The rail Stations that didn’t quite make it … and one that will

OK, so having said some nice things about OC Transpo shelters, it’s back to griping again. Taking the Trillium O-Train Line (aka route Number 2, aka the Green Line) through Carleton U one is struck by the just-OK collection of … Continue reading The rail Stations that didn’t quite make it … and one that will

Scott Street interim alignment meeting Dec 11

Albert-Scott Interim alignment, west from Champagne Avenue Open house 11 Dec 2017 at Tom Brown arena, 6pm to 8.30pm This story is mostly aimed at those citizens who are keen on city planning and the details of what is planned … Continue reading Scott Street interim alignment meeting Dec 11

West Side Transportation Cornucopia, part vi – Bayview Station overpass

Let’s look at that confusing stretch of road between Bayview Avenue and City Centre Avenue. Legally known as Albert Street, many folks persist in calling it Scott Street (which only runs west of Bayview). It’s a bleak and uninviting bit … Continue reading West Side Transportation Cornucopia, part vi – Bayview Station overpass

Navigating Scott-Albert (east bound)

Alas, for those people walking or cycling east towards the downtown, there won’t be a separated multi-user path, nor as direct a path as along the north side of Scott and Albert. Starting near Tunney’s, there is a south-side east-bound painted bike lane, which I suppose it a wee tad better than cycling with sharrows in the “50KMH” lanes: The cycling lane is “buffered” from cars, trucks, and buses by a 2′ painted median, but the cycling lane is also the right turn lane and driveway access lane. And boy, are there ever a lot of those: There are many … Continue reading Navigating Scott-Albert (east bound)

Industrial Chic: where-ever you can find it

Thanks largely to the NCC’s penchant for eliminating Ottawa’s industrial heritage, we have extraordinarily few industrial sites to convert into condos, lofts, or trendy retail. A few years back, retail pioneers took over industrial space on Elm and Spruce Streets. The trend then spread to the adjacent City Centre building which has many great industrial features: high ceilings, cheap space, lotsa concrete surfaces. I used to joke the only thing it was missing was Stephen Beckta. A similar trend has taken over the industrial garages on Beech Street, east of Preston. The baseball bat factory gave way to architect’s offices … Continue reading Industrial Chic: where-ever you can find it

Smokin’ hot bike racks

A reader kindly supplied this picture of the many innovative ways that bike racks can be used. This one is on West Wellington, just west of Holland. In this case the bike rack is still OK, abeit with a damaged ashtray box. I’ve noticed everywhere I walk in the city that bike posts are falling victim to plow damage. I do wonder how this conflicting use of a post will work out in the spring when more cyclists try to use it. Or maybe the adjacent restaurant wood prefer to cater to smokers rather than cyclists. Continue reading Smokin’ hot bike racks

If Ikea and Disney built infill

I love walking by this house. Everything is slightly off square. Disney of course is famous for its use of forced perspective and other tricks to make you think you see something you don’t. And Ikea has some great kids design furniture, with bowling pin legs and curvy sides. Why restrict it to kids? . To find those things on a simple infill – renovation in Hintonburg is something else. What else can be said? It’s a fun house.     Continue reading If Ikea and Disney built infill

Heritage repair

Many west siders will be familiar with this, reputed to be  the oldest house in Ottawa: It is located a half block east of the Westboro Loblaws. Work has been going on for a while to stabilize and repair the structure. Like a lot of building restoration work, or art restoration, much effort goes into undoing the previous version of restoration. In this case, the previous work involved adding a smooth coat of mortar between the stones. Alas, that mortar dried hard and waterproof. This trapped moisture between the stone inside the wall, which then liquified/eroded the sand-lime mixture inside … Continue reading Heritage repair

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

Commercial renovations

Commercial renovations are very different from residential renovations. They are often done for different purposes. Sometimes a quick and dirty reno is all that is justified by an elderly building or underused site where something much better is around the corner. Many commercial modernizations do not maintain the historic style of the old building. And too often those that try to open up the façade (the modern need to see inside) while maintaining a look and feel and materials similar to the old,  are derided as “faux historic”. Some commercial renovations in our west side community go awry: consider the strip on West Wellington, which whilst … Continue reading Commercial renovations

Transformed from the ordinary

West side neighborhoods can have lots of fairly small and simple houses. Mechanicsville and Hintonburg have lots of boxy small homes, and many are found on the stub streets off Preston. Here, from Google Street View, is 34 Merton “before”: It was a typical small house. Basic old-style aluminium siding. Mismatched windows. Odd, two level front porch (note location of the posts). Useful side door. One mailbox, so its likely a single home. And after the facelift, voila: I like the restrained use of modern materials. There is the ever-popular and trendy corrugated siding, used with some restraint. Ditto for … Continue reading Transformed from the ordinary

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

Look up, way way up Jerome

I am always dating myself by referring to things by their old name, or to things that no longer exist and so no one (except other older people) knows what I am referring to. Are you old enough to remember the Friendly Giant on CBC TV? I could hear the phrase “Look up, look way way up” when I saw this condo building on West Wellington near Island Park. I do wonder just how well that concrete overhang will shelter the entrance a number of floor below. Or if it will simply feel like it is about to come crashing … Continue reading Look up, way way up Jerome

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

From low rise to high rise …

The Dalhousie and Hintonburg Community Associations will be holding a joint open house on Tuesday at 7pm at Tom Brown Arena where interested people can see just what the City is planning for the industrial and vacant lands along the OTrain corridor. Most of the emphasis will be on the area north of Somerset Street, to Bayview Station, which is shown in the illustration below. Those are 30+ storey office towers on the top centre, opposite Bayview Station; the blueish buildings are already approved by the City and NCC as part of the LeBreton project (so don’t fret, we’ll all be dead before … Continue reading From low rise to high rise …

Claridge application for 1050 Somerset West

Claridge is proposing a new condo tower for their site at Breezehill and Somerset Streets, just west of the O-Train corridor. The site is between Devonshire school and Somerset, in the old Chinese market store (which was Acklands AutoSupply before that). (Pending zoning approvals etc the store is being renovated and rented out to a dollar store). Immediately to the west of the site is a four storey red brick office building, opposite that is the 18 storey residential tower that looks like it might date from the sixties or early seventies. Here in a nutshell is the neighborhood context: The left picture, a … Continue reading Claridge application for 1050 Somerset West

But is it better?

A strip of stores in Hintonburg was somewhat attractive before, with a row of bay windows on the second floor, a built-out cornice line, and green-painted brick storefronts below (the block is obviously the result of earlier renovations).  But with the explosive gentrification of the neighborhood, a property owner decided the place needed a re-do, one that “modernized” the look. (I do wonder what it might have been like if he had gone for a faux-heritage look…does anyone have a heritage photo of the previous storefronts pre 1960’s??) The first phase to be redone was the west side, facing St Francois Church … Continue reading But is it better?

Westboro tizzy (ii)

Well, that Westboro post of a few days ago certainly got the juices going of a number of readers who took time to construct clever and insightful responses. The “comments”  that follow that post are a goldmine of intelligent views. Do read them if you haven’t yet. One wise reader send me the following link http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/inpr/su/sucopl/upload/The-Carlings-at-Arbutus-Walk-Vancouver-B-C.pdf which features a “case study” of a low-rise high-density infill, with the suggestion that the developer at Roosevelt should have tried harder to build within the zoning and height limit. I read the CMHC review of Arbutus Walk, and will add it to my bucket list of … Continue reading Westboro tizzy (ii)

Sim-City model: Bayview-carling CDP

The City has been sporadically doing up a CDP (Community Design Plan) (which is a plan of dubious effectiveness under the Official Plan) for the O-Train corridor running from Bayview Station to Carling Avenue. Residents frequently ascribe its tardiness to a desire on the part of the City to see all the developable land purchased and rezoned before the plan is drawn up. In that way, the city won’t have to continually amend it. The City is committed to having CDPs done for all the stations along the OLRT. Having seen some of the in-progress ones I’d have to say they are better than nothing.  At least they … Continue reading Sim-City model: Bayview-carling CDP

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

Controlling creepy car lots

One of my pet grievances is parking lots on the edge of the sidewalk. Too often motorists or the lot owner “creep” all the time onto the sidewalk. In the streetscaping treatment of West Wellington the City employed portable planter boxes, planted with currant bushes, to keep the cars back. They didn’t do this for every parking lot. But now, a few years on, I saw these planters being installed in front of yet another used car lot. Bravo! When the lot is redeveloped for urban purposes, the planters can be redeployed. I delighted in noticing that the lot owner was not moving his cars … Continue reading Controlling creepy car lots

City awards prize, whilst frowning on the design

The above house near the Parkdale market got an award of merit for urban design in the City’s recent competition. Frankly, I was surprised, and bit annoyed too. The upper deck, which doesn’t relate to the street so much as soar above it, does have a neat angled sun roof. The exterior materials are well handled, and the design is  neat. But only neat in an architectural way. I don’t think it is good urban design. First, the entire front yard of these two houses is gravel. Is it really a xeriscape garden? Fess up, it’s two car parking spaces taking up 100% of … Continue reading City awards prize, whilst frowning on the design

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

The Queensway Forest

One of the recommendations in the New Centretown Plan currently doing the rounds, is for a densely planted urban forest along the banks of the Queensway. Currently, there are some unpretty barren spots: And even where there is a bit more planting, it is sparse: Compare that with the lush vegetation a bit further west, along Edgar Street: A couple of observations: the lush growth shown above does not look “planned” or “planted” by landscape architects. I saw no evidence of retaining walls, gabions, well spaced hardwoods, scenic selection of trees … no, they just appear to have grown there all by themselves. Aided, … Continue reading The Queensway Forest