Monday House, part v, soft costs, planning work

  Renovating a house includes the hard costs of buying the house, gutting it, fixing it up. It also includes soft costs, like lawyers, planning permissions,  and engineering drawings and building plans. When buying a new house, the soft costs can easily be 1/3 of the final purchase price. Much less so when renovating an older house, but there are still costs. During the last week the project coordinator was pushing paperwork through the permitting process and the home owner was busy trying to lay out electrical drawings. Putting the markings on the plan for plugs is straight forward. (shown … Continue reading Monday House, part v, soft costs, planning work

Actual treasure map to the “beer train tunnel” under Albert Street

Today’s Citizen has a fun story * by Ian McLeod  on the fabled beer train tunnel under Albert Street (this section was formerly known as Wellington Street). Every time there is major work in the area, the rumours spread of vast underground caches of beer, chilled and ready to take home by the lucky workers who can find them. This was a great motivation for the Perez workers who built the 1980’s townhouses on Walnut Court (the southwest end of the tunnel and former brewery site). Let’s just say there was lots of excavation superintendents at the time. Ditto for the workers … Continue reading Actual treasure map to the “beer train tunnel” under Albert Street

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

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

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

Civic Gateways (absence of)

Ottawa is nicer than many other cities. Despite the criticisms of the NCC, they do engage in long term planning and city building that generates a sense of grandeur or pride. Without them, Ottawa would be vastly impoverished, just another short-sighted mid-sized city planned with short term expediency the governing rule. Ottawa is engaged in a worthwhile planning exercise for the downtown core, called Downtown Moves (DOMO). The removal of the bus lanes by 2017-18 creates the opportunity to remake the surface streets in a more livable and pleasant way. And not just replace the bus lanes with parking lanes. For this strategic thinking … Continue reading Civic Gateways (absence of)

Rearranging the benches on RMS Primrose

 Two neighborhood parks on the west side are getting major surgery this year. The redo of Chaudiere Park on Elm Street seems to have found a winner design. An especially innovative feature will be the expansion of the small park to take over a few parking spaces on Elm Street, although that feature may not be constructed until 2014 while bureaucrats fret over jurisdiction (it’s good to keep them busy on the innocuous). The remake of Primrose Park, a larger site just a block further north, is much more curious. The park was originally designed in the early 1980’s as center piece … Continue reading Rearranging the benches on RMS Primrose

City’s tallest office towers proposed for west side

Phoenix DCR is going to Council in August seeking rezoning of the parcel of land known as 801 Albert Street. They are proposing a 34 storey office tower; a 31 storey office tower, and a 7 storey office tower. Currently, the tallest office buildings in Ottawa are Place de Ville at 29 stories and Place Bell, both in the downtown core. The parcel of land they propose to build these on is right across Albert Street from the existing Bayview transit station and the adjacent OTrain station. The triangular parcel of land is immediately north of the 8 storey City … Continue reading City’s tallest office towers proposed for west side

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 …

Just how fast do they go?

Residents frequently complain about speeding traffic.  Signs are only marginally effective, if the engineers design the roads to invite higher speeds. And make no doubt road design is not some innocent bystander in this. For years we have been making our roads wider, flatter, smoother, better lit, and pretending innocence when traffic goes faster. It is faster by design. The first step in fixing the problem is to measure the problem. You can’t fix what you didn’t measure. Some Councillors are buying Speed Boards for their Wards. These boards tell motorists what speed they are doing. There is  evidence that motorists slow down when … Continue reading Just how fast do they go?

Signs of the times

Councillor Hobbs hadn’t much support for her proposal to lower the residential speed limit to 40 kmh. In fact, her only supporter was Councillor Holmes. Where were these other councillors who moan about excessive speedy traffic? At the Mayor’s summit, my seatmate was Councillor Deans who gave a great spiel about the futility of wider roads, too-fast-traffic, etc. But not apparently for a 40 kmh limit. Councillor Cherneschenko? The Civic Hospital neighborhood is organizing to get streets in their neighborhood signed for 40 kmh. Personally, I think they should shoot for 30 kmh. Then add some features to the road that make … Continue reading Signs of the times

90 Minutes to a Better City

Every neighborhood has one. A few have several. The rare really lucky neighborhood may have many. I’m talking about guerilla gardeners. People who go out and plant — usually with their own plants — bare spots in the City. It’s a tough love situation, since in many cases the plants won’t be getting ongoing care or watering, there being a general shortage of taps on city boulevards. In Dalhousie, Ida has been responsible for two great gardens on Somerset and the Plant Rec Complex garden at Preston/Somerset. Stephanie and others did the Chaudiere Park gardens. Other gardeners have done their bits, … Continue reading 90 Minutes to a Better City

Putting the pieces back together in the right order

Sometimes streetscaping projects by the City use lots of bricks or other paving blocks to enhance the sidewalk experience. Other times they use good ole’ concrete. I have mixed feelings about both. The biggest advantage of concrete is that it begs to be trowelled off level. No matter how crude the installation, or unskilled or careless the crew, the finished walk is usually usable. In other words, it’s a forgiving substance. Pavers look nice, but because each one is small they are subject to being laid with an uneven surface. Pavers have the advantage of being removable and relayable after disruption. When pavers … Continue reading Putting the pieces back together in the right order

Firestone Prescribes (iii)

I concur with Dr Firestone that Ottawa took its eye off the ball regarding the transitway. It always has money for road widenings and intersection “improvements” and new roads, and new bridges, but not enough for transitway extensions. Ask a city politician, and you get a dirge back about it’s the provinces or fed’s fault because they aren’t funding the transitway. Funny, the feds don’t fund a lot of stuff, but that doesn’t prevent the city from spending its own money. The City, IMO, has spending problems more than it has funding problems. I must say at this point that Prof Bruce is on … Continue reading Firestone Prescribes (iii)

Firestone talks (take ii)

Now I got quite interested when this slide came up. The left axis (vertical) shows the elevation of the condo, ie what floor it is on. The horizontal axis shows increasing rent or price. The faint yellow line shows the rent curve for a building with apartments on the ground floor. These apartments are often the lowest price, as they have no view, no privacy from passersby. The red curve shows what happens if the base of the building is constructed in “townhouse” form. The value of these units goes up significantly. Then the value drops off for the lower rise apartments, … Continue reading Firestone talks (take ii)

Firestone speaks

Last week, the Dalhousie Community Association, of which I am the outgoing president, held its annual AGM. Last year our speaker was John Doran from Domicile, speaking on how to cost out a condo project. This year, we had Dr Bruce Firestone, best known as founder of the Senators. Until recently he was a professor of entrepreneurship at Ottawa U. He has been an engineer, real estate developer, hockey guy, professor of architecture, engineering, and business, a mortgage broker, author, parent, etc. He is an engaging speaker. He talks with confidence born of personal experience on the topic and the … Continue reading Firestone speaks

From Parking to Parks

Miracles do happen at City Hall. Not often. But one is unfolding right now. Pay attention. Instead of paving over more of our scarce parkland for vehicle parking, instead of just whining forever about the lack of City park space in our downtown neighborhoods … our parks dept has actually agreed to expand a park onto the road allowance. And removing some vehicle parking too! Yes, this miraculous green space expansion is happening right here in little ole’ Ottawa. Chaudiere Park is a small pocket park on Elm Street in West Side Ottawa. The proposed expansion replaces on-street parking with a … Continue reading From Parking to Parks

What to do with a highrise (proposed)

Right on the boundary of Hintonburg and Dalhousie, which is to say in the heart of the west side turf this blog purports to cover, at the intersection of Breezehill and Somerset, Claridge is proposing a 28 storey highrise. The adjacent mainstreet is lively; the views of the downtown superb. No doubt the 28 floor request is an opening gambit. If he actually gets it, bonus for him. But I suspect he will be quite happy to get 18. Why 18? Because that’s the height of the 30+ year old apartment a block west at Bayswater. Funnily enough, opponents of … Continue reading What to do with a highrise (proposed)

Spagetti dinner on the No 2 Bus

  It was a hot and sunny four o’clock as I left Loblaws in Westboro. My two cloth bags didn’t seem to have much in the line of groceries – yogurt (on sale!), cheese blocks (on sale!), oranges (on sale!) and a few other things already forgotten —  but still set me back seventy two dollars and change. Heading out the door I heard, then saw, the bus just taking off. That’s fine, I thought, the next one will have fewer people on it. Number two’s come constantly. Ahead of me, just short of the bus shelter, was a young woman … Continue reading Spagetti dinner on the No 2 Bus