On development styles, and what is planning anyway…

I hope that many readers of this blog also read the comments. Most of them are really good, some rise to absolute excellence (and that’s not just because I agree with the writer …).  I will not repeat the material submitted in comments as a “post”; I prefer to write new stuff each day. And there’s too many good comments anyway. In discussing Soho Italia, the 35 storey small-lot condo proposed for 500 Preston, I lamented that it did not relate well nor contribute to sidewalk life. This ignited a debate amongst readers. Some people prefer the “courtyard” approach whereby condo buildings are … Continue reading On development styles, and what is planning anyway…

Bell nixes Solo action

Last week I posted about my adventures with Solo Mobile that somehow “contracted” with an Alzheimer’s patient for a cell phone. Solo was not interested in cancelling the telemarketed, unsigned contract. A reader kindly sent me the name of a VP of Marketing at Bell, the parent company. One polite email later, the contract vaporized with profuse apologies. A satisfactory ending to the (mis)adventure. Continue reading Bell nixes Solo action

Soho ho

The Starwood-Mastercraft sales trailer is being fitted out at the corner of Sidney-Preston. Not surprisingly, some people think this is the sales office for the Soho Italia project, their 35 storey condo that soars to new heights (they hope). But alas, it is the sales office for their Soho Champagne project, the twin towers proposed for 125 Hickory Street at Champagne Avenue, over by the dog shelter on the other (better? wrong?) side of the tracks. I presume the sales model in the picture is actually unwrapping one of the boutique hotel-room sized condos. At the other end of the trailer … Continue reading Soho ho

Condo, heal thyself …

  Part of the controversy about the Laurier Separated Bike Lanes relates to who gets to use the street. According to the Bank Street BIA, it’s for cars and deliveries, period. Less strident but still vocal are the various condo owner and management groups in the core. Let’s look at one downtown condo, Queen Elizabeth towers, and their parking issues. Built in 1975 (left tower, 500 Laurier, 238 units) and 1978 (right tower, 530 Laurier,  217 units)  these 26 storey big block condos are a well known downtown presence. For these 455 units there are 455 parking spaces (according to the building manager’s office), … Continue reading Condo, heal thyself …

Industrial gentrification on the west side

Costco likes to locate in industrial parks. They essentially run a retail store but in industrial space. The reason for this is that they then pay industrial property taxes, which are hugely lower than retail commercial property taxes. On a smaller scale, we see the flight of retail businesses out of Westboro as it becomes “trendier” — same way as businesses fled the Glebe or New Edinburgh in their heydays of rapid gentrification. I previously mentioned that Cohen’s Vintage Lighting moved out of Westboro and onto Spruce Street. (Before that, they had been elsewhere as Architectural Antiques, then Hintonburg, then Westboro, now back to … Continue reading Industrial gentrification on the west side

Why can’t pedestrians just cross the street?

I am not like most people in the City, but I am similar to a large minority in the centretown and west side neighbourhoods in that I walk places. I walk a lot. I do not, and never have had, a car. Yes, it is perfectly feasible to raise kids in the city without a car. And yes, they turned out just fine. According to the city, 45% of trips to work are done in single-occupancy cars. The city responds to this ‘demand’ by constantly improving the road system. It isn’t out building obvious new freeways; often this is done in subtle ways. … Continue reading Why can’t pedestrians just cross the street?

Staircase House

above: lot preparation last fall … Recall this infill on Primrose and Lorne, by the staircase, has been featured on earlier posts. By the end of December, the garage floor has been poured on the third floor — flush with Upper Lorne — although the bridge to get to it was not yet in place. The picture above shows the windows installed. Notice that on the fourth floor there is one large room to the right and a smaller room instruding onto the deck. The smaller box, fenestrated on several sides, is the stairwell that runs through all the levels, with generous windows … Continue reading Staircase House

Solo fun on a Saturday morning

This is about being handed a problem. Well, volunteering to solve someone else’s problem. Being a retired male about home, neighbours ocasionally find me handy. This post is about telemarketing ( I hope the title didn’t mislead you …). Telemarketers have a function in society. I don’t think much of that function, but it’s legal. But it sure can drift off into the dubious pretty quick. Someone I know has Alzheimer’s. She got telemarketed by SOLO Mobile phones folks out in Edmonton. Presto, a box arrives in the mail with cell phone in it. Who knows if she said she wanted a phone, … Continue reading Solo fun on a Saturday morning

145 Elm

This infill of four homes on a 56×100 lot is unusual in a number of ways. The lot has been divided into four smaller lots — two on the street, and two behind. There are four foundations, one for each house. Parking is in the centre of the lots — where the four lots meet. The above photo is from Nov 30th; it shows the “back” two foundations in place. By Dec 27th, the builders complete the first floor framing on all four houses. It looks like there are no windows because the house wrap plastic was left over the window openings, presumably for … Continue reading 145 Elm

Soho Italia gets one councillor’s vote

The strategy behind Starwood Mastercraft’s approach to getting the city tallest tower put on the city’s smallest lot seems to be working. Recall that Starwood has not gone to the planning department with their proposal, but instead has been shopping it around to the Mayor and Councilors first. They are getting their sales pitch in well before the planning “experts” the city has on staff are even allowed to look at the proposal. This blog is “blocked” at City Hall, so employees cannot read it at work. So the if the planners at the planning dept want to know what is proposed in their city, … Continue reading Soho Italia gets one councillor’s vote

Sim Preston

Remember SimCity, a computer game that was all the rage a few hundred years ago? It’s still around. I recall that gamers could take the base maps for SimCity and create them as a specific city,ie Ottawa. Then one could run out scenarios to see consequences. City Councillors voted to hold the urban boundary, increase density, and simultaneously zoned the majority of the urban area as “out of bounds” for increased density. The result would have been predictable in thirty minutes of playing SimCity as high rises would sprout up along the transit corridors and those few areas zoned high rise, as well as various zoning-busting … Continue reading Sim Preston

Soho slow to planning dept

The Soho Italia project continues to interest people. I am interested in knowing what the city planners think (they are professional planners after all, and I like talking to the ones who are knowledgeable about what constitutes good urban design). And the project location  is within the design priority area, it is subject to the urban design review committee for review. A preconsultation with the urban design review committee is also required before the formal review of the design by the committee. And of course the developer has to apply for zoning, variances, and all those other things. But alas, despite … Continue reading Soho slow to planning dept

Soho Italia – the developer’s proposal

 Note: the land on the south side of Carling on each side of the O-train corridor is shown as green space. It is NOT parkland. The City’s Official Plan calls for this area along Carling to be developed as a high-density mixed-use centre, ie more condos and offices.  The facade of the podium facing Preston appears to have a fair bit of glass. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a Photoshop rendering of this facade. How the building relates to the street is very important for a livable street. In the background of the above picture you can spot the 125 Hickory … Continue reading Soho Italia – the developer’s proposal

Highest High Rise

Starwood Mastercraft was an Ottawa builder decades ago, got more active in Toronto, and is now back in Ottawa building condos on Parkdale (north of Scott), Lisgar (old Canus plastics site), Champagne at Hickory (a few feet west of the O-Train, near the dog shelter). They also bought the site at Preston and Sydney and are proposing a condo tower there. As predicted, they are asking for a 35 storey condo tower, which would be the tallest in Ottawa. Taller than Tower C, Place de Ville; taller than the Metropole on Lanark/Scott. Like the rush of downtown applications by Claridge for 28 storey condos on tiny lots, … Continue reading Highest High Rise

Cycling Bridge over Rideau River

Last night the City held an open house on the planning for a new multipurpose bridge over the Rideau River. For convenience, this can be referred to as a cycling bridge or pedestrian bridge, because those multi-purposes do not include motorised vehicles. Actually, the planners couldn’t bring themselves to call it a “bridge” either. It’s an overpass. To me that sounds like something over the Queensway, but plain simple language evaded the two dozen presentation boards. The project is being run by traffic engineers and the evidence was abundant. (anyone for a Champlain Overpass? McDonald Cartier Overpass? Alexandra Overpass? Hunt Club … Continue reading Cycling Bridge over Rideau River

Measuring the condo market

  It’s pretty typical for condo developers to be uncertain about what will sell. As a result, they offer a variety of unit sizes and configurations. If the smallest, or largest, units don’t sell well, they will redivide the space into the unit sizes that are popular. So yes, many builders do offer large family size units of two and three bedrooms … it just that they don’t sell. Builders sometimes stratify the building by putting more smaller units on the lower floors and larger more expensive units on the upper floors. Certainly it is common for the “penthouse” units to be larger and … Continue reading Measuring the condo market

New Year’s Diets: for roads

  Everyone is familiar with the New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, to get fit, to go on a diet. For the better part of a year the Rescue Bronson group in downtown Ottawa have been pushing back against the City’s plans to rebuild Bronson without first looking at what should be done with the road. Is it so perfect today that no improvements could be made? Is its interaction with the adjacent community, landlords, tenants, businesses, pedestrians, transit users … so obviously beneficent that no one need inquire if it could be improved? Or was the city just trying to slip a 1950’s … Continue reading New Year’s Diets: for roads

Purely speculation, of course

A sales office trailer showed up this week on Preston at Sydney Street, just a half block north of Carling Avenue. The photo above is taken from beside the CIBC, at the foot of the Little Italy Arch. The trailer belongs to Mastercraft Starwood, the condo builder. Readers may recall that they are building a glass box condo on Parkdale opposite Tunney’s Pasture, and on Lisgar by the former plastics store (theirs are the big adverts that show a lady sitting on a …). They also bought the Aquerello site on Champagne Avenue south, beside the dog shelter. It had been rumoured they bought the … Continue reading Purely speculation, of course

Modern “shoebox” infill

This infill on Eccles is now occupied. The occupants had it designed and built for themselves. You can read about it on their blog www.37Eccles.com.   The scale is compatible with other buildings on the street. Personally, I like many of the homes built in this style, with exterior plywood panels and metal siding. Actually, I prefer corrugated metal siding rather than the smooth stuff, but that’s just me. Does anyone know the name of this architectural style? I call it shoebox, because that is what it reminds me of, a stack of shoeboxes. But that doesn’t sound very complimentary, so … Continue reading Modern “shoebox” infill

Infill near St Anthony’s school

Infill homes should somehow blend in with their neighborhood. Unless they stand out as radically different (see for eg, those infills that look like oversize shoe boxes with plywood and bent metal exteriors). I confess to being quite baffled about what works or doesn’t. Like porn, I know it when I see it (err, that didn’t quite come out the way I meant…).  Which means it is subjective. The house above sort of blends in. It’s the right width, and shape, but suffers from a garage door front (the city doesn’t regulate garage door frontages on single family homes). Nonetheless, … Continue reading Infill near St Anthony’s school

Equipment size matters

The City owns a parking lot on the north side of Albert, between Brickhill Street and Commissioner (ie, just west of Bronson, on LeBreton Flats). On the western edge of the lot, they installed landscaping consisting of a low berm, some swizzle-stick-caliper trees, and some shrubs. It’s enough to gently direct motorists to the proper driveway entrance. Then the City sends a grader to plow the lot. Notice that a grader has its snow-clearing blade in the centre of the vehicle. To get to the edge of the parking lot, half the considerable length of the grader must extend beyond the … Continue reading Equipment size matters

Infills in progress

Earlier this fall, the edge of the Nanny Goat Hill between Upper Lorne Place and (upper) and (lower) Primrose was chewed out and footings installed. Some previous posts showed details of the lot, and then the first floor foam block foundation system: http://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/cliff-becomes-hole/, and  athttp://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/lego-build-a-house/ and at http://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/bumpy-stairs/ and at http://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/nanny-goat-hill-infill/ and at http://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/stairway-to-development/ The bottom two floors, (the lower Primrose levels) are foam+concrete walls. The third floor is level with Upper Lorne, and will have the garage level opening off that street. The fourth floor (when viewed from Primrose) aka the second floor (when viewed from Upper Lorne) will be half interior space and … Continue reading Infills in progress

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health: The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow. Crunchy numbers About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it. In 2010, there were 359 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 716 posts. The busiest day of the year was August 4th with 564 views. The most popular post that day … Continue reading 2010 in review