronic signs informing visitors of upcoming programming.
This modern square was quite different than any public square you would see in Ottawa (not saying that's a good or bad thing). There were video screens framing a permanent stage and bright and flashy double-sided video screens facing Burhamthorpe Road, the main downtown east-west thoroughfare (I don't think it's a pilot project).
Mississauga, like it's neighbour to the east, is progressive and open to trying new things; they're eager to make a name for themselves. Nevertheless, one of the main downfalls of Mississauga in my eyes is its youth. As a very young city it lacks the character of older cities like Ottawa. It could almost appear sterile but I think young professionals will be attracted to the lifestyle they're trying to provide. I thought to myself that Ottawa has the chance to provide residents and visitors with the best of both worlds- vibrant, modern, urban spaces and older heritage districts with character.
One condo project I've been highly anticipating is the SoBa (South on Bank) by Lamb Developments and Fortress Real Capital, the same team bringing the Gotham to Centretown. I've been going to the Fortress website about every other day to see if there was any news or renderings for this project. More than anything I was interested to see the calibre of design of the project and how it would add to the urban identity of the city.
To my surprise this morning on the Skyscraper forum a thread was finally opened for the project and I have to say the design is beautiful, actually sexy. Ottawa? Sexy? Yes.
Lamb and Fortress are proposing a 19-storey condo at 203 Catherine Street in an area they are coining SoBa (South on Bank). What's most exciting about this project is its location next to Highway 417.
As we all know, when driving into the city from the west end the views of downtown leave much to be desired. Personally I think they're flat out gross and unappealing. Unlike some cities, our city's main landmark, Parliament Hill, isn't visible from a major highway to provide visitors with an introduction to the city before they settle down.
I like what this building would communicate to visitors to the city coming in from the 417. It says, "Vibrant, urban, edgy"- words many people wouldn't associate with Ottawa at the moment.
The location is also appealing because of its proximity to the Ottawa Bus Station which may also be developed if Greyhound leaves the station for greener pastures. If it's built that project would include an urban village with 23 and 19-storey condos, townhomes, and retail and office space. Together these two projects would bring even more life to the area.
Brad Lamb and other Toronto developers coming into the Ottawa market is controversial but I actually see it as a good thing. Some of the best building designs that have been proposed over the past year have come from Toronto developers like Mastercraft Starwood and Urban Capital.
While I hope these developers go about things the right way, I also hope they stimulate competition and challenge developers in this market to design better buildings and use better building materials.
Click here to see the powerpoint presentation of the project.
By the far the most exciting part of our trip to Toronto was our friend taking us on a tour of his workplace Corus Quay, the headquarters of Corus Entertainment. We always hear people talk about real estate porn when talking about sexy buildings. Well here's some media and design porn for you; drop dead gorgeous from head to toe. As a growing media junkie and design lover this was an hour of complete extacy.
Corus Quay is one of those workplaces you think only exist in the United States, especially Silicon Valley or Disney, but don't think you'll see in Canada. Animators had dolls and figurines of famous characters like Goofy and Caillou all over their desks as they worked. The staff lounge was a lot of fun with a foosball table and edgy and creative furniture. Every floor was uniquely designed and painted, each floor with bright colours on the wall. All of the offices are open concept even those of the executives.
Every major Corus brand- Cosmo TV, Oprah Winfrey Network, Women's Network, Nickelodeon, Q107- has its own uniquely designed board room inspired by the brand.
Also adding to the beauty of the building, as a part of their occupancy agreement with the City of Toronto Corus Entertainment agreed to invest $25 million in art for the facility.
When we walked over to the merchandise wall the merchandise guy ended up giving my son a Backyardigan toy. He also took us over to the merchandise closest and gave me son two bags of toys and clothes.
We then headed over to the production area where a guy named Dan
showed us the work he was doing on the YTV cartoon Sidekick. One of our
last stops was Master Control where all the magic happens.
left the tour inspired as an aspiring media professional with an
entrepreneurial streak. People deserve to have a great place to work and
Corus definately provides that. I hope to see this calibre of media in our city in the future.
Below you will find the pictures I took on our tour. Don't get too excited.
Every one of these ceiling pieces rotates electronically creating a wave effect
Slide from the staff lounge to the lobby
This wall was made from reclaimed wood from a 1910 ferry terminal wharf in the Toronto harbour
Five-storey living wall
Behind this wall is a multi-use studio for Country Music Televison (CMT), YTV, etc.
Another lounge overlooking Lake Ontario
Corus' many Emmys and Geminis
Training Room looking out onto downtown
Training Room terrace looking out onto downtown
The Bourne Clan
Sugar Beach from the Training Room terrace
Main Board Room
Another terrace facing the land and Toronto Islands
Corus' many media brands
Cosmo TV Board Room
Main staff lounge
The most beautiful woman in the world
The Chorus-themed Board Room
The W Network Board Room
Merchandise storage room with the merchandise guy (left with two bags of stuff)
The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) Board Room
The cutest boy in the world lounging
KJ and Auntie Claudia standing on the glass floor
Dan showing us his work in progress on the YTV cartoon Sidekick