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Ashcroft Homes Announces Key Sparks Street Development in the Heart of the Capital

November 30, 2016 11:47 am
Ashcroft Homes Announces Key Sparks Street Development in the Heart of the Capital

It was over a decade ago, back in 2006 that Ashcroft Homes began discussions with the National Capital Commission (NCC) about developing a prime Sparks Street property, one block south of Parliament Hill.

The RESIDENCES project was finally announced October 26, 2016 as Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Ashcraft Homes President David Choo and several other dignitaries gathered at development   location site between Sparks and Queen Streets, west of Metcalfe Street. The project was supposed to begin in December 2011 with completion anticipated for 2013 but negotiations with the NCC proved slow. Some of the delays came during the application process in applying for the multitude of development permits required by the NCC. The NCC is tasked with   maintaining the heritage status of many of the Sparks Street properties.


The RESIDENCES plan is impressive and should be completed in 2018. It includes both a 6 story and a 16 story building with 110 luxury rental suites for weekly, monthly and yearlong stays and an additional 92 condominium units. The site will also have 6,000 square feet of retail space along Sparks Street.

2016_06_22_05_14_45_re_residences_exteriorAshcroft Homes President David Choo told attendees to the unveiling of the project that more than 70 per cent of the units have been pre-sold Choo noted that “This site has always been an iconic piece of Canadian real estate,” The NCC is hopeful that the development will contribute to the revitalization of   Sparks Street which has seen many stops and starts over the years.

Part of the reason for this has been the shared responsibility of the pedestrians’ street between PWGSC and the NCC who have often bickered over the vision for the street to the dismay of many in the capital. In recent years however, this bickering seems to have come to an end with several high profile projects moving forward on the famous street.

Grey Cup Win Caps off Nissan’s Titan Rally

November 29, 2016 7:04 pm
Grey Cup Win Caps off Nissan’s Titan Rally

A collection of journalists and CFL players gathered for the wrap-up of Nissan’s Rally of the Titans. Third from left is Neil Moore, standing next to Argos kicker Lirim Hajrullahu.

I may be an automotive scribe, but can write competently on many things.

The exception being pro sports.

This requires a level of dedication, love for trivia, and savant-like retention of player and team minutia that I never could muster.

So, when Nissan invited me to a Grey Cup-inspired event, bringing together CFL fans with their full-size Titan pickups, I wasn’t sure how to cover it.

The Rally of the Titans began on November 12 – a cross-Canada convoy of 10 CFL-branded pickups, their teams squaring off in a series of local challenges from a polar bear dip to Habitat for Humanity build.

Participants were divided into East versus West, two squads of “brand ambassadors” captained by TSN sports personalities, simultaneously leaving Vancouver and St. John’s, Newfoundland. They passed through more than 88 communities, converging in Toronto for the 104th Grey Cup.

Which is where we joined them and a handful of CFL players for a football skills challenge.

What’s the connection between Nissan trucks and football?


Auto journalist Neil Moore and Argos kicker Lirim Hajrullahu strategize during Nissan’s football skills challenge.

According to marketing director Steve Rhind, CFL fans buy a lot of pickups. League support tends to skew west – a strong truck market – and with Grey Cup being in the top three sporting events in Canada, this Ottawa Redblacks overtime victory ensured plenty of eyes on the Titan.

Around 5 million pairs, if the 2015 viewership stats have held steady.

Nissan has been the CFL’s official vehicle provider for 10 years, but also supports football at the high school level. The Kickoff Project has helped fund and equip school programs to the tune of $435,000 over the past three years, and in 2016 will benefit nearly 1,200 students from 26 schools in 24 cities coast-to-coast.

Indeed, the connection is solid, but up until Sunday’s nailbiter, Canadian football hasn’t been on my radar.

Yet the idea of tossing around the pigskin with some of this sport’s finest was intriguing.

My day began in the cold November drizzle, on the back-campus fields near University of Toronto’s Hart House. A handful of players were on hand, with Argonaut kicker Lirim Hajrullahu my team mate for the challenge.


We began with a 40-yard dash – metric not welcome in this sport – followed by an agility exercise, and then punting. I fared well in the first two, but wasn’t going to stand in the way of Lirim exercising his craft.

He then coached me in running an effective play, positioning us well to win the competition.

His first throw was long, but I went for it anyway. The combination of my backwards summersault on the wet field, followed by a perfectly-caught second pass all but ensured our victory.

The event wrapped up with some good-natured ribbing, and a realization, at least among the players, that their jobs were safe. For now.

big-joeMy takeaway is that Nissan has hitched its wagon not only to a sports organization that is uniquely Canadian, but one that is approachable. And if you believe the fans, more exciting than the American competition.

Not a bad message to send when you’re up against the domestic brands, who have been building trucks – and loyalty – for decades longer.

Parade of Champions!

5:54 pm
Parade of Champions!

redblacks-parade-2-of-21wredblacks-parade-15-of-21wAll photos by Andre Gagne.

It could have been coming down in sheets of ice but nothing was going to rain on the Ottawa Redblacks parade. 40,000+ came out to pack both sides of Bank Street as the Grey Cup champions paraded through the city amongst proud admirers.

redblacks-parade-20-of-21wredblacks-parade-9-of-21w“Let’s go Redblacks!” fans shouted as the team, lead by a full marching band, reached out for high-fives and to sign a few footballs.

The jubilant hoard wouldn’t be satisfied with seeing their hometown heroes simply pass. After all, they waited 40 years for this! The fans would take to the street to follow the float all the was to TD Place.

It was a nailbiter of a game Sunday night with the Calgary Stampeders pushing it right down to the wire where the Redblacks took it 39-33 in overtime. The hard-fought victory only made their moment today shine even brighter. Game MVP Henry Burris had a smile that beamed so brightly it could probably be seen from Saturn!


“Being able to experience this and see the number of people that turned out and the waves of redblacks-parade-16-of-21w(them) lined up I honestly had a tear come to my eye,” he said still on crutches from an injury suffered in the big game.

“We dream of this moment right here!”

Mayor Jim Watson and colleagues from city council were present to not only praise the redevelopment of Lansdowne but to also thank the fans who made the new arena a success with multiple sell-out games.

“We all ended up on the right side of history,” Watson shouted over the cacophony of fandom!


Those fans were repeatedly reminded by Burris and the players how they were the best fan base in the CFL. Their admiration reached a furious peak when Burris tried to share his plans for next season amidst speculation he would not return to the game. The thousands wouldn’t even let him speak drowning him out with shouts of “One more year!”

Burris wasn’t making any choices today, choosing the relish the moment he and his team earned, a moment some said couldn’t happen. In three seasons, the Redblacks proved them wrong and to this city the Grey Cup is back where it belongs!





Split Shift Becomes Split Personality for Area Resident

10:46 am
Split Shift Becomes Split Personality for Area Resident

What do you do you do when you have a long break between your split shift? Well, if you’re Doug Hempstead, you develop a split personality!

CBC traffic reporter by day, musician by whenever he has the time for it, Hempstead isn’t at a loss for ways to occupy his time and the “road life” suits him just fine no matter which career he’s pursuing at the moment. Most of the time it’s both!

You may recognize Doug’s voice if you get your traffic updates on the CBC while listening to Ottawa Morning or All In A Day. He gets up to percolate some coffee before sunrise and gets into work usually before most of us are even awake. He’s tweeting while you’re taking your morning shower and filing his first traffic report for the morning drivers shortly before 6 AM. He keeps them updated every 15 minutes until about 8:35.


Photo by by Chris Hofley.

His next report comes nearly 7 hours later so Doug heads back to his Bells Corners home. There he has time to clean the place, walk the dog and create an alter-ego called Area Resident who plays multiple instruments and records a full length rock album in his basement. Did I mention he’s also married and helps raise two teen daughters?

That’s Doug Hempstead’s All In A Day!

“I’m constantly telling colleagues about my new songs, releases and gigs,” Hempstead tells Ottawa Life on how it’s not always easy to keep both lives separate. “My co-workers are incredibly supportive and interested in my music.”

Growing up, he was a fan of Elton John. Still is. He calls John’s Greatest Hits album a bit of a guilty pleasure. He didn’t start learning music himself until high school where took up the bass. He continued dabbling, playing in a few bands off and on, before entering into a successful career in journalism. Music didn’t pay the bills but journalism did. Over his award-winning career he has been a photojournalist, newspaper editor, designer, TV videographer and worked with the Ottawa Sun for 6 years before landing the gig with the CBC.

Music was always on the brain, however, and it shows in the traffic reporters first release. He wrote a song (“Concrete Caravan”) about the Rideau Street sinkhole! Other songs found inspiration in his hometown of Pembroke (“About Six Years”) and about watching yourself age in the social media age (“Falling Collapsing Looking Back”). There’s even a tune about how he bought stock in a medicinal marijuana company with some of his pension money from the Sun.


While song ideas are seemingly found everywhere, it did take a little encouragement from another local musician, however, who provided the jumper cables needed to really get Hempstead motivated.

“I reached out to Jim Bryson and went to his Fixed Hinge home studio for a visit. I wanted to show him my music to see if it was worthwhile pursuing and he was very encouraging. Here’s a guy who is my age — daughters, married, modest house in the west end… and the guy makes the most incredible music. I was inspired, driven. I went home and the very next day, recorded the first song for what ended up being an album.”

fullsizerender-1Settling on the name Area Resident because of its ties to his journalism career, the album came together over the next few months with Hempstead playing nearly all the instruments and tweeking tracks in his home studio whenever he found some free time. Pick any track on the album and you wouldn’t think the musician playing is self-taught but Doug only took lessons on the bass. Everything else was just trial and error, something that factors into his writing process as well.

“I don’t write songs before I record them. They’re written as they’re recorded… like a pottery wheel.”

The result gives the album a more organic feel, kind of like a live album without the audience. Though there are other players on the release, Hempstead says he opted to go most of it alone due mainly to the simplicity of being able to move at his own pace.

“If there’s such a thing as a hap hazard, lazy perfectionist… it’s me.”

Perhaps the comedic irony of Hempstead’s unique recording process for this album is how the songs translate live. Well, if they translate live!

“The odd thing — these songs have been recorded, but have never been performed. I have to learn them. I don’t know how to play them.”

At the moment, morning commuters have nothing to worry about. Doug Hampstead isn’t quitting his day job but with the DIY-style first release in the tank one has to wonder how long it’s going to be before his reporting of life on the road becomes a life on the road for himself!

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