Who sets the street agenda?

I spent a little bit of time in Montreal over the holidays. I was struck by several huge differences between Montreal’s treatment of downtown streets vs Ottawa’s. In the following photos, notice that the traffic signal lights are pushed off to the side of the road. Their cases and mounting brackets are dark coloured, and very unobtrusive. They are mounted low, not high in the sky. The pedestrian signals, which are relatively rare in downtown Montreal compared to Ottawa, were mounted snugly close to the traffic signals.     The discreet treatment of traffic signals means that the downtown streets are not dominated or given … Continue reading Who sets the street agenda?

Finding Fault with DOTT

The City released its first report on the test bores along the route of the proposed LRT through the downtown of Ottawa (DOTT). There was a lot of confusing fuss over the Campus Station (is there too much rock or not enough? will the tunnel there be bored or cut-and-cover? why would a open-to-the-surface slope into the tunnel cost about the same as a tunnel itself?) and not enough answers. There was also some fuss about the existence of fault lines crossing the DOTT route. Unfortunately, no one seemed to have the time to call an expert or even a geology professor at … Continue reading Finding Fault with DOTT

Richmond St apartments in Toronto

This apartment building on Richmond Street in Toronto is certainly different. I do like the colours used on it. Such an improvement over many uniform glass condo tower blocks. With all the cut-ins and cut-outs, and cantilevered sections, I do wonder how energy-efficient it is, and just how useful windows are looking into these internal spaces. The Thompkins CoOp on Albert/Preston also has some deeply recessed windows (about 16′ in from the building exterior), some of which are further sandwiched between service walls. I don’t think they add much to the livability of the interior spaces. This building also has elements that remind me … Continue reading Richmond St apartments in Toronto

Archeological Dig on Elm Street

  Some infill houses are going in on the west end of Elm Street, near the Just Rite storage building, which formerly was the Vimy House war museum workshops, and before that the Champagne Streetcar Barn. Champagne was a mayor of Ottawa. The old barn is the building to the left, in the picture; it has a new stucco façade facing the street but the original brick walls on the residential sides. The backhoe is digging trenches in the street to connect to sewer and water mains. Looking at the piles of dirt dug up, notice all the timbers. These are … Continue reading Archeological Dig on Elm Street

Rising Action

Steer your footsteps towards the City Centre complex on City Centre Avenue. At the southern end of the ground floor (near the Somerset end) there is a new bakery. A big one. Artisin Bakery has until recently been primarily a wholesale bakery, with about 70 high-end hotels and restaurants as clients. Now, from their new premises at City Centre, they have opened a new retail outlet for breads, cookies, pastries, tarts, cakes, and sandwiches. Kevin Mathieson is the owner. A Winnipegger, he has had his hands in flour forever. He apprenticed with the best in New York, Paris, Monaco, and Zürich. He uses organic grains, … Continue reading Rising Action

Local news

Two items: the farmer’s market, and the snow stomp And, if you are interested in something cheaper and involved free food and friendship, the Plant Pool Recreation Assoc (PPRA) is having a snow stomp on Saturday between one and three pm., in Plouffe Park (corner of Somerset and Preston,where Little Italy meets Chinatown.   It’s the  Annual Rink Stomping Kickoff Event. The first stage in make ice for the hockey rink or free skating space,  is packing down a snow base. Therefore, we need anyone interested in stretching their legs on their cross country skis or snowshoes to do a few laps of … Continue reading Local news

Planning Exercise (v): Chinatown lives

  For several years Chinatown has been struggling. The arrival of big-box asian-food supermarkets in the suburbs, and the shift of Asian families to suburban living, has resulted in a  number of vacancies along Somerset Street. The construction of the Chinatown Royal Arch is the first step in rejuvenating the area. The second step is the construction, in 2011, of new streetscaping from Preston up the hill to Booth. This will include new, wider brick sidewalks, lots more trees and plantings, new ped-scale lighting, benches and other street furniture. This has made a major improvement to Preston; similar but unique streetscaping should boost Chinatown’s … Continue reading Planning Exercise (v): Chinatown lives

Planning exercise (iv)

Whilst walking on Somerset near Hartman’s, I saw workers hoisting railings up the side of a building. The hoisting rope was connected to a roof-mounted winch and arm. The rope brushed these satellite dishes, causing one to pivot a bit, and rock. This reminded me of a curious phenomenon that relates satellite dishes to “market” and “social” housing politics.  Here is a social housing building. Typically for Ottawa, it is festooned with satellite dishes. Ditto for the coop seniors apartment building across the street from my house. Or the coop townhouses up the street. Or the ones in Hintonburg. It seems that … Continue reading Planning exercise (iv)

Planning Exercise (iii)

Christ Church Cathedral and their planners/architects held a public meeting last Thursday to explain their proposed real estate development on the Sparks/Bronson/Queen block. the project was well covered in the Citizen Dec 2nd: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/Christ+Church+Cathedral+gets+promised+land/3915157/story.html and by a Nov 23rd  blog post here:  http://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/heritage-in-context/. I attended the public meeting mostly to see how the idea went over with the crowd. First up was the Dean of the Cathedral, who explained what the Church does, how much it needs money, and how real estate development would support the ongoing good works of the church. This was well presented and set a positive framework … Continue reading Planning Exercise (iii)

Planning Exercise (ii)

There is a large parcel of land owned by the Feds. It runs from Somerset Street to Gladstone, on the east side of the OTrain corridor. At the Somerset end, it has the address 1010 Somerset Street; at the Gladstone end it is 943 Gladstone; in the middle it has an Oak Street address. Most of the site is covered with a giant brick and concrete warehouse dating from the Second World War era. Before that, it was open field, my father tells me he attended the Ringling Circus there when he was a boy in the ’30’s. The circus arrived … Continue reading Planning Exercise (ii)

Planning exercise (i)

The photo above is taken a few weeks ago, looking south along Cambridge. Primrose is behind us, Somerset and the new Chinatown Royal Arch is directly ahead. The street looks closed to automobiles, which is the idea. It was reconstructed years ago using the Dutch design principles called a woonerf. Getting closer to the woonerf, it is less constricted than it first appeared. There is, indeed, plenty of room for a car … or truck, or school bus, or fire truck … to get through. The high shrubs and planters deliberately block the view and sight lines, forcing motorists to slow down. It … Continue reading Planning exercise (i)

Loft dwelling toast

This group of stacked townhouses happens to be in Centrepointe, but similar stacked units can be found throughout the city. The ground+lower level units have a balcony; the one-floor-up+third floor bedroom levels have both a real balcony off the living level, and a tiny one on the bedroom level above. The tiny one, I was once told, is required by the fire department, who must swoop in with their ladders to rescue people trapped  on the bedroom level of the burning upper units… But those townhouses shown, just like the ones in downtown Ottawa on Gloucester at Lyon, also have an additional floor, … Continue reading Loft dwelling toast

Mr Potato Head as Art

You’ve read posts here before about this house on Lisgar. A very nice garden was installed here during the summer.http://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/gardening-in-centretown/  It emphasizes shapes and form using plants, and there was the corrugated artwork on the right side. An architect lives here (how could we guess?) and at night large paintings similar to the exterior corrugated one can be seen inside. This week, I noticed the new sculpture in the centre of the garden. Maybe I watched Toy Story  once too often, but I found myself saying hello to Mr Potato Head as I walked by. I hope that tree wasn’t harmed … Continue reading Mr Potato Head as Art

Preparing for winter (ii)

  Parts of the Dalhousie neighborhood have few parks. One nice one is Primrose Park, between Rochester and Preston. It is hilly (the hills are made of rubble and probably- contaminated brownfield dirt from the former industrial sites). One set of those hills makes for good winter sliding. Bizarrely, the park planners from the City in the late 70’s insisted that the park is not open in the winter, because the paths are not plowed, and therefore refused residents’ appeals not to put trees and benches at the foot of the otherwise ideal sliding slopes. In went multiple benches, garbage cans, … Continue reading Preparing for winter (ii)

Preparing for Winter (i)

Sculptures were installed on Preston and West Wellie this past fall. What would the City do to protect them from winter damage? I suggested adding 2×6 curb of boards about a foot out from the sculpture to protect it from errant sidewalk plows. Instead, the City opted for yellow fibreglass poles to alert snow crews not to “back stop” their plows (ie, don’t bang into these things, they are expensive!). Note to Randall: the yellow poles are not part of the sculptures, and were not added to confuse you or make them less understandable. The Preston BIA still has interpretive leaflets that … Continue reading Preparing for Winter (i)

Watson Pushes Envelope

  A good politician manages to turn adversity into advantage. Responding to criticism that new (again) Mayor Jim Watson would go to anything, including the opening of an envelope, he brought this up at his inauguration speech at the Shenkman Hall. The wording in his prepared speech is: “listening to the families I speak with at the church bazaar or the backyard BBQ. Some people poke fun at me for that, but it’s a point of pride for me. Over the next four years, I will join you in your communities and church basements, at your farmers’ markets and fairs, … Continue reading Watson Pushes Envelope

Xmas Farmers’ Market

Pre-order your Christmas Turkey! Bearbrook Farms is taking orders for turkeys. Turkeys, fresh $6.45 kg (available after Dec 20th) Turkeys, frozen $6.30 kg – available Dec 11th for market delivery Hams, Bone In  $9.89 kg – available Dec 11th for market delivery To pre-order your turkey or ham, contact Bearbrook Farms at info@bearbrookfarm.com   Santa is coming and so is the brand new Little Italy Christmas Market! Please join us at the corner of Preston and Louisa for the very first of three Christmas Markets. Inside our heated tent you will find all your Christmas essentials plus some other gift … Continue reading Xmas Farmers’ Market

Tex-Mex with a touch of China

  Somerset Street will be reconstructed from Preston up to Booth next year (city budget permitting). After the underground utilities are replaced, the street gets repaved and new sidewalks, ped lights, trees, benches, garbage cans, the whole shebang gets set up for the next decades. Many of those streetscaping decisions are being made right now, and it is fun being on the committee debating the colour palette of the paving blocks, the crosswalk designs, selecting the benches, etc.  So … what Chinatown should look like is much on my mind. It is rather ironic therefore that the Southern Cross restaurant, which serves tex-mex food from its … Continue reading Tex-Mex with a touch of China

Promises converge …

The inauguration of City Council last night was an interesting spectacle. It was a delight to see Suzanne Pinel again, she had us all from the first “Bonjour, je m’appelle [Marie Soleil]”. She refrained from calling hiz honor “Fergus”. I have many fond memories of taking my daughter to Marie Soleil events, endlessly rewatching the VHS programs. But once a children’s entertainer … it is hard to not view the inauguration through those eyes. It wasn’t the only note of nostalgia last night. There was the old politician stumbling to a new life, the promoted lifeguard, the renaissance garb worn by the mayor that instead of … Continue reading Promises converge …

Any news, anyone?

If you frequent Booth Street, you will recognize this “garage” on the east side, between Somerset and Gladstone. It’s Cousin Eddy’s and (Uncle?)*   Chado’s Auto Body. Here’s another view: It’s all known by the municipal address 357 Booth Street. The general state of disrepair has been a source of despair. Note the burnt out hulk to the right: according to this Citizen article,   http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=606c1117-859b-4168-83b8-f72616bab4a5&k=34712   it was also owned by “Cousin” Eddy Aoun, who torched his own rental property to evict the tenants he thought were dealing drugs. Such neighborhood concern did not extend to the mysterious loss of trees along the … Continue reading Any news, anyone?

Elm Street infill

  Until a week or so ago, this was the view out my back door. The house behind me was very convenient — it had no windows so my backyard was very private. With a couple of judiciously planted trees, it was possible to have no suntan lines. Here’s the view from Elm Street: However, as mentioned in some previous posts, this was not to last. The small house on a 56×100′ lot is to be replaced by four infill houses, each of about 2000 sq ft, constructed in that very modern shoebox design with flat roofs, big windows, plywood panels, bent … Continue reading Elm Street infill