Community garden blossoms at 500 St. Laurent

By Wes Smiderle

Resident prepares newly-constructed community garden at 500 St. Laurent Blvd.

Many months of work and planning came to fruition this summer with the construction and planting of a community garden behind the Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) residence at 500 St. Laurent Blvd.

The five full-sized garden boxes, one lower box for children and two benches with side gardens were constructed over the course of a summer’s day by volunteers from the structural engineering firm Turner & Sand. The Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre (RRCRC), Social Harvest (dedicated to expanding food literacy and urban agriculture skills) and community non-profit farm Just Food also helped get the garden running and producing food.

The impetus for the new garden came from the efforts of residents of the apartment working together with the Manor Park Community Association (MPCA)’s community outreach and environmental and sustainability committees, and the OCH.

“It’s a really nice integration of community partnerships,” says Mary Hickman, MPCA Community Outreach Chair.

While the boxes were built over the course of a day, planning and preparing the site took much longer. The building back lot was of the building was little-used and overgrown with brush that had to be cleared and dragged out.

Mary recalls MPCA Environmental and Sustainability Chair Eugenie Waters visiting the site almost two years ago, while it was covered in snow, and discussing plans with building resident Chantal Hurtubise.

“The key piece was Chantal. She’s someone who perseveres. She had a vision and she kept at it.”


The community garden at 500 St. Laurent Blvd. is just the latest example of a volunteer engagement program geared toward beautifying or somehow improving an OCH residence based on the needs and desires of the tenants.

According to OCG Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Mehdi Louzouaz, the program has built 24 garden boxes and over 200 painting projects in resident hallways and lounges.

The project at St. Laurent also served to transform a space that was under-used. “Now there is a purpose for the area. Kids can go there and have adventures. People can go there and garden. The idea is to now have a multi-use area.”

He notes everyone will also benefit from the garden’s bounty.

“All the boxes are communal boxes. People will share the produce when harvesting from the gardens.”

Ottawa Community Housing CEO Stéphane Giguère (centre, back to camera) addresses volunteers gathered to construct six garden boxes and two community benches at 500 St. Laurent Blvd. earlier this summer. Photo: Doug Banks
The community garden project involved a partnership between several organizations, including Ottawa Community Housing, the Manor Park Community Association and the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre. Photo: Doug Banks
Residents of 500 St. Laurent Blvd. celebrated the “inauguration” of the gardens at a gathering held in August. Photo: Elizabeth McAllister