Cafe culture does not need a sidewalk

The scene is disconcerting.

Shouldn’t a sidewalk café at least have a sidewalk?

But Art-is-in bakery proves otherwise. First, their gritty industrial bay at City Centre becomes a trendy popular breakfast and coffee spot. Tables sprout, light fixtures appear…

And now, a minimalist patio appears on the apron to the loading docks. These patrons seemed delighted to sit out, encircled by a row of cars and trucks. If this was a Disney movie, those animated vehicles would be plotting how to steal the baking…

The front of the City Centre building is a total heat trap, the curvilinear two-story warehouse bays embracing a large asphalt parking lot. It’s stinkin’ hot. The first time I had rented a bay there, my business had its big black Heidelberg printing presses in a cavernous space 18′ high by about the same width. The ceiling was black and giant round concrete pillars impinged into the space from the walls. They were capped with funnel-like concrete tops. I painted them all in multiple colours, inspired by the Palace of Knossos in Crete, where I had been just a few months before. The finished result looked more like an Egyptian  tomb. King Tut it was not, but it definitely had a funky look. I thought back to the loading-dock-bordered streets in Yaletown (Vancouver) and New York that turned into trendy chic places to live and had restaurants in the industrial bays and their patios on the loading docks …

Might City Centre yet be redeemed as the gourmet IN spot in Ottawa?

6 thoughts on “Cafe culture does not need a sidewalk

  1. The bakery is crazy busy, not just on the weekends, but there are also line ups out the door at lunch during the week. I wonder if more cool trendy places will move in. It would be nice to see the Wallacks framing factory that is hidden on the upper level that no one ever goes up to, move to the ground floor and set up a retail presence.

  2. There’s just something about City Centre. It always seemed to have so much potential, yet at the same time felt so inaccessible. I went to the bakery the other day and thought how cool it was that there’s finally a reason to go there, instead of just looking down at it from the bridge. The outdoor parking lot cafe seems very organic…like it just sprung up because it was a gorgeous day and people dragged some chairs outside.

  3. I realize it isn’t quite the same industrial area, but I have another example of a decent patio placed in a parking lot.

    For Father’s Day, my family biked over from Nepean to Westboro for lunch. We ended up at Whispers, which has done a pretty good job of making a patio essentially in the parking lot of a consignment store next to Tall Tree and the Paddle Shack immediately on the edge of Richmond. They’d put up a green fence, which let light in, but blocked the idling Hummer or Aerostar. The planters with flowers separated it from the road a bit. They did their best to make it inviting and acknowledged that people don’t really like dining in a parking lot.

    Really, it was very well done. Decent service, too; they saw we’d biked in and put out water without asking. Too bad about the shitty bike parking. But we’ll be back.

  4. Good urbanism is like a weed: it can thrive in the harshest of circumstances, as long as there’s a little something there to support it. What we see here is a perfect example of why it’s a bad idea to get rid of structures like old warehouses and storefronts.

    1. And as long as someone doesn’t rat it out to those who know things aren’t allowed.

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