Major changes coming to downtown streets

The current downtown Ottawa is rather blah. Some might even call it bleh. Over the decades, it has become a motor-vehicle-oriented environment, with the fast movement of vehicles the main only priority. We all know about the walls of buses. And the priority given to automobile commuters over pedestrians. Trees: rare as hen’s teeth. It has become a downtown one goes to because you have to. It is not a shopping, or even much of a recreation destination. All rather sad. When the LRT is opened, there will be major changes. Most OC Transpo buses will be off the Albert … Continue reading Major changes coming to downtown streets

Even further down from the Summit

Mayor Watson repeatedly used the word “certainty” when describing urban planning, infill, intensification, etc. And Councillor Hume certainly used certainty a lot too. While certainty might be an admirable destination, I see a number of bumps on the road. Some of this comes from the bureaucratic tendency to want to prescribe things in ever more detail. And community associations lead the chorus in demanding new fine print in the rules, hopefully for a better neighborhood and not simply to trip up developers, although I too-frequently hear that second motivation. But the more detailed the rules, and the more rules in the … Continue reading Even further down from the Summit

Down from the Summit

Yes, I attended the Mayor’s Summit. Nothing totally earth-shaking. Everyone — including developers — singing the same tune of vibrant street level facades. Even Diane Deans, of Gloucester Ward, emphasizing how much she opposes road widenings (in her ward) (beyond four lanes). The afternoon speaker, Jeffrey Tumlin, was on transportation. He maintains that transportation planning is urban planning, since one shapes the other, twins locked in an embrace (to the death?). He explained the futility of road widening to fix congestion. The widened road fixes the problem for a short time, then traffic volumes grow. Some of the growth is because … Continue reading Down from the Summit

Windows on the world

Buildings must be interesting on the ground floor, that’s one of the key principles of a vibrant city at the sidewalk level. Too many of downtown Ottawa’s buildings are dead at the ground floor. That’s what makes the Delta Hotel’s renovation of their downtown property so exciting. They are busy tearing off the solid concrete walls of the Skyline  Crowne Plaza Delta and replacing them with windows, windows that actually allow people on the sidewalk to see into the building. In case you can’t remember, here’s what it used to be: I remain unthrilled with their Lyon Street facade, though. While no one … Continue reading Windows on the world

Here comes the sun

There is a newish condo building downtown. Very high end. The ground floor isn’t, that is to say, the building really starts one floor up and the floor at the same level as the street is windowless and contains lockers, parking, or something to be hidden behind large concrete planters that are higher than a human is tall. A bit like the Maginot Line. The high planters have rows of dense shrubs planted along their bases. Rows of identical shrubs, not for the enjoyment of passing pedestrians but designed to be seen at a glance from speeding cars when only a large mass planting … Continue reading Here comes the sun

Walking is for the Rich

The Elizabeth Bruyere Research Institute and Cdn Institute for Health Research have done a study on walkability in Ottawa, with a special focus on older people. Here is the title of the study; interested persons are advised to read the whole thing and not just the excerpted bits that follow: In general, I would have expected pre-1945 neighborhoods, with sidewalks on most streets and nearby stores, to have been more walkable than suburban areas where distances discourage walking and retail is auto-oriented. And I would have thought that most downtown neighborhoods would rate similarly. I was wrong. Very … Continue reading Walking is for the Rich

The “Other” Iconic Station viewpoint that we lost

The Confederation Square station entrance (or lack of one) is getting a lot of press.  Earlier, the proposed Rideau Station was straddling the underside of the Canal, with the east entrance coming up at the Rideau Centre and the west entrance coming up at Confederation Square. This was called the Rideau Street station as that was its primary market, and the main reason it was pushed eastward under the canal was the sharp southward curve the track took immediately upon leaving the Rideau Station heading towards Campus:   The prior plans showed the western end of the Rideau station platform connected to a long, fairly … Continue reading The “Other” Iconic Station viewpoint that we lost

West Side Ottawa, 1960’s

The railway cut is being constructed on the west side of Dow’s Lake; it is now the O-Train corridor. The southwest side of Preston & Carling is a sea of temporary buildings. On the top right, much of LeBreton Flats remains unflat. On the top left, the first tall building at Tunney’s Pasture appears. On the bottom right, the NRCan complex at Booth and Carling is underway. Here’s a 1967 aerial view of the temporary buildings near Dow’s Lake, just before demolition started. To the left, the brand-new Sir John Carling building, now empty and slated for demolition. To the … Continue reading West Side Ottawa, 1960’s

Firestone Prescribes (iii)

I concur with Dr Firestone that Ottawa took its eye off the ball regarding the transitway. It always has money for road widenings and intersection “improvements” and new roads, and new bridges, but not enough for transitway extensions. Ask a city politician, and you get a dirge back about it’s the provinces or fed’s fault because they aren’t funding the transitway. Funny, the feds don’t fund a lot of stuff, but that doesn’t prevent the city from spending its own money. The City, IMO, has spending problems more than it has funding problems. I must say at this point that Prof Bruce is on … Continue reading Firestone Prescribes (iii)

Firestone talks (take ii)

Now I got quite interested when this slide came up. The left axis (vertical) shows the elevation of the condo, ie what floor it is on. The horizontal axis shows increasing rent or price. The faint yellow line shows the rent curve for a building with apartments on the ground floor. These apartments are often the lowest price, as they have no view, no privacy from passersby. The red curve shows what happens if the base of the building is constructed in “townhouse” form. The value of these units goes up significantly. Then the value drops off for the lower rise apartments, … Continue reading Firestone talks (take ii)

Firestone speaks

Last week, the Dalhousie Community Association, of which I am the outgoing president, held its annual AGM. Last year our speaker was John Doran from Domicile, speaking on how to cost out a condo project. This year, we had Dr Bruce Firestone, best known as founder of the Senators. Until recently he was a professor of entrepreneurship at Ottawa U. He has been an engineer, real estate developer, hockey guy, professor of architecture, engineering, and business, a mortgage broker, author, parent, etc. He is an engaging speaker. He talks with confidence born of personal experience on the topic and the … Continue reading Firestone speaks

OK High rises

After a couple of days of mocking and criticizing high rises, it’s time to show a few that do work, in my humble opinion. At first glance, the Paris hotel (seen outside my window in a much much much cheaper hotel)(don’t ask) (OK, do ask, if you insist, it cost $69 taxes in) in Vegas looks quite ornate. But a longer study reveals it is quite simple, with the same pre-cast elements repeated numerous times. It has a hat (roof), a belt (mid height break) and its base is a 2-5 storey podium that goes up to the mainstreet frontage, keeping the high-rise tower … Continue reading OK High rises

The Other City Centre Project

Everything in Vegas is done bigger. Their City Centre complex is tich larger than Ottawa’s. Even our forever-proposed-but-never-built new City Centre project is about 2 million sq ft of space whereas the Vegas one is 16 million square feet. The Vegas one has lots of underground parking: 6900 spaces, in the 9.2 billion dollar project. It is impressive, but not always in a nice way. The architects belong to the make it bigger, make it odder school of architecture. There are few attempts to make it intimate, personal, pleasant: instead it’s all schlock and awe. How, exactly, does one feel entering your condo … Continue reading The Other City Centre Project

When new buildings are REALLY out of context

In traipsing around to a bunch of different community meetings, I constantly hear the complaint that something is out of context, doesn’t fit the existing neighborhood context, or is out of scale. These phrases seem to mean almost anything, and are usually synonymous with “I don’t want that.” Occasionally these are … well, humorous, because what else can you call someone saying that the best neighbour for an existing 30 storey building is a flat grassy field and that any sort of high rise or even townhouses would be “out of context”? Of course I have my own context foibles. I am … Continue reading When new buildings are REALLY out of context

95th Anniversary of Vimy

There were ceremonies at the War Memorial this morning in honour of the dead, wounded, and veterans of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in France. It was the 95th anniversary. I am always pleased to be around so many veterans at these events. They are a breed apart. There are no more veterans of Vimy itself, they have joined those who died on the day. And the crowd of veterans was a bit different this year, with more young veterans of the NATO and Afghanistan campaigns. And a surprising number of young people, I guess college-age, students of Canadian history and … Continue reading 95th Anniversary of Vimy

Somerset West CHC fundraiser

Rock and Roll the night away, April 21, 2012 Click on: www. your gateway to the to the best event of the spring! Continuous live music with three bands local bands Goats HeadSoup           Loft33             Don’t Tell Amy Doors open at 7pm at the BRONSON CENTRE Proceeds to benefit kids programs at Somerset West Community HealthCentre Tickets $20 available through Paypal at  or by calling tel:613-868-4242. Sponsored by Kichesippi Beer Co. Continue reading Somerset West CHC fundraiser

Megachurch on Bayview Avenue?

Any time there is vacant land, it attracts every “great idea”. Alas, too many great ideas are crackpot ideas. Don’t want a stadium at Lansdowne? Put it at LeBreton, lots of space, no one lives there, and no one will hear the noise. How about a casino? Lots of room! Noisefest? Sure! Or a collection of 20 high rises? Oops, that one’s coming for sure. So when I saw all this seating nicely arranged in rows, I figured there must be a mega church on its way: No, a mega church is not on the way. Presumably, the city is … Continue reading Megachurch on Bayview Avenue?

As if sidewalk parking isn’t enough

Charles, a faithful reader and commenter, suggested that I take pictures of cars parking on sidewalks. It’s amazing ! They almost always promptly stop their parking, and move off to the road or at least somewhere less obstructive and obnoxious. Proof they know they are breaking the rules and being disrespectful to their fellow citizens. It would be a pretty boring blog if all these got posted. But then, along came this one. Discontent with parking sideways on the courthouse driveway, she then drove down the sidewalk and exited the City Hall driveway. She had enough presence of mind to … Continue reading As if sidewalk parking isn’t enough

Look up, way way up Jerome

I am always dating myself by referring to things by their old name, or to things that no longer exist and so no one (except other older people) knows what I am referring to. Are you old enough to remember the Friendly Giant on CBC TV? I could hear the phrase “Look up, look way way up” when I saw this condo building on West Wellington near Island Park. I do wonder just how well that concrete overhang will shelter the entrance a number of floor below. Or if it will simply feel like it is about to come crashing … Continue reading Look up, way way up Jerome

New urbanism, smaller homes – not found in Ottawa

When work is what you have to do, then holidays become a chance to do something else. Entirely different. But when you can do what you want to do, then what is a holiday but a chance to do the same thing, elsewhere? OK, so I’m boring and predictable. Thus it was that February found me checking out new urbanism communities in the American southwest. I  found one in Prescott, Az aimed at 55+. It had all the classic new urbanism characteristics: narrower streets, houses close to the curb, verandahs and porches, smaller lots, shared recreation in two parks — one … Continue reading New urbanism, smaller homes – not found in Ottawa