The Trinity Developments proposal for 900 Albert calls the three 55 storey towers and retail podium “phase 1” of their plan. It is a stand alone proposal, not dependent on approval for a phase 2. The expanded phase 2 project proposal would build another 55 storey tower and more retail podium, including the obligatory suggestion of a new Ottawa Public Library. These would be on an elevated structure over the top of the OTrain Trillium Line corridor, shown in blue below:
The corridor land is owned by the city, and designated as a transportation corridor. It is not park space nor do I recall it being designated a greenway. Getting any one at the city to maintain the space is an exercise in frustration. It does, of course, function as a possible link for flora and fauna from the Gatineau Park – Ottawa River valley – to Dows Lake and the Rideau Valley. Recent CDP’s in the neighbourhood were allowed to mention the corridor as a pathway link for a MUP. And mention was permitted of a “view plane” along the corridor to the Gatineau Hills, although the city adamantly refused to define or delineate the view plane in the plan. Plans are just the fine sounding but almost meaningless patter of salesmen-planning staff promoting their product, as evidenced by the arrival of city plans after the developers have decided what they want. Post facto planning, etc.
Equally vacuous is the propensity of local residents to call any empty lot a green space. The OTrain corridor it is mostly gravel and the transportation folks will never allow any trees or greenway near their precious guideways. What greenery is there now will diminish in time, not grow. There is to be a clear cut zone extending outward and upward at 45 degrees from the rails or maybe even the edge of the right of way, so that no vegetation can fall onto the wires or the rails in the event of an ice storm. Note also the city has already sold air rights at Carleton U for a structure that spans the tracks north of the Carleton Station and agreed to a future building that spans the tracks and the Station in the centre of campus. So there is an air rights precedent.
Here’s the site plan should a phase 2 go ahead (red, phase 1; blue, phase 2):
It is unclear if the tower goes over the gravel space now occupied by the MUP, or over the tracks themselves.
In any case, the entire existing ground level would remain as is, with a walking path under the roads to the Bayview Station, a separate cycling path, and alignments for the OTrain station tracks and additional tracks going north across the Prince of Wales bridge to Gatineau. The space would be about 21′ high. Presumably it wouldn’t look as awful as the space under previous-generations of elevated freeways. It would be daylighted and finished (year round outdoor skateboard park and basketball court, anyone?). The city and developer will have to be pushed to make the space attractive and safe. Certainly windows and doors to the building will be required in the space, not blank walls.
Approval of air rights development, by the developer or by the city or someone else the city sells to, is not certain. Lots of people at the public meeting to view the plans expressed strenuous opposition to the loss of “green space”.
Since the earliest days of planning the Bayview Station area, residents have argued that Albert Street must be considered a “street” and not a road / freeway, and the elevation should be considered a simple hill the road climbs and not some elevated embankment. The final look should be like Somerset or other streets that run up a hill, with sidewalks, storefronts, etc. The Trinity development proposal certainly does that.
More controversially, it also does that on the WEST side of the Albert Street overpass over the OTrain tracks. Squint carefully at the top left corner of the illustration above, to notice a service road coming off of Albert right near the western bridge abutment. This is the exact spot where the “goat trail” currently erodes the slope where pedestrians hop the guardrail and slip and slide down the embankment to cross the field behind Tom Brown arena. Never say pedestrians aren’t determined to establish their own desire lines and follow them.
The western service road would be elevated on pillars. It would provide a psudo-street-level surface along the west side of whatever is built on the air rights portion. Here it is labelled as Library drop off road, and also services the elevator lobby to a building above. It then cuts around the south side of the complex to the parking garage ramps. This whole service road is problematic and needs a total reworking. If not, this potentially Transit Oriented Development will look like it is wrapped in car spaghetti.
On the eastern portion of the site, over near City Centre building and its elevated road ramp up to the second level, the developer proposes a lively corridor along the former Wellington Street right of way. This would be at the same level as the gravel lane through the site now. In the city plans, there is mention of a pedestrian / cyclist bridge over the OTrain to reconnect with West Wellington near Pantuso garage / Suzy Q Donuts.
The illustration is way too fanciful. Firstly, a portion of the flat surface along the building beyond the Cafe is actually loading docks, with 53′ tractor trailers conveniently absent. Second, a cycling corridor along this lane would have to be fairly straight and level, not wandering amongst flower beds. And the space will be required by the fire department for emergency access, so any sculpture and kite fliers have to make space for large fire engines to manoeuvre.
Conceptually, the landscaped right of way is correct. In practice, it will hard that it not turn into a back service lane with garage ramps and loading docks and the perception of unsafety.
Keep in mind that the City Centre building and its ramp won’t be there forever. Already over a half century old and badly cracking up, the site is now approved for a bunch of 30 storey towers and mid rises too. Note too that the main north-south entrance corridor through the Trinity buildings is designed to be extendible through the Equity / City Centre site all the way south to Somerset Street viaduct (this is shown in another illustration, below). If some Equity developments on the City Centre site put front doors onto the pedestrian laneway shown it would be livelier and safer.
Looking up the Albert Street sidewalk along the front of the Trinity buildings, notice that the 1.8m sidewalk has been widened to 7m. The trees, of course, are pure planner’s porn, they are unlikely to be there is those numbers or size. Looks nice, but you can only fantasize about them. A big danger of the wide sidewalk is that coupled with the widened road (four wider traffic lanes, plus two turn lanes, plus a cycle lane or cycle track, plus the imaginary green median) will make for a very wide open space that invites motorists to speed up. Major effort will be required to keep the space closed in to calm traffic. I also don’t expect the turn lanes to be so short, not with a major grocery store in the complex, and mini-Lowe’s or similar tenant, and Shopper’s type drugstore, a Goodlife gym, etc.
Another key to traffic calming will be buildings or plantings on the north side of street, close to the curb line, but this is city land and my expectations are conditioned to be low.
At the public meeting, there was intelligent input as to how the building complex might integrate with the neighbourhood. We need active frontages on the south and west sides. We need to calm Albert Street. We need stunning architecture given the site’s prominence and visibility from the downtown core. The architect did not blanch at the mention of a Marilyn Monroe level of grandeur (click here to see two stories on those buildings: https://www.westsideaction.ca/absolute-marilyn/ :
The building needs a highly attractive and busy weather sheltered connection to the Bayview Station. Bike rooms cannot be in obscure places, but must be easily accessed and offer convenient connections to the MUP and cycle tracks. Real, genuine priority must be given to transit access for all users and neighbours and not just be just another roadside development that happens to be adjacent a transit hub.
The Tom Brown affaire
Residents at the open house seized upon one drawing in particular that showed high rise buildings where Tom Brown arena is today. This drawing shows the phase 1 towers outlined in red, but not the air rights tower over the OTrain, it shows the City Centre site redeveloped as approved, and it shows four additional towers over there to the west …:
Trinity brushed it off as merely an error, or a mis-borrowing of an illustration from the City.
I’m not so sure. Recall that Tom Brown is already elderly, and the site has prime redevelopment potential being so near the Station and thus a potential source revenue to the City. Prior city plans for the area hinted at intensifying the arena site.
And finally, recall that the Trinity – Senators proposal for LeBreton Flats includes a major event space (ie Sens arena) but also a SensPlex type development. If there are four or so new rinks just a few hundred feet east of the Bayview Station on the Flats, what need is there for a single sheet at Tom Brown?
Trinity is supposed to have a website up soon: 900Albert.com.
You may wish to also send your comments to your councillor and community association.