Making Neighbourhoods Friendly (ii)

In the first part of this story, last week, I divided existing neighborhoods into several broad types. Within them, there are some places that promote neighborliness, and some that don’t. While there are many causes, not least among them the nature of the individuals residing there, the shape of the buildings and how they relate to the street is a key factor. We need to build friendly neighborhoods. A key factor is usable front space. I think pre-1945 neighbourhoods have this by virtue of their front verandahs. In that pre-central-air-conditioning era, hot humid weather encouraged moving outdoors. My house has both a … Continue reading Making Neighbourhoods Friendly (ii)

Improved sidewalk, honestly !

I must confess that I found it easy to avoid the construction on Somerset through Chinatown during the fall. Primrose runs parallel, and is car-free for a block of it, to boot! But I did notice a safety cone marking some sort of sidewalk obstruction, right in the middle of the sidewalk near Rochester. I figured it was covering a little hole in the new walk, like a water shut off valve or something innocuous. Unfortunately winter came and no doubt crews would be back first thing in the spring to complete the job. But no, it was covering something much … Continue reading Improved sidewalk, honestly !

Progress on Rescuing Bronson

The City has compromised on some Bronson issues. They have agreed to remove their proposal to widen the street, which would have speeded up vehicular traffic while simultaneously making the corridor less cycling and pedestrian friendly and chopping off numerous front yards, church entries, and mature trees. In our opinion, it didn’t make the road any safer for motorists either. I like to think it had a lot to do with people objecting. Rescue Bronson encouraged many people to have their say. This included residents, landlords, school principals, recreation coordinators, churches … and yup, we even got some of Ottawa’s condo … Continue reading Progress on Rescuing Bronson

Making Neighborhoods Friendly (i)

This will be a series of posts on how we design our neighborhoods and whether this design is friendly to urban life. It is inspired by a book recently read: Pocket Neighborhoods, by Ross Chapin. You can get it from your bookmonger or reserve it at the OPL. Three neighborhood styles From 1900 to the 1950’s most agglomerations of housing in Ottawa were built in rows along public streets. As time went on, the set back of the house from the street grew larger, oft as a City requirement. In 1900-1940 neighborhoods such as the west side neighborhood I live in, the set … Continue reading Making Neighborhoods Friendly (i)

Museum of Strife

The (Federal government’s) Museum of Nature is embroiled in a dispute with some locals on the value and location of its parking lot. The nub of the problem is the Museum wishes to convert some of its parkland on its west side into a surface parking lot. The west side lawn had been converted to a “temporary” construction staging site during lengthy Museum renovations. Alas, in Ottawa “temporary” is usually a euphemism for never-ending. The thin end of the wedge to sneak in unpleasant changes under the guise of reasonably-sounding “it’s only for a while” arguments. The problem with these “temporary” agreements is … Continue reading Museum of Strife

Downtown Moves

The folks running the Downtown Moves study had an open house last evening. I was very pleased and surprised at the large turnout  around 6pm. Some attendees were the usual suspects we find at these events, ie the city builder activists and those promoting their favourite causes. There were a l0t of “new” faces as well. All good. One of the display boards offered attendees the opportunity to put a dot on the main cycling and pedestrian problems in the core. Jumping right out at any viewer was the cluster of both ped and cyclist dots at the Albert-Bronson intersection, especially … Continue reading Downtown Moves

Bronson: an exercise in futility

A previous version of this story originally appeared in, you should have read it there. But here it is again, made slightly longer. ________________________________________________________ Faithful readers will recall the many stories on Bronson Avenue. How it is so poorly designed for motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. And how it blights the neighborhood. Instead of lively street, the City seems determined to give us more blight, by widening the lanes 2′, thus removing numerous trees and more front yards/greenspace, all in a vulgar attempt to get the cars to go a little bit faster. Gotta get to Greely quicker! Rescue Bronson has been … Continue reading Bronson: an exercise in futility

Snow Plowing — 1920 vs 2012

The City may change from year to year, but the winter stays the same: it snows. Here’s a shot of snow removal on Preston, looking north, in 1920. Each trucker had his bin filled by hand shovels, there is a crew off to the right. The first building on the left is now Pubwells. All the houses shown in this pic are still there. The building in the far distance closing off the end of Preston was the factory where the transatlantic cables were made. It was the longest building in the British Empire at the time. It was partly … Continue reading Snow Plowing — 1920 vs 2012

The Dog Shelter Condos – Is Ashcroft Serious?

The Champagne Avenue area — immediately west of the O-Train near Carling Avenue — has been a hotbed for developers recently. Domicile built two red brick mid-rise condo towers and some townhouses at the southwest corner near Carling Avenue.  He has another one – Hom – starting at the corner of Hickory and Champagne. Starwood Mastercraft has the vacant lot at the NE corner of Hickory and Champagne, where they are building two towers, about 16 floors high, the Soho Champagne. Here is an aerial view of the neighborhood, taken from somewhere above the soon-to-be-demolished Sir John Carling Building (which should instead … Continue reading The Dog Shelter Condos – Is Ashcroft Serious?

Ode to a bare sidewalk

Friday saw me wandering about a fair bit of the City. The Centrepointe MUP (ped/cyclist path) is plowed in the winter, and there was the imprint of one cyclist. Mind, it was snowing hard at midday, so the evidence of previous cyclists (if any such hardy souls…) was quickly erased. Later in the afternoon, another cycle track, this time on the Albert Street MUP running along LeBreton Flats: But the most interesting stroll took me past the Laurier Separated Bike Lane. Now the City did promise to keep it plowed all winter, and boy, do they ever live up to their word on that one! It … Continue reading Ode to a bare sidewalk

But is it better?

A strip of stores in Hintonburg was somewhat attractive before, with a row of bay windows on the second floor, a built-out cornice line, and green-painted brick storefronts below (the block is obviously the result of earlier renovations).  But with the explosive gentrification of the neighborhood, a property owner decided the place needed a re-do, one that “modernized” the look. (I do wonder what it might have been like if he had gone for a faux-heritage look…does anyone have a heritage photo of the previous storefronts pre 1960’s??) The first phase to be redone was the west side, facing St Francois Church … Continue reading But is it better?

Pedestrians in the snow boldly goes to CBC

I can never tell what is going to appeal to readers. Sometimes, what I think is great post, gets no comments, and average readership. Othertimes, a simple post goes viral. Today’s earlier post was on reading the paths in the snow to determine where pedestrians really want to go. It tickled the fancy of the fine folks at the CBC, so I trudged out through the cold fields of LeBreton Flats talking to a reporter. You can hear my footprints on the noon show today; or maybe again in the  afternoon show. Progress comes in many disguises. Continue reading Pedestrians in the snow boldly goes to CBC

Desire lines in the snow

Pathways through fields tell us a lot about where people want to go. Frequently it is not where the planners or architects’ walkways want to take us. That’s because they usually make walkways accessories to buildings, following the same square lines. In the summer, paved walkways and roads hide the pedestrian record. But in winter, the size of the beaten path tells us how many people want to go somewhere. And if they want to go badly enough they will boldly go where no snow plow has gone before. [cut the Capt’n Kirk stuff –ed]. Let’s start off with the … Continue reading Desire lines in the snow

Real entrances or planner’s fakes?

It is popular today that the base level of apartment buildings be visually separate from the tower above, through the use of a real three-dimensional podium, or too often in Ottawa: a drawn-on one. A further refinement is to have separate uses for the ground floor. On traditional main streets, this is usually commercial storefronts. The original Centretown plan required these on side streets too, which gives the area on both sides of Elgin such a unique atmosphere, as there are little storefronts, often with marginal businesses that cannot afford the increasingly-franchise-cluttered main street rents. Alas, what the Centretown plan cleverly called for, the … Continue reading Real entrances or planner’s fakes?

Proposed condo, 175 Richmond Road

Claridge is proposing a six and nine story condo buildings at the corner of Richmond and Kirkwood, opposite the Real Canadian Superstore: The lot is currently occupied by a three storey industrial building, with strip-mall type retail on the Richmond side; with undefined street/parking lot on the east side where Kirkwood sort-of runs northwards from Richmond; and with loading docks and a very industrial frontage on the north side, Wilbur Street.  The current industrial building is zero lot line on the west, where it abuts the rear lot lines of homes. This is quite similar to my own home, and I greatly … Continue reading Proposed condo, 175 Richmond Road

Winter bench

I have started to look out for examples of outdoor benches or patios in use in the winter. In just a few days, I have  spotted a number of them, sometimes in the oddest spaces. Ironically, the easiest to spot are the ones with people there. But I am too shy to take shots of real people living their lives, so the only shots I’ve taken are empty spots that show signs of recent human activity or that the property owner cares for the spot during the winter. Here’s some nice clean tables on Bank Street ready for someone to plunk down: Continue reading Winter bench

Could the city actually install benches ?

This is another post building more detail on the original Downtown Moves series in While health and fitness naggards complain we sit too much, everyone wants to sit sometimes. I love to walk to places in my west side neighborhood, and walk into the core at least three times a week in the winter. (In the summer, I bike many of these trips, plus my travel zone expands…). Twenty years ago, most shopping malls had few benches in the mall area. Those that were there were to catch collapsing shoppers before they hit the deck. But there seemed to … Continue reading Could the city actually install benches ?

You can improve what you measure; and we aren’t

This is the next in a series of posts building on the Downtown Moves articles I did in late December at the site. The Downtown Moves team did a sort of crowd sourcing exercise to identify the problems and some solutions for the downtown enviornment. City staff, consultants, and amateur planners/keeners like myself heard three prominent speakers on urban issues, then sitting around tables of six to ten people cranked out solutions to perceived problems. The consultants then sorted these ideas into major clusters. This is a perfectly legitimate method of finding a bunch of things to do, quickly. I … Continue reading You can improve what you measure; and we aren’t

Is it time for a Sparks Street bike mall ?

Late last year I wrote a two part post for on the Downtown Moves project, a scheme aimed at improving the downtown pedestrian and cycling environment. This improvement is to make the LRT project work better by improving access to the stations; and to improve the downtown post-LRT implementation when the space currently occupied by bus movements will be much reduced. There were a lot of ideas in those posts, and some are worth elaborating on.   Today, can the Sparks Street mall be improved by making it a bike mall? Downtown pedestrian malls were all the rage a few decades ago. Some are still thriving; many … Continue reading Is it time for a Sparks Street bike mall ?