Surface drainage appeals to politicians more than sewers

I am glad to see Federal funding for reducing the pollution of the Ottawa River. It is about time governments — Federal, Provincial, and Municipal — stopped giving themselves free passes to pollute public waterways. The City of Ottawa has on numerous occasions averted its eyes from the sewage it dumps in the river. I think it is because politicians don’t see much political value in underground sewers. Once built, you can’t see them.  Much better to spend money on visible projects, especially if they are visible around election time. As we reached “peak sewer” in the 1990’s and realized … Continue reading Surface drainage appeals to politicians more than sewers

Amway Center, part iii, is it a catalyst for urban neighbourhoods?

Thus far in this series we have walked around the Amway Center and checked out the streets and garages around the complex. Let’s go a bit further out, and see how an urban arena relates to the downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods. Is the glamorous new urban arena a spark for a downtown urban renaissance?   (above) Immediately south of the arena lies the downtown high rises. Orlando’s isn’t a big downtown, it is quite compact. There are a dozen or so highrise apartment buildings and office towers, then a much wider periphery of lower rise commercial buildings with short parking structures or … Continue reading Amway Center, part iii, is it a catalyst for urban neighbourhoods?

Proof People Who Cycle are Cheap Dates

People who walk or cycle want infrastructure improvements. Fortunately these improvements are cheap compared to facilities for people who drive motor cars. More cycling and pedestrian infrastructure isn’t an extravagance or luxury in a city budget, it’s a bargain. Repeat: people who walk or cycle are cheap dates. Pretty much all residential streets in the US and Canada built since the 1940’s lack facilities for people who walk. We just decided to ignore them and their needs in favour of people who drive cars. In the west side of Ottawa, this is generally true anywhere west of Churchill Avenue. Now look … Continue reading Proof People Who Cycle are Cheap Dates

Putting pedestrians first at intersections

Yesterday I self-indulged in a bit of bitch about how the City makes intersections safer for motor vehicles at the expense of pedestrians: Look at almost any intersection. The City locates the signal posts back from the curb line, for the safety of motorists. But then directs pedestrians to stand in the same spot where they deem it too dangerous to place a wooden or steel post.  Allright, the natural question is what could be done to make it better? My first response is Amsterdam, like many European cities, puts real bollards (set deep into cement bases, designed to repel … Continue reading Putting pedestrians first at intersections

More time lingering in Portofino

Look carefully at these buildings. The floor inside is actually all one level, with an internal corridor like any hotel or apartment building. But the colours, varied rooflines, and different window treatments give the people outside the joy of a traditional Italian streetscape. I see no reason why buildings cannot be built here, using these techniques, but not necessarily the faux-Italian stucco. After six or eight “houses” (hotel rooms) the building row takes a shift, with an inset portion that fosters the 3D effect. These exteriors do not seem expensive to construct, but pay huge dividends in civilization. the Portofino … Continue reading More time lingering in Portofino

Portofino is eye pleasing

My architect and planner acquaintenances snort in derrision at the “nostalgia” element in new urbanism. I think some of it is jealousy, because they rarely can come up with anything as popular with the public. I made a point of dropping in on Portofino during the past winter. The one in Florida. Near Universal Studios. Its a resort inspired by / derived from / copied from / a faux version of Portofino, Italy. The drive in is a masterpiece of view manipulation, compression and release, and successfuly separates the outside Florida from the inside event.     Like all most … Continue reading Portofino is eye pleasing

City sidewalks, pretty sidewalks …

  So, the picture isn’t of an Ottawa sidewalk. What are the clues? First, there is no snow. But there are people. Happy people. Sitting around with friends, drinking … alcoholic beverages ! The walking pedestrians have to share the space with others using the sidewalk as a living room. There is a [private] overhead roof. With fun lights. That someone could electrocute themselves on if they stuck a wet pole into the light socket. Oops, that last comment was my city bureaucrat bad doppelgänger coming out. Someone with a stroller would have to exercise some caution getting through the … Continue reading City sidewalks, pretty sidewalks …

Miami Metromover

Last winter brought me once again onto the Miami Metromover transit system. This time I took a video, link below. The Metromover is a free people-mover type of transit system. It has 4.4 miles of track. It opened in 1986, and was expanded in 1994. It has 3 “loops” (actually one loop and two spurs that extend outward) and 21 stations in the urban core. Some of the stations connect directly to the Metrorail (subway) system. The Metromover carries about 32,000 passengers a day, or 9 million a year (the OTrain carries about 12,000 /day on a similar length of … Continue reading Miami Metromover

Post peak-auto drive-in, and other misc.

Will cars some day be so rare they are like coin-op riding dinosaurs found in the mall? Ottawa has very few KFC’s in operation, and they were of the past-their-best-before date design: gaudy stripes, the rotating bucket …  I certainly don’t recall seeing ones branded quite so nicely as this one. And, BTW, it is Kitchen Fresh Chicken, fried being a concept that has gone a bit rancid. We are at the blissful, idealistic, utopian stage of encouraging food trucks and street vendors. Later, what’cha get are hamburger stands enlivened with wide-screen outdoor TV’s. Given Ottawa’s generally dull architecture and … Continue reading Post peak-auto drive-in, and other misc.

A Tradition of inspired design

Did you get the clue in yesterday’s (and today’s) story titles? It’s all about the houses at Tradition. Here is the back patio of a home being built by a local builder. Notice the large shaded patio, plus some un-roofed patio area. The utility plugs in the wall to the right are for an outdoor wall-mounted TV.   The ceilings in these houses tend to be nine or ten feet high, and the patio sliders are equally oversize, which fills the rooms with light. In this new area, wild life was still around, and curious:   Moving on around the … Continue reading A Tradition of inspired design

Inspired Design at Tradition

Tradition has long “parkway like” access roads to the housing clusters, as shown here:   There is a bicycle lane marked on the right, and a sidewalk visible on the far left. These roads could have been designed by the NCC – they are circuitous, scenic, manipulate vistas, and thoroughly boring to try to walk or ride along. Adjacent subdivisions back onto the road right of way. Think Jeanne d’Arc in Orleans or Spratt Road in Riverside south, but on steroids. Periodically, there are side roads into housing clusters. Each is announced by a large “gatehouse”, none of which appeared … Continue reading Inspired Design at Tradition

Tradition, cont’d

Just a very short distance from the Tradition village centre with its new urbanist nostalgia-infused vibe, we discovered the real reason for its high vacancy rate. A big box mall. Straight out of Nepean or Gloucester or Kanata, but with more landscaping in the parking lots:   There was the obligatory big box pet store, a large supermarket, department store, home furnishings store, etc. [remember now it is pronounced Tar-jay, in faux French  to mock the higher design pretensions of Target].  Now to be fair it is rather difficult to fit these large format businesses into a walkable village centre. Loblaws in Westboro … Continue reading Tradition, cont’d

Tradition new town

On a recent Florida vacation-with-a-urbanist-theme, I made a point of visiting some “famous” examples of planned towns. Some were from the early 1900’s (eg Winter Park City, covered previously; and Coral Gables, maybe to be covered in the future) and two were new towns launched in the last decades specifically to provide an alternative to conventional lollipop cul-de-sacs of garage-fronted car-dependent suburbia. Celebration I liked. It actually seemed to have “launched” itself into a growth pattern and developed a genuine sense of place. Definitely a better suburb. The second new urbanist townsite was Tradition, near Port St Lucie, near the Atlantic coast of Florida … Continue reading Tradition new town

More Celebration

The town of Celebration is divided into a number of villages, aka real estate development clusters. It is productive to visit a number of neighbourhoods since they vary in what might appeal to the renter or buyer. above: one of the busier residential streets had very large houses, but all were zoned to permit home occupations, adding another element to the blend of occupancy types. above: across the short bridge shown in the background, and through the portico, brought us to a courtyard apartment development that I’d love to see in Ottawa as an alternative to glass box highrises. Turning around, we’d … Continue reading More Celebration

Celebration New Town: the residential villages

So, as shown yesterday, they did a good job of  downtown Celebration, building in flexibility, growth, and finely mixed uses. But every city is more than its downtown or mixed use mainstreet. These commercial places are backed up by the primarily residential hinterland. Are these simply more traditional suburbs or can new urbanism successfully mimic the more naturally evolved pre-1940’s neighbourhoods  urbanists love? Over the next few posts, lets look at several  residential neighborhoods in Celebration. The first neighbourhood is Sienna, part of the South [quadrant] Village. Once again, let’s talking about pictures (and video links too !): Above: Sienna neighbourhood is close to … Continue reading Celebration New Town: the residential villages

Celebration in Florida

  Celebration is a well-known new-urbanist town near Orlando, Florida. In January 2013 I spent about two days there, and came away very impressed. Like other new urbanist towns it takes it architectural and layout cues from pre-1940 successful American towns. It is an attempt to build today neighbourhoods similar to successful walkable areas like the Glebe, Hintonburg, Westboro, Dalhousie … rather than the overtly car-centric suburban model that has dominated our cities since the mid-20th century. Does it succeed? Can we recreate the successful neighbourhoods of the past? I must say I visited with a sceptical mind. I had been there about a decade ago and … Continue reading Celebration in Florida

Winter Park uses overhead space

Here in Ottawa, our traffic engineers threw fits when the local BIA and streetscaping committees suggested overhead decorations on traditional mainstreets like Preston and Somerset. The idea was to close in the overhead space, slowing traffic. “No way” said our engineers, “too dangerous”. It would distract motorists, making the road unsafe. They won the argument of course. Winter Park takes another approach. At each intersection along its main street, overhead lighting closes in the space, encouraging moderate speeds. The lighting is festive, making it seem like you arrive somewhere special when you hit the main drag.   And at each … Continue reading Winter Park uses overhead space

Winter Park City, Florida

In January, I escaped the Ottawa winter for two weeks in Florida. Theme of the trip: new and old urbanism. I set my sights on two old “planned” cities — Winter Park, near Orlando; and Coral Gables, now a suburb of Miami. And two new urbanism places, Celebration and Tradition. Winter Park is old urbanism that still works today. Winter Park is a part of the Orlando metropolis. It’s much like Dalhousie or Hintonburg, but more up scale  with a higher proportion of apartments. And a downtown university campus also helps create pedestrian traffic.  Over the next few days,  let’s let … Continue reading Winter Park City, Florida

All cracked up over a sidewalk

Construction of pedestrian walks is ridiculously simple in Florida. Scrape away a bit of the sod or ground cover, lay the wooden side forms, and pour concrete. No digging required. No deep gravel foundations. No frost heave. The result is smooth, long lasting walk surfaces. The main hazards to a walk’s existence are tree roots heaving the ground, or heavy vehicles cracking the concrete. Nonetheless, municipal maintenance crews must keep busy. Shown below are some sidewalk squares being removed and replaced for what in Ottawa would pass as inconsequential cracks:   The walks above are in Orlando, Florida. The area … Continue reading All cracked up over a sidewalk