Ottawa thinks big, for once

Ottawa, as every resident knows, is change-challenged. The city’s inhabitants are often reluctant to try something new, or, for that matter, to think big. But every now and then they do something to demonstrate that Ottawans can overcome their mental paralysis regarding the future.

Take, for example, our spanking new Convention Centre. Opened in 2011, the $179-million facility sprawls along the Rideau Canal as a model of imaginative ambition. Compared to the bunker-style National Arts Centre on the other side of the canal, the Centre, all flowing glass and sweeping curves, is a veritable exemplar of dynamic, forward thinking.

It’s also a money-maker. For years Ottawa had to forego its share of the $263-billion market for North American conventions because it lacked the facilities necessary to accommodate many of them. No more. According to a study by the market research firm Ipsos, commissioned by the Convention Centre, it contributed $101 million to the local economy in 2012 after staging some 57 big-ticket events, including the federal Liberal Party convention and the NHL All-Star Weekend. That’s a nice uptick on the $85 million in economic pump-priming during the Centre’s first nine months of operation.

All told, then, the Centre attracted more than 47,000 out-of-towners during its first full year of operation, visitors who not only sauntered around the Parliament buildings or national museums, but spent money on Ottawa’s hotels, rode in its taxis, dined in its restaurants, and, who knows, got their hair done in the local beauty salons. All those people provided employment for thousands of local residents.

Such numbers are the best rebuttal to those unimaginative souls who fretted as the Centre’s costs crept up or worried that the structure would disturb tourist views of the parliamentary precinct. Monetarily, the Centre has effectively paid for itself, at least in terms of its benefit to the city. Esthetically, it has provided the city with “a world-class building,” to borrow architecture critic Rhys Phillips’s description, that is iconic and attention grabbing in its own right.

Some of us remember the notion of building a convention centre to replace the Congress Centre being the subject of discussion as far back as 1988. There were times when it looked like the project’s biggest boosters — people like, for instance, former major Jim Durrell, Patrick Kelly, the Centre’s president, Graham Bird, the Centre’s project director, and, not to be forgotten, architect Ritchard Brisbin — would need another quarter century to overcome the inertia of Ottawa’s heritage of architectural humbleness. Yes, yes, there are exceptions such as the Museum of Civilization and the National Gallery, but on the whole this city has displayed numbing mediocrity when it comes to its iconic buildings. To borrow again from Rhys Phillips: “The city doesn’t do showcase design. We do nothing that pushes the envelope, we are never on the cutting edge of architecture.”

Of course, Ottawa, as the nation’s capital, has to maintain its historical legacy. But that doesn’t mean we must adhere to the notion that the status quo is sacrosanct, architecturally speaking. Many ideas, scaled to Ottawa’s economy, possess standout potential — from a concert hall and a new library to, please, doing something intelligent with the former American embassy. The revitalization of Lansdowne Park shows change can happen here.

The success of the Glass-Bowl-on-the-Rideau demonstrates what Ottawa can aspire to and accomplish (with and without government) when, rather than obsessing on the past, it also thinks for the future.

Ottawa Citizen

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Ritchard Brisbin's "OCC is a model of imaginative ambition"

What a Concept

“From a digital artist in residence program to futuristic light-rail stations, Ottawa is proving to be on the cutting edge of design.   The lowdown on two innovative projects to keep an eye on BY MISA KOBAYASHI”.    Visit Ottawa Magazine May 2013

Rise Asset Development launches in Ottawa

Joseph Rotman, Sandra Rotman and Patrick Dion celebrate together at the launch of RISE Ottawa -March 2013
University of Toronto

Rise Asset Development launches operations in Ottawa through Causeway Work Centre.

Program helps Entrepreneurs with mental health or addiction challenges.

Toronto/Ottawa – Since 2009, Rise Asset Development, with the support of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), has provided microfinancing and mentorship to entrepreneurs with a history of mental health or addiction challenges in the Greater Toronto Area.

On March 21, Rise is celebrating its expansion into Ottawa. Rise will operate through Causeway Work Centre as Rise Ottawa. Causeway Work Centre is a community economic development organization that empowers and supports people in overcoming disabilities and other challenges to help them find rewarding work and live more independently.

Media are invited to attend the opening lunch with the founders, friends, clients and financial supporters of Rise.

Rise operates with the generous support of donors – Sandra Rotman, the Ontario government, Citi Foundation and the RBC foundation. In response to the demand of Rise financing and support for micro-business, the Toronto-based not-for-profit is expanding across the province through collaborations with community organizations.

“Rise has been instrumental in improving the lives of its clients by helping them start-up or re-start their entrepreneurial ventures. I’m delighted that entrepreneurs in the Ottawa area facing employment problems as a result of mental health or addiction challenges will now be able to benefit from the mentoring and financial support provided by the organization,” says Sandra Rotman, a Toronto philanthropist who established Rise with a founding gift.

Building on the strong community network of Causeway, Rise will also be providing Ottawa based entrepreneurs with mentors from the local business community and business school alumnae. Over the years, Causeway has developed a variety of employment supports and options designed to assist persons living with a mental illness or addictions challenges to become more economically independent.

“Rise Asset Development provides small business supports and access to affordable loans that the entrepreneurs seeking Causeway’s self-employment services have been lacking. Thanks to our Rise collaboration, a strong system of self-employment services can now be added to Causeway’s other supported employment offerings” notes Don Palmer, Executive Director of Causeway Work Centre.

Naomi Muise is the owner of CeleeakNak, a gluten free catering business and the first entrepreneur in the Ottawa region financed through Rise Ottawa. “Reinventing myself and my career wasn’t easy.  When I started my business I believed it was the right thing to do, but there was so many doors that were closed to me.  Rise helped to open all of them.  Now my company grows a bit every day – I love the taste of success!”

Rise Asset Development works to empower business owners with access to financing and business support. The organization recognizes the interdependency of financial well-being to one’s overall quality of life. Rise is committed to improving the lives of people who are unable to secure employment due to mental health or addictions challenges. Rise, with the support of the Rotman School of Management and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), provides microfinancing and mentorship to men and women living with mental illness and addictions who are interested in pursuing self-employment.

Rise offers business loans, leases and other investments, based on stage of development, needs and capacity, including business financing up to $25,000 throughout Ontario, with average initial financing from $3000 to $5,000.

Additional information may be found at


For more information:

Narinder Dhami
Executive Director
Rise Asset Development
Voice 416.978.5530
Twitter @riseCAN
Facebook Rise Asset Development