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

Lonely house on the parking lot

The area along the O-Train corridor has undergone lots of changes from its original industrial beginnings. Occasionally, an old building survives. Notice that it has a real slate roof, there are few houses or buildings left in our neighborhood with slate roofs. In this case, it probably was to provide additional fire proofing from the sparks that flew out of the many steam engines in the area. David Jeanes tells me this may have been the home of Ottawa Stair Works. Probably built right after the Great Fire in 1902, the building then faced Somerset Street which was not yet elevated up on the … Continue reading Lonely house on the parking lot

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 !

Progress on Rescuing Bronson

The City has compromised on some Bronson issues. They have agreed to remove their proposal to widen the street, which would have speeded up vehicular traffic while simultaneously making the corridor less cycling and pedestrian friendly and chopping off numerous front yards, church entries, and mature trees. In our opinion, it didn’t make the road any safer for motorists either. I like to think it had a lot to do with people objecting. Rescue Bronson encouraged many people to have their say. This included residents, landlords, school principals, recreation coordinators, churches … and yup, we even got some of Ottawa’s condo … Continue reading Progress on Rescuing Bronson

Bronson: an exercise in futility

A previous version of this story originally appeared in, you should have read it there. But here it is again, made slightly longer. ________________________________________________________ Faithful readers will recall the many stories on Bronson Avenue. How it is so poorly designed for motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. And how it blights the neighborhood. Instead of lively street, the City seems determined to give us more blight, by widening the lanes 2′, thus removing numerous trees and more front yards/greenspace, all in a vulgar attempt to get the cars to go a little bit faster. Gotta get to Greely quicker! Rescue Bronson has been … Continue reading Bronson: an exercise in futility

Could the city actually install benches ?

This is another post building more detail on the original Downtown Moves series in While health and fitness naggards complain we sit too much, everyone wants to sit sometimes. I love to walk to places in my west side neighborhood, and walk into the core at least three times a week in the winter. (In the summer, I bike many of these trips, plus my travel zone expands…). Twenty years ago, most shopping malls had few benches in the mall area. Those that were there were to catch collapsing shoppers before they hit the deck. But there seemed to … Continue reading Could the city actually install benches ?

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

Tunnel goes underground

Faithful readers will have seen earlier posts showing the excavation under the Somerset Viaduct, the placing of the new multi-user path underpass precast sections, and most recently, their waterproofing. Here’s what’s been happening lately: This version of the Canadarm pumps cement right to where the workers want it, when cement mixers cannot get close enough. The arm reached right over the hole, and down the outside of the viaduct walls, to pump cement into reinforcing walls on the exterior of the viaduct: Meanwhile, on the inside of the viaduct, workers installed the last of the tunnel waterproofing and drainage pipes, and … Continue reading Tunnel goes underground

Update on Somerset bike underpass

Recall that a bike underpass is being constructed where Somerset crosses the O-Train tracks. Once the tunnel sections were installed, bolted together, then the roof had to be waterproofed: A red coating was painted onto the concrete using rollers. Then workers attached Blueskin to cover each joint between the precast tunnel sections. Quite a rough chopped out hole was made through the 12′ thick Somerset viaduct walls for the tunnel pieces to fit. That space was reinforced, rebars tidied up, and pumped full of cement, now making a handy tool shelf for the workers: At the south end of the tunnel, a worker is starting … Continue reading Update on Somerset bike underpass


This is a followup to yesterday’s post, called Trampled. That public sidewalk shrubs got trampled and mangled in renovations is sad, but then the renovation is a potential good. Less excusable is the downright murder and removal of mature trees. Have a look at this google photo: That mature tree growing by the sidewalk is a maple. It provided a pleasant bit of shade on the exposed sidewalks of the Somerset Street viaduct (overpass over the O-Train track). That it was alive and green last year is shown in this photo: (the tree in question is just above the cyclist’s head and … Continue reading Murdered

Somerset tunnel: inside view

The new pedestrian-cyclist tunnel under Somerset Street is now complete except for waterproofing and filling in the hole above it. Here are some shots taken from the top edge (Somerset street level) into the hole: The above picture is looking north; the one below is a steeper angle showing the south portion: In pictures on previous posts this week, I showed the holes the run through each tunnel segment. A threaded rod was inserted through the holes, from one end of the tunnel to the other, and then the city tightened a nut at each end, tensioning the pieces together. Here is … Continue reading Somerset tunnel: inside view

More Tunnel Segments go under Somerset Street

A big truck delivers another section of tunnel to Somerset Street. The extra-wide load is escorted by leading vehicles. Each tunnel segment weighs 32 tons. The deliveries are not permitted during morning or evening “rush hours” so as to minimize traffic delays.                                   Continue reading More Tunnel Segments go under Somerset Street

How to ride a bike through Thick cement

Recall that the new O-Train corridor cycling path parallels the tracks on their east side. To get under Somerset Street, the City is constructing a new underpass for the multi-user path. The north portal has been cut out; here is the view from the top of the hole in Somerset:  Notice how thick is the base of the wall of the viaduct. There is no further foundation — the wall just bulbs out and rests on the dirt. It reminds me of those blocks sold to hold up decks — rather than digging a deep hole and filling it up with cement, … Continue reading How to ride a bike through Thick cement

Bike underpass progresses

The City is inserting a new bicycle underpass parallel to the O-Train track where it goes under the Somerset Street viaduct. A viaduct is like a bridge, except it isn’t hollow underneath, it has dirt fill between side retaining walls. In the picture below, the far side wall is visible as is the wall of the O-Train underpass  on the left edge of the picture.  A construction worker, busily supervised by another, is shown with a large horizontal saw blade (about 36″ diameter) riding on rail attached to the wall, cutting a horizontal opening through the wall. I suspect this is the … Continue reading Bike underpass progresses

New sidewalks on Somerset

The first bits of concrete pavers were laid on Somerset today, just west of Preston. This is the style of paver to be used from the O-train east to Booth. It will also be the paver used if more of Chinatown is streetscaped. The pavers are a brown-red shade, with a very coarse surface grooving, which will be great for grip when climbing those hills in the winter, but which will be murder on kids’ knees one they inevitably take a tumble. All those involved in the design committee for the Somerset reconstruction will understand why the paver installation started at … Continue reading New sidewalks on Somerset

My rules vs your rules

Yes, dealing with the City (and the BIA’s, the Community Associations, the Councilors, neighbours… you name it) can be frustrating. I persevere, joining traffic studies and public advisory committees because sometimes we “win”, ie speaking up effects a change or improvement in a project. But it can be terribly frustrating. The City is an impenetrable maze of rules and standards for any occasion. Too many times to count we are told “you can’t have that” because it violates some engineering code, or bylaw, or whatever. Only to turn around and see that violation employed somewhere else or to get the … Continue reading My rules vs your rules

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

Why this catch-basin makes me happy

My wife and kids already know I’m weird. No doubt many readers have come to that suspicion as well. The catch basin in the centre of the above picture makes me happy because … it is located on the future curb line. The sidewalk will be much wider. Life will be better for pedestrians. Crossing the street will be safer. The sidewalk will have three trees in it, which will shade the buildings and make eating more pleasant inside May’s Restaurant. Continue reading Why this catch-basin makes me happy

Chicken pedestrians

The City will reconstruct Somerset Street West between Booth and Preston later this year. As part of the streetscaping, a number of decorative granite pavers will be inserted into the concrete paver sidewalk. While the final designs haven’t yet been selected, the likely theme will be animals of the Asian zodiacs. In addition to the Chinese zodiac animals, the Vietnamese zodiac has some different characters, so there will be more than twelve designs. Each will be carved into a granite block that is then set flush in the sidewalk. These will be sure to delight children and amuse adults who watch where they … Continue reading Chicken pedestrians

Somerset dog-and-pony show — new priorities

The City held an open house last evening to explain to the public what is being done on Somerset Street this year. It was a mix of old news — the section west of Preston remains  unchanged from last year except for some details — and new news for the section east of Preston up to Booth. The new stuff comes in several formats. The consultants and city staff had all the public consultation team members on hand, with name badges, to explain what is proposed and to tell their neighbours about some of the tradeoffs that were made to get to these results. … Continue reading Somerset dog-and-pony show — new priorities

Cycling Bridge over Rideau River

Last night the City held an open house on the planning for a new multipurpose bridge over the Rideau River. For convenience, this can be referred to as a cycling bridge or pedestrian bridge, because those multi-purposes do not include motorised vehicles. Actually, the planners couldn’t bring themselves to call it a “bridge” either. It’s an overpass. To me that sounds like something over the Queensway, but plain simple language evaded the two dozen presentation boards. The project is being run by traffic engineers and the evidence was abundant. (anyone for a Champlain Overpass? McDonald Cartier Overpass? Alexandra Overpass? Hunt Club … Continue reading Cycling Bridge over Rideau River