Building LeBetter Flats, part 5, The Isles

The projected build out of Albert and Chaudiere Islands * starts with the material already at hand, ie the existing buildings. The former brick and stone mill buildings will be converted to commercial uses, starting in 2015. These offer the quickest revenue opportunity for the developer, Windmill, and I imagine it is much easier to attract firms rather than condo residents. Particularly hi-tech-y firms which show a propensity to edgy industrial sites in other cities in part due to their often young employee age group and non-conventional self-image. The first buildings to be converted will most likely be on Albert … Continue reading Building LeBetter Flats, part 5, The Isles

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

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

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 …

Building a liveable Ottawa

So, on Tuesday night I trotted off to the City’s launch of its OP (official plan) and TMP (Transportation master plan) tweaks. My, so many fine words. So many nice drawings. Lots of display boards. Mind you, there are some pretty fine words in the last plan too, like the promise that public spaces would be designed for pedestrians first, cyclists, transit, then motorists. To those fine words, every neighbourhood has their own response. Ours is: Bronson Avenue ! Some observations: the traditional traffic analysis uses “level or service”, rated A thru F, for motorists. No measure of pedestrians, cyclists. New measure … Continue reading Building a liveable Ottawa

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

The Dark-side condo shower

Back in October, the City hired George Dark to conduct a “charette” – a planning exercise for the Otrain corridor and neighborhood along Preston, south of the Queensway. As related here previously, the charette charade seemed little more than an exercise in bombarding the neighbourhood with high rises. Mr Dark presided over a large plan of the neighbourhood,  chummily accompanied by the city’s leading developers and their agents, raining down Styrofoam cut-outs of high rise apartment buildings. (https://www.westsideaction.ca/charettes-or-is-it-charades-on-the-west-side/) The local community association is holding a public meeting of upset residents in the area. The poster below pretty accurately captures their feelings. Less obvious is the sense of betrayal, … Continue reading The Dark-side condo shower

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

Moving beyond compatible intensification and infill (part ii)

Neighborhoods come and go in trendiness. A trendy location in Copenhagen is the “potato fields” area, Kartoffelraekkerne. The former working housing, consisting of three storey flats, is now very popular with those whom Richard Florida would label the “creative class” (including architects, professors, planners). Of course, 1880’s worker housing doesn’t meet modern needs, so the creative types have kit bashed the three flats per building into three storey townhouses. While this is 1880’s style, and not what we expect to find in Ottawa, I am impressed by the attractiveness of the long uniform rows along the streets. There are no garages or … Continue reading Moving beyond compatible intensification and infill (part ii)

Moving Beyond Compatible Infill and Intensification (part i)

“It’s just not compatible with this neighborhood !” — so goes the cry heard every day in our fair city. It goes up whether the proposal is for a single infill house, or worse a semi, or even worse, a townhouse cluster or innovative pod of housing units. And then it becomes a banshee wail when the intensification is for an apartment building. Strangely enough, the cries are usually preceded by a faux-conciliatory “I’m all in favour of intensification but …”  We all have no doubt that the objections have nothing to do with the purely coincidental proximity of the project to the … Continue reading Moving Beyond Compatible Infill and Intensification (part i)

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

Intensification not without its drawbacks

On Pamilla Street an infill developer severed the side yard of a small single — the blue one to the right in the pic — and greatly intensified the site. The neighbours objected, took it to the OMB, lost, and the building went ahead. Why was it controversial? Well, the usual developer sins. They took the front and back yard set back minimums as the permissible maximum building size. So the infill house is huge — so huge, it is in fact 3 houses on one 23′ lot with shared driveway. The neighbours objected to the height, the car traffic, and … Continue reading Intensification not without its drawbacks

The shadow knows, heh heh heh

Dark shadows are of the common concerns about proposed high rise buildings: “How will it affect my house?”  Or, as more commonly expressed: “It will block all my light all day!” Earlier this week I heard an interesting factoid from a major developer, who said his proposed tower, a fairly thin one of 7500 sq ft floor plate, would not cast a shadow on any one place for more than one hour a day. Hmm, certainly sounds disarming. I wonder if there is any fine print? [of course, additional towers will collectively throw more shadows, as will slab-shaped buildings, or a a tall building … Continue reading The shadow knows, heh heh heh

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

What are the alternatives to “too tall” ?

Goldilocks knew she had 3 choices …  At the mayor’s summit meeting held this spring, Watson and Hume were blunt in telling attendees we were in for tall buildings. Lots of tall buildings.  Lots of very tall buildings. It was their tough love moment. But they glossed over explaining why.     Then the Citizen published *  an opinion piece by Sarah Jennings, developer, who argued that we could intensify to the standards of glorious Paris with a eight story height limit on main streets. I thought her argument was as glib as the Mayor’s pretending to tell us it … Continue reading What are the alternatives to “too tall” ?

Down from the Summit

Yes, I attended the Mayor’s Summit. Nothing totally earth-shaking. Everyone — including developers — singing the same tune of vibrant street level facades. Even Diane Deans, of Gloucester Ward, emphasizing how much she opposes road widenings (in her ward) (beyond four lanes). The afternoon speaker, Jeffrey Tumlin, was on transportation. He maintains that transportation planning is urban planning, since one shapes the other, twins locked in an embrace (to the death?). He explained the futility of road widening to fix congestion. The widened road fixes the problem for a short time, then traffic volumes grow. Some of the growth is because … Continue reading Down from the Summit

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)