Infill near St Anthony’s school

demolish the old...
new home under construction...

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, there is a suggestion of a porch. The driveway dominates too much, but hey, at least they didn’t pave the “sidewalk” to the front door and use it as another parking pad(although I am a bit suspicious this might be coming in the spring, given how the planter and tree are pushed off to the side. Does the householder need 3 parking spaces?)

I had to look closely for a few moments before I realize what didn’t look true: there is no mortar between the bricks. They are nailed-on 2″ face bricks, attached rather like shingles. Or, another analogy, they are like stacked block retaining walls, compared to real stone.

Better than plastic siding. Better than monster home dimensions. The tiny tree in front left won’t provide much shade or screening.

Like it??

10 thoughts on “Infill near St Anthony’s school

  1. Pretty blah this one. Don’t *hate* it but would never give it 2nd look either. Can’t quite figure out how people living in Centretown still would choose to give up 250 square feet of floor space just to keep a ton of steel and rubber warm and dry though; of course much of the time a garage just fills up with junk anyway and the car stays on the driveway.

    Seems a defeatist way to plan for living space though.

  2. Evan – this is a few blocks West of Centretown.

    I would have put the planter boxes closer to the middle, so that the pedestrian access would be on the left side of it, buffered from the driveway. There would still be room to get from the driveway to the entrance near the house. I think this would have balanced it out more and provided a nice visual cue to the double-door entrance. As it is, I think the tree is much too close to the planter if it ever grows to a significant size.

    While it is somewhat underwhelming, I find it to be a relief from the boxy ‘modern’ buildings that tend to be built downtown (I can think of at least six that have been built/renovated/proposed recently and I’m sure there are more). I like the large room above the garage; it has lots of windows and should be very bright. This is a tradeoff for the ugly garage. The first floor porch isn’t big enough to be used for anything other than an entrance; hopefully the second floor balcony will be used for people and not storage.

  3. I’m not a fan of the typical suburban garage-forward design. Is there some reason why the front door couldn’t be brought forward to a foot or two in front of the garage? You’d get more space that way (a nice entrance hallway with room for closets that can serve both the front door and interior garage entrances).

    I agree with the comments above about the planter placement, but the placement looks temporary to me so perhaps we’re being hasty in our judgement on that aspect.

  4. It’s ok. It will fit in I think. At least the garage is a single car garage. I would be interested to see the back yard and what they did there.

  5. The City says it doesn’t regulate garage doors on private homes, but the thing I want to understand is how these new homes with garage up front get around restrictions for front-yard parking?

    They all purport to have the designated parking inside the garage, thus the reason for designing them with a blank garage door, entrance pushed to the side and no connection to street-life. However, as has been noted, in reality, it is most likely the garage will be filled up with junk (or another car) and so the defacto parking is in front of the house. But doesn’t this run counter to the City’s restrictions on front-yard parking in older areas, to reduce the appearance of cars parked in front of every hosue? Or does this simply not apply to new construction, even if it’s teardown/infill on a narrow lot? Further, as you observed on another infill, it appears that often the interlocked walkway in front of the entrance becomes yet another parking space. And is there no limit on how wide the curb-cut is?

    I find this vexing because when I was looking at a semi where virtually all of the rear area was not usable because it had to be kept as a gravelled right-of-way to the other side of the semi, I asked the City, “what if my neighbour parks in the bottom of the laneway by the street, and I park next to them in front of my half of the semi, and then I green the whole rest of the back area?” It would have met one of the City’s objectives in restricting front-yard parking by actually increasing the amount of green area to reduce runoff into storm sewers.

    But, I was told, no, you can’t have two vehicles next to each other, you can’t have a teeny bit more new curb-cut to accommodate the new parking in front of the house, and besides you can’t park in front of the house.

    It seems that if your pockets are deep enough you can come along and knock down an old house, slap up an ugly-as-sin box that fills every permissible bit of the lot and airspace, and has a giant garage door, park four cars in front and nobody says “boo” to you, except perhaps for the neighbours who object to their street being gradually nibbled away by shoebox sub/urbanites.

    I don’t think it’s just NIMBYism. I think it is a feeling of being under seige, and that the City needs to develop design guidelines to ensure that developers have to take some heed of their surroundings and the concerns of neighbouring property-owners.

    1. Dealing with cars is a real problem. In my hundred year old house, indeed for the whole group of us down the side of the street, we have narrow house, 10′ driveway, narrow house, etc. You can theoretically use the driveway to access the narrow parking spot between the houses, but your car doors won’t open far, so everyone parks in the first 20′ of the driveway, and stores junk in the remainder. The result is basically houses with parking pads in front yards. I share your frustration on the application of city rules. Ergo, the nice brick sidewalks that function as parking spaces. And I am not a fan of backyard parking either. Once cars are in the backyard we live surrounded by cars on all sides, and then there are the people who spend hours washing their car with the doors open and stereo blaring or use it as a sound system for beer parties … I favour keeping cars out of back yards. Thanks for writing.

    2. Michael, there already are such guidelines, which say that garage/parking cannot take up more than 50% of the property frontage.

      Unfortunately, as some Ottawa South residents learned in recent months, this is only a guideline and not an official policy. Therefore builders are essentially free to flaunt it.

  6. Are front-yard parking restrictions all just a “guideline?” Clearly I just have to start acting like a developer and do what I like, and just pay a fine later? Like an idiot I ask the City and they say “no,” so I dutifully go away.

    A friend of mine in Mechanicsville wanted to put another storey on his house; tried to go through the proper channels, and after getting nowhere (or at least painfully slowly) he just went ahead an did it.

    A neighbour of mine put in an illegal bathroom — too small, no vent, plumbing not to code — if the City catches wind of this will they make him rip it out, or just fine him, or do nothing? Also means his taxes are less because MPAC doesn’t know he has 2.

    The cynic in me thinks that the developers just keep the wheels well greased. I heard someone on CBC yesterday saying you need to keep in touch with your Councillor, so they know you’ll be a squeaky wheel if someone brings forward a project in your area.

    It has become popular to chide people in the Glebe and elsewhere for being NIMBY about everything, even you Eric, but there is a certain extent to which it seems you need to go to the wall on everything just to try to keep developers and luxo-box commissioning owners from trying to sneak past every little bit they can. Existing residents feel that they must oppose or intervene on everything because the developers cannot be trusted, and the City is to weakkneed to stand up to them, or impose more specific community design specs.

    1. …even you Eric…
      WHA-A-A-T ?? Even me. I’m offended. It should be ESPECIALLY ME, since I am special. Everyone is special. Sometimes though, some behaviours are just so special that you gotta give a nudge and kick in the NIMBY’s.

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