Bad day for swimming

Although my wife finds it a bit creepy, I enjoy visiting old cemeteries. You learn a lot about who the early settlers were. Sometimes you have to read between the lines, to find patterns in the lives and deaths. And sometimes read between the stones, to notice whole clans of people. I noticed this tombstone while browsing through an old cemetery in Ottawa south: What happened that two brothers drowned the same day? What would the family response be?  The cemetery is right beside the Rideau River. Did the family live close to the river? Did the children learn to swim … Continue reading Bad day for swimming


A great fuss is being made over the new Bridgehead coffee shop and factory that opened on Tuesday on Anderson Street at Preston. While I was there the CBC camera crew was there, then a reporter, and a steady stream of curious customers. Certainly the exterior facelift of the old Bell stables building is welcome and, when finished, should be attractive. The Preston Street-side exterior won’t be renovated until the coffee shop expands out to that façade in a few years time, when they manifest their restuarant-bakery ambitions. The first thing that struck me was seeing the usual advertising T-shirts being customized to one store. … Continue reading Bridgehead

Dismal, and better

Downtown, the new EDC building has a planter on the O’Connor side. It’s pretty dismal, if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron. Part of the problem may be that much of the planter is under the overhang of the building, so lacks water and maybe even enough light. The predicted problems were correctly identified by Urbsite last year: It comes as no satisfaction to see the prediction come to non-fruition. Such careless architecture and finishing. In contrast, they put a planter by the front door that looks pretty good; maybe you are supposed to forget about the rest of the … Continue reading Dismal, and better

PC Buttered Cyclist in Chinatown

Spotted in Chinatown: Sideguards on large trucks have very much been in the news lately. It’s not readily apparent from the photos that the guard angles in under the truck at the front end when it starts to taper to a point (just where the reflected light puts a bright spot in the pic below): Thanks to Loblaws for at least trying them.   Continue reading PC Buttered Cyclist in Chinatown

Owning the Podium

Much of Ottawa’s current discussion about high rises focusses on the podium, or base of the building. In theory, the wider larger base is all the pedestrian sees, and the thin elegant glass tower floats off into the sky after a generous set back. Of course, this requires a fairly large lot or thin tower. What we increasingly see are small lot edifices, where either the tower is too fat for the base, or the podium effect is just sort of drawn onto the tower by a few horizontal bits of concrete trim. I stopped recently to look at the successfully done podium … Continue reading Owning the Podium

Cycle and Biped accomodation

On a recent trip to Boston, I saw this generous bike parking shelter, with card-controlled door: And while on that same trip to Boston, I stayed in a hotel built on air rights over a commuter rail line and freeway. The hotel windows were thick, and sealed. Noise intrusion was minimal and I slept fine. For one night, OK; but I wouldn’t want to live above the freeway or rail line. At the present time, there are no intentions of selling or leasing air rights over any of the Ottawa’s new LRT lines, as the additional construction cost doesn’t warrant competing … Continue reading Cycle and Biped accomodation

Cut and paste on our streets

Living near a major road reconstruction project is always educational. Sometimes comical, sometimes depressing. Like most other amateur superintendents, the constant digging, filling, and redigging the same spots breeds a certain cynicism: “They must’ve left someone down there yesterday.” In the first picture below, the new pavement on Somerset at Preston has been cut by the traffic department to install a traffic loop. That wire measures traffic behaviour so that light timing can be adjusted to vehicular traffic flow.   Notice that the loop crosses the lines painted for the cross walk. Alas, the painted cross walk was temporary, until the more substantial and … Continue reading Cut and paste on our streets

Great Minds Think Alike

About a month ago I wrote about three models of urban growth: low-rise suburbs; high-rise clusters amid a sea of existing low-rises; and the magic Paris model of six storey buildings. If you’ve forgotten the plot, follow this link: I think those that romanticize Paris do so from the perspective of visitors (not residents) and  focus on the main streets, not the miles of six storey apts behind. Six storey Paris main streets function well because of the abundance of residents within a short walk, also in six storey apartment buildings. These wonderful Paris streets are not backed up by 50×100′ lots with … Continue reading Great Minds Think Alike

Is Walking only for the Rich ?

  A while back, we reported  on a talk by Theresa Grant at City Hall , comparing the walkability of four urban neighborhoods. They included a high income and low-income urban neighborhood, and high and low-income suburban-style neighborhoods. Guess which neighborhood came out best for walking, and which one the worst? Hint: you can read the original post here: And now you can hear Theresa herself talk about the safety of walking in our west side neighborhoods. Hint: it’s depressingly bad to live here. You are much better off being rich. BUT, things can be better. Come out and get some facts and … Continue reading Is Walking only for the Rich ?

New facade on Bell Street Towers apartments

The apartment buildings on Bell Street south of Gladstone are amongst the oldest in Ottawa. We were becoming a big city when young single people no longer needed to “board” with someone or continue living at home. Of course, these independent living arrangements were not chaperoned, giving the Bell Street Towers the moniker “Peyton Place” for the first decades. After all, why else would young people leave home if not for immoral purposes? I recall back in the 70’s visiting other students who lived there, and discovering the ceiling above was at a crazy angle, and there were large bolts and metal … Continue reading New facade on Bell Street Towers apartments

Down in the dumps, but not in an Ottawa way

There must be many models of how to pick up and handle trash and other waste. Ottawa, like most Ontario municipalities, opts for separate streams right at the input stage. Residents and businesses are obliged to separate the cardboard from the newspaper from the tin and glass, and the organics go here not there. The percentage of waste recycled or diverted from landfill is proportionate to everyone’s effort. Some might call it participation; others might call it rubbing the public’s face in the garbage. There is one eastern Ontario city that opted for the single stream. All garbage is collected together, and then … Continue reading Down in the dumps, but not in an Ottawa way

Scanning for everyone

The self-serve checkouts at busy places like Loblaws or Ikea are a mixed blessing. Good, if you can get yourself thruput faster. Bad, if you fumble your way through because of awkward lookups, etc. On a recent trip to New England I noticed a few fun differences at their grocery stores. Pack-people ( I would’ve said “packboys” but some were girls, and the one we had I couldn’t tell what gender it was). Cheap eggs ($1.29/doz — jeeze, where are those consumer-protection people in Canada when it’s the government monopoly that screws us?). And Chobani yogurt, only $5.45 (it’s over $8 at Loblaws in Toronto where … Continue reading Scanning for everyone

The shadow knows, heh heh heh

Dark shadows are of the common concerns about proposed high rise buildings: “How will it affect my house?”  Or, as more commonly expressed: “It will block all my light all day!” Earlier this week I heard an interesting factoid from a major developer, who said his proposed tower, a fairly thin one of 7500 sq ft floor plate, would not cast a shadow on any one place for more than one hour a day. Hmm, certainly sounds disarming. I wonder if there is any fine print? [of course, additional towers will collectively throw more shadows, as will slab-shaped buildings, or a a tall building … Continue reading The shadow knows, heh heh heh

Misc thoughts on the western LRT

The instant springing up of a “friends of” organization to oppose rapid transit is not unexpected. Everyone wants transit nearby but not too nearby.  Me included. At least one block over is just fine. Just like for arterial and collector roads. I think the City falls short in its communication of the LRT options. Many of the complaints about each proposed alignment are eminently predictable, or have been already expressed (repeatedly !) in the media. If I were running the show, these complaints / concerns would be addressed right up front, either acknowledged or countered. Instead we have endless rehashing of shallow comments. … Continue reading Misc thoughts on the western LRT

Rearranging the benches on RMS Primrose

 Two neighborhood parks on the west side are getting major surgery this year. The redo of Chaudiere Park on Elm Street seems to have found a winner design. An especially innovative feature will be the expansion of the small park to take over a few parking spaces on Elm Street, although that feature may not be constructed until 2014 while bureaucrats fret over jurisdiction (it’s good to keep them busy on the innocuous). The remake of Primrose Park, a larger site just a block further north, is much more curious. The park was originally designed in the early 1980’s as center piece … Continue reading Rearranging the benches on RMS Primrose

City’s tallest office towers proposed for west side

Phoenix DCR is going to Council in August seeking rezoning of the parcel of land known as 801 Albert Street. They are proposing a 34 storey office tower; a 31 storey office tower, and a 7 storey office tower. Currently, the tallest office buildings in Ottawa are Place de Ville at 29 stories and Place Bell, both in the downtown core. The parcel of land they propose to build these on is right across Albert Street from the existing Bayview transit station and the adjacent OTrain station. The triangular parcel of land is immediately north of the 8 storey City … Continue reading City’s tallest office towers proposed for west side

Height that you wish for …

At public meetings and in media discussions about how high is high enough, a frequent lament heard goes something like “it would be alright over there [insert name of place far from the person making the comment], but not here.” For years, the Councillor and community groups working on the LeBreton Flats plans fought for an essentially low rise community. The final height limit for most of the buildings is seven stories (just like Paris !), with some towers on podiums extending to fourteen (not like Paris!).  The first phase, just built, has two towers on a very large seven story podium. … Continue reading Height that you wish for …