Building a Better Street, an example from Milan

Let’s go back to Milan. As part of their transformation project towards a Green City, they have recently reconstructed a multi-block street to make it more urban, less car-dominated. They got mostly good results, but with a number of caveats. … Continue reading Building a Better Street, an example from Milan

Pop-Up Convenience Store in Chinatown

Yesterday, in a matter of a few hours, Chinatown got a new convenience store. Located at the corner of Somerset and Bronson, the arrival of the new retail outlet reflects an innovation in Ottawa planning. Normally, gas stations have the pumps out near the intersection, and the store/paypoint at the back. In urban planning terms, this leaves a big gap in the urban fabric. At this location, the store is being located in prime space at the intersection corner, and the pumps are behind it, less visible. (See previous story on the planning:  ). The foundation for the new … Continue reading Pop-Up Convenience Store in Chinatown

New developments on Bronson

Two new developments are coming forward on Bronson Avenue. One very big; one very small. One by a big Toronto developer; the other by a local. The small one is for a demolition and infill on the west side of Bronson between Christie and Gladstone. The proponent has tentative plans for a three storey infill, consisting of a ground level business, with two floors of apartments above. Both apartments are three bedrooms and the layout is conducive to family living. There is also a proposed basement apartment. The building is snuggled up to the north side of the lot, with … Continue reading New developments on Bronson

Chinatown shown the door

Or maybe, Chinatown shows the door. Because the Chinatown BIA has embarked on an ambitious scheme to improve the physical look of the properties along the street by painting the doors and façades of various buildings. Not the whole buildings, but the parts closest up to pedestrians on the walkways. They have commissioned the concepts from the Ottawa School of Art. These were on display to the public and merchants last week. Now the schemes will be revised to reflect the comments of viewers, and painting the doors and some windows will commence later this month. The CBIA focussed on some of … Continue reading Chinatown shown the door

A little rain for the Urban Food desert

Much of the west side of downtown Ottawa is a food desert. Consolidation has been happening in the grocery business for a long time. Individual vegetable mongers and butchers gave way to the one-stop shopping convenience of the groceteria, then the larger grocery store, and most recently the Superstore, whether in big-box malls or spread across the urban fabric. The resulting decline and disappearance of the smaller stores inevitably leaves some greater distance between the remaining or new grocery outlets. This space is sometimes called a food desert. Like any ecosystem, it also offers a niche for the nimble and specialized. Walking … Continue reading A little rain for the Urban Food desert

The shadow knows …

  The city can talk all it wants about how walking, cycling and transit are high on its list of priorities, but the real test is where the feet hit the ground, the wheel hits the pavement, etc. An attractive, safe-feeling pedestrian environment welcomes walking, so that it becomes a desirable thing to do, rather than a “have to” or “should do”. Goodness knows, we have been very successful in making motor car travel the default choice. This bias in the public realm won’t be undone overnight. But sometimes there are very little measures that really help. The benches along … Continue reading The shadow knows …

Main street’s modal split

Annie Hillis of the West Wellington BIA (WWBIA) sent me the following data. They conducted a four-day survey in June, asking 830 people found along their typical older-city main street how they came to the street, their post code, and their shopping habits. The WWBIA main street runs roughly from Bayswater westwards along Somerset & West Wellington to Island Park. The modal split numbers surprised me.  Forty six percent of those found along the street got there by walking; 26% by car; 13% by bike; twelve percent by bus (numbers throughout this story are rounded off). Only 26% by car? That’s pretty low. And … Continue reading Main street’s modal split

Just look down: Adventures in the Chinese Zodiac

Pedestrians on the newly redone bit of Somerset in Chinatown between Booth and Preston are in for a real treat. The sidewalk is paved in blocky precast concrete squares with a textured surface finish. For some time, walkers may have noticed some squares marked out like this: These red dots marked where a few blocks were to be removed and replaced by a same size granite square inscribed with a shallow bas relief of a stylized Asian zodiac animal. These make the street great fun to walk with kids, and amusing for adults too. The zodiac is repeated four times: twice on the … Continue reading Just look down: Adventures in the Chinese Zodiac

Chinatown Art Installation

The City sets aside a certain small percentage of its major capital projects budget (such as road reconstruction) for art installations. West Siders know the ones: Preston Street granite postcards from the piazzas, West Wellie’s marble veggies, the red chairs in the Glebe. The just-getting-completed reconstruction of Somerset between the OTrain tracks and Booth had a very small art budget. One that had to cope with three distinct areas: Chinatown, the bit of Little Italy around Preston, and the OTrain viaduct-bridge. With public consultation, the decision was made to have two installations: one on the Chinatown hill, and one on the viaduct … Continue reading Chinatown Art Installation

Signs of Life on Somerset Street

Somerset has been going through a difficult time for the last few years. The rise of suburban supermarkets with an Asian focus has rendered obsolete the mom-and-pop small stores along Somerset in Chinatown. Many have disappeared. Only a few grocery stores are surviving, eg Kowloon Market, which even seems to be thriving and is a bright spot on the street. In the section from Booth to Preston, business has been complicated by two years of road reconstruction. But the sidewalks are back in place, the benches are installed, and at a large vacant storefront this sign has appeared: I thought it noticeable that … Continue reading Signs of Life on Somerset Street

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

Improved sidewalk, honestly !

I must confess that I found it easy to avoid the construction on Somerset through Chinatown during the fall. Primrose runs parallel, and is car-free for a block of it, to boot! But I did notice a safety cone marking some sort of sidewalk obstruction, right in the middle of the sidewalk near Rochester. I figured it was covering a little hole in the new walk, like a water shut off valve or something innocuous. Unfortunately winter came and no doubt crews would be back first thing in the spring to complete the job. But no, it was covering something much … Continue reading Improved sidewalk, honestly !

Avenue of Lights

Work crews are rushing to finish up the Somerset Street reconstruction projects. The section west of Preston, to Bayswater, has its final coat of pavement, the sidewalks are down, and the work crews are putting up the light fixtures: In the above picture, the concrete base for the fixture has been erroneously installed too low. Instead of being 4″ above the finished sidewalk, in which case the concrete protects the base of the light fixture from being dinged by the sidewalk plows, a few of these were installed flush with the sidewalk. Here’s the row of lights installed (on their raised … Continue reading Avenue of Lights

Progress on Somerset

It seemed for a while that Somerset, running up from Preston, would never get finished. Would Chinatown be left with craters and a war zone all winter? Deadlines seem to have focussed the contractor’s mind. On Thursday, curbs were laid east of Preston, and by Friday the road base was largely in place. Can the paving crews be far behind? Alas, the sidewalks and landscaping will not be installed this year, that will have to wait for spring. Provided the contractor can assign a crew to do it. Continue reading Progress on Somerset

Public art for Somerset Street

The City has a “percent for art” whereby a percentage of capital (construction) costs of projects is to be spent on public art. West siders will be familiar with public art sculptures on Preston (postcards from the piazzas), West Wellie (marble fire hydrants), and Bank Street (the bike racks). So now it is the turn for the current Somerset construction projects running from Bayswater to Preston, and the Preston to Booth Street sections. The City combined the two projects in order to afford a larger art installation. The City encouraged artists to employ lighting. Community input suggested that the slope eastbound up from Preston into Chinatown … Continue reading Public art for Somerset Street

Road improvement only temporary

The City repaved Somerset west of Preston this morning. Don’t get too excited though. It’s just short term improvement change followed by more disruption. The section of Somerset further west, near Bayswater, is not ready for paving yet. The newly paved section will be striped next week as a two-way cul-de-sac street, ending at Musca’s. There will be no vehicular traffic, east or west, over the O-Train bridge, starting in August. The road will be completely dug out to insert a new underpass, for the north-south cycling route that parallels the east side of the O-train corridor. The contractor will keep … Continue reading Road improvement only temporary

Unintended benefits of Laurier SBL

The Laurier Separated Bike Lane — SBL — opens July 10th. Considerable criticism has been levelled that it goes nowhere from nowhere to nowhere. I guess these critics want a SBL that never starts nor stops…  they just don’t want it at all. At the western end of Laurier, the bike lane stops at Bronson. Considerable volumes of bike traffic will have moved off the route to go north and west or south by time the lane reaches Bronson. But for traffic continuing into Dalhousie, Chinatown, or desiring to go south parallel to Bronson, some new measures have been put into place … Continue reading Unintended benefits of Laurier SBL

Disappearing Corner Stores Captured

I met Colin White when he  was sketching the Preston Food Market. I put up a blog post with this picture of him at work:  He has  just hung the Confectionaries series at the Raw Sugar Café, where anyone can check it out. The show will be up for the month of June, and includes various stores from around West Centretown (though a few from Glebe as well). In the picture below, you can see what he was sketching, .   The series is also on his website: but you should go to the Raw Sugar and see it in person, as well as enjoy the funky … Continue reading Disappearing Corner Stores Captured