Condos, no condos, design review

  Condos. No condos. Design review — is it real? Tall Towers are wonderful ! We have it all for you today. The housing market continues to be unsettled on the West Side of downtown Ottawa. House For Sale signs seem to stay up forever. Even For Rent signs malinger in windows and on porch railings till they are weather-beaten to death. After the outgoing Council’s orgy of rezoning on the West Side, Watson’s vaunted “new downtown” forest of high rises in Little Italy is looking rather forlorn. Latest to pack up shop is Nuovo, where i hear the sales … Continue reading Condos, no condos, design review

I can get it for you, RETAIL

I can understand why people buy a condo apartment or townhouse to live in.  People like the sense of control. Of ownership. Permanence. And once it is paid off, you don’t have to earn the (taxable) income to pay rent. I also understand that renting is cheaper, and the tax benefits similar, if you invest the difference between renting and saving into the stock market, preferably in low-cost ETF’s. But then you are a tenant … and some people don’t thrill to that. But that is not what this is about. It’s about people who buy condos for investment purposes. … Continue reading I can get it for you, RETAIL

Three temporary landscapes on the Flats

Last night the NCC held an open house to unveil 3 concepts for landscaping the Beirut  Bagdad  Syrian war zone post-apocalyptic landscape in downtown Ottawa on the south side of the Parkway between Vimy Private (the War Museum entrance road) and Claridge’s condos on LeBreton Flats. It has long been a puzzle to WSA regulars as to why bureaucrats think people would rush to buy homes with such dismal surroundings. So the new NCC, with new Leadership, responding to criticism (not least of which came from their bosses up on the Hill) of the desolate lands, announced a few weeks ago … Continue reading Three temporary landscapes on the Flats

Back lanes: Ugly but Functional access to high rises

As argued here yesterday, too many of our in-process high rises do not have any sort of passenger pick up or drop off facilities. For example, the new Claridge ICON building proposed for 505 Preston at Carling has no driveway. The garage entrance is directly off Norfolk, a side street. The front door faces Preston, onto a merge lane (which is to be lengthened…) for traffic turning onto Preston from Carling or Prince of Wales. How will that merge lane work when a para-transpo van is parked there for 20 minutes at 8am? Since that main entrance also serves several … Continue reading Back lanes: Ugly but Functional access to high rises

Tunney’s Pasture new Master Plan (Concept Plan)

Here are some illustrations of what the Feds are proposing to do to Ottawa’s third largest employment centre, Tunney’s Pasture. Here’s the current view, looking south towards Scott, from Brooke Claxton tower. The centre boulevard space remains. Disappointingly, there were no sketches of anything to enliven that strip that Greber insisted on so we can all admire the International Style architecture of the Claxton Building. In my mind, that strip desperately needs Landscaping and People.   Most employees in the new mixed Government and private sector office buildings will arrive on the LRT. In addition to the current 10,000 employees, … Continue reading Tunney’s Pasture new Master Plan (Concept Plan)

News Headline: Developer listens first …

On Tuesday evening a most strange and wonderful event occurred on the west side. A developer called a meeting of neighbours and area residents, and then listened. And listened hard. Mizrahi Developments builds luxury custom homes in Toronto. Some of these homes are in a mid-rise condo format. They have bought the Joe’s Audio and Bella Restaurant site on Richmond Road at Island Park Drive. The site is zoned for six stories, with planning direction to go up to 9 at the corner to make a gateway statement. The planning therefore envisions a nine storey building right at the corner, with a six storey … Continue reading News Headline: Developer listens first …

845 Carling site plan: two and half condos

Richcraft purchased the Dow Motors site, shown below. The Dark CDP calls for two towers on the site; Richcraft is proposing three. Or more accurately, two and half.   They are proposing 3 buildings for the site, one facing Carling, the second in the middle of site, which would also include a new OTrain Station, and the third at the north end of the site, facing Adeline. The first two towers would be very tall, in the 48 storey range, but with the recent addition of height to the Claridge Icon tower at 505 Preston (corner of Carling), and the … Continue reading 845 Carling site plan: two and half condos

Sydney Street: whose vision will prevail ?

The Dark CDP plan for Sydney Street is as follows. Sydney, a short, dead-end street on the  east side of the OTrain track, immediately north of Carling,  would be extended westwards, then turned north to join Adeline, turning both when combined into a sort of suburban “crescent” that would facilitate motoring, people running through residential streets looking for parking spaces, access to high rises that would be otherwise impossible to build on the dead ends,  etc. Sydney is the L-shaped gray arrow shown below. Right now, only half of the horizontal part of the L is actually a street: Going … Continue reading Sydney Street: whose vision will prevail ?

More public consultation problems at the City

While the City is undertaking a “consultation process review” another example comes to my attention where the practice is strongly at odds with the dream. Recall that the Centretown plan went before Planning Committee last week with last-second “compromise” provisions worked out between (some of the)developers, represented by Fotenn, and the Centretown Community Assocation (CCA). Alas, there wasn’t time to circulate these before they appeared at Committee, which left some members of the public feeling left out.  And the Councillor too. This comes on top of the  fabled managed consultation session for the Big Gambling Casino Cash Cow. To say nothing … Continue reading More public consultation problems at the City

Making the wrong arguments to planning committee doesn’t help

Yesterday, Planning Committee had an over-full agenda of contentious items. This meant huge waits for the assembled throngs. All seats were taken, and there were over 70 standees / folding chairs / sitting on the floor. For a 8+ hour meeting. The final votes were to approve various high rise developments, leading to the predictable reaction of citizen attendees that the process was unfair, rigged, or otherwise unsatisfactory. I agree the process is unsatisfactory  and might dedicate a subsequent post to suggestions to fix it. And incidentally save us all buckets of money. But a large part of the dissatisfaction yesterday … Continue reading Making the wrong arguments to planning committee doesn’t help

Spring Craning

An interesting demonstration of evolving design came to west siders this week courtesy of our high rise developers. Better design is everywhere these days. For that we can credit the popularity of industrial design schools, increased awareness of graphic design elements, and the popularity of design-centric programs on TV and the ‘net. Now we can see it on our skyline by craning our necks. Up on Cathedral Hill, Windmill developments installed their crane for their new condo tower. It is the conventional design. Dare we call it the ‘old fashioned’ design? Notice the complicated support wires, the heavy concrete block … Continue reading Spring Craning

Proposed multi-use building 770 Somerset St W.

There is a development application for the vacant lot / parking lot at the corner of Somerset (in Chinatown) and LeBreton Street, opposite the Dalhousie Community Centre and beside St Luke’s Church and its associated social housing building: On initial inspection, I think there’s a lot to like about it. The proponent, DCR Phoenix, who also built the mixed use building at Rochester and Somerset, and who are proposing the twin tower office building at Bayview Station, are asking for the usual reduced setbacks and increased height to build a nine storey building (nine when viewed from Somerset; it will … Continue reading Proposed multi-use building 770 Somerset St W.

The tale of the virgin developer, the tiny apartment building, and Christmas presents under the Balsam

From time to time, development applications appear that raise more questions than they answer. The one at 13 Balsam is for me such an application. The applicant is an Italian small-business owner, a newbie to development. He owns a single lot, upon which he proposes to build a five storey apartment building. It would have an elevator, and all of 8 apartments (4 two bedroom; 4 one bedroom). The ground level would consist of a building lobby and the rest of the ground level would be at-grade parking, presumably closed in a garage. The application has only this one elevation, no floor … Continue reading The tale of the virgin developer, the tiny apartment building, and Christmas presents under the Balsam

Condomania on Carling: Domicile joins in

Domicile has a proposal winding its way through the bureaucratic maze at City Hall. It’s for a 18 storey condo building on Rochester Street, between the Queensway and Carling Avenue, near Dow’s Lake. Here’s what the street looks like now: Domicile owns the lot running from Pamilla Street and Rochester (the intersection in the foreground) all along Rochester to the red brick wall of a 3 1/2 storey low rise.  Domicile already has permission to demolish the elderly house in the middle . Here’s an aerial view of the lot set within the south Dalhousie neighborhood: The Queensway runs east-west across the … Continue reading Condomania on Carling: Domicile joins in

Charettes — or is it charades? — on the west side

The City of Ottawa’s CDP on the Bayview-Carling area has long been an embarrassment. Not that its key worker bee has been lacking, but rather that the city has endlessly unfunded it, delayed it, postponed it, and frustrated it, while many of the prime lots have been spot rezoned, frequently from a two or four storey height to twenty, thirty, and now forty+ stories. But there are many more sites yet to be rezoned, and the developers are lined up four deep for rezoning, so the City flew in its favourite swat team Urban Strategies, of Toronto. Here are some impressions of the George Dark — … Continue reading Charettes — or is it charades? — on the west side

Distilling Our Lady of the Condos – part ii

Last winter, Domtar knocked down an elderly mill building on the Islands in the Ottawa River. Great consternation arose, as they did it Without Consulting the Bureaucrats. Priceless heritage lost! Like a dog with a bone, the media and planning pundits worried about the lost potential for a vibrant outdoorsy urban waterfront à la Granville Island or The Distillery in Toronto. Few people seemed to notice that Victoria Island is one of the windiest, coldest, bleakest spots in Ottawa, a far remove from sunny* Granville Island or the spirits factory in Toronto. Numerous calls were made for the Distillery Folks to come to … Continue reading Distilling Our Lady of the Condos – part ii

When condos replace offices …

Vancouver has been “enjoying” a condo tower boom for some years. Early on in the boom, the demand for condos was so hot that existing office buildings were converted to condos. For example, the iconic BC Hydro building (the highrise with no ground floor) was converted. Critics began to speculate that residences would drive commercial uses right off the prime peninsula space, an interesting reversal of the usual community activist nightmare of expanding commercial uses driving out the residential uses around the core. Apartment towers differ from townhouse developments in Barrhaven and Riverside South in that the towers stick up in … Continue reading When condos replace offices …

False choices at Our Lady of the Condos — part i

The site with so much marvellous urban redevelopment potential is back in the news. Our Lady of the Condos is a former convent site running between Richmond Road and Byron. Is it just me, or does this site take on Lansdowne proportions whereby anything aggravates a vocal opposition, so that civil dialogue and compromise becomes untenable in a take-no-prisoners make-everyone-miserable sort of way? Ashcroft is asking for a driveway across the Byron linear park to access Byron Avenue. The alternative is to use Shannon Street. The city traffic engineers become bad guys here, supposedly wanting a full-fledged city street to replace Shannon … Continue reading False choices at Our Lady of the Condos — part i

How does your garden grow?

One of the big fears about high rises is that shadow that they throw. Over the last few years, I have become more observant of shadows. First, a developer built some three story infills in the lot behind my back yard. They are just 20′ from their/my rear lot line. My gardening friends cheered me up: “there goes your sunshine and your garden”, and then consoled me with “but there’s always hostas. They love the total dark dense shade”. Well surprise, those infills throw zero shadow on my garden during the whole growing season (May to September) and only minimal shadow in … Continue reading How does your garden grow?

High rises: Gladstone southwards

Yesterday’s post covered high rise intensification — on an east-west axis — along the north edge — the Carling Avenue line — of our  community. Today’s post covers a north-south line drawn roughly along the OTrain cut from Gladstone to Carling. It is not clear if the drawing (second pic, below) puts the line along the OTrain cut or Preston Street itself. This post is somewhat speculative. Here is the area in Google Maps: Recall that there is a proposed LRT station on the OTrain corridor near Gladstone. Generally, the station is drawn running from Gladstone to the Queensway, with its north exit … Continue reading High rises: Gladstone southwards

Future shape of high rises in Carling and Preston areas

Preston Street is an odd mainstreet, in that it has minimal hinterland of dense residential development. Hintonburg’s and Westboro’s main street areas are more densely built up and have large catchment areas on all sides with a mix of low-rise and high-rise built form. Preston lost its eastern residential areas when 50’s urban renewal wiped out existing urban fabric to replace it with commuter office towers (NRCan), a commuter high school (Commerce, now Adult HS), and a commercial strip predicated on a city-wide market (the ethnic Italian community) rather than an indigenous market. Thus merchants champion converting housing to parking lots, and since the merchants rarely live in the neighborhood, might be more easily convinced of … Continue reading Future shape of high rises in Carling and Preston areas

What condo buyers see

There’s a big flurry of condos going in around the Preston – OTrain corridor. There are obvious attractions, such as shopping and dining on the traditional main streets (Preston and Somerset/West Wellington). And easy access to the numbers one and two employment centres (downtown, Tunney’s Pasture) and minor ones such as NRCan, Agriculture, or Gatineau. And being on one or both of the  two major passenger rail transit lines, and Carling Avenue/Queensway for motorists. But what will the residents see? Alas, I am unable to hold my camera up 23 stories, let alone 42, but here are some pictures from the top of … Continue reading What condo buyers see

Right sizing condos

I  hear the same complaints whenever a new condo building is proposed. They include the whine “there are no three bedroom units”, “too small” and “too expensive”. Just maybe the developers are right, that the market needs small homes, especially starter homes. And maybe neighborhoods should realize they need a diversity of housing types, including purpose-built smaller units for smaller family sizes, rather than old houses cut up into a warren of cheap rooms. Consider that most “marriages” (formal or informal) break up and its rather silly to expect both parties to then occupy two large homes, so divorcee’s are a market too. And young … Continue reading Right sizing condos

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

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 …