Throughout the LRT planning process the City and its consultants have been showing walking radii around the proposed stations. These radii are more than just the convenient five-minute walk zone around the station. They will also be where the City will encourage transit oriented development (TOD).
Most residents get the five-minute walk radius. Judging by questions and comments I hear at LRT meetings, they have much less understanding of TOD. Some clearly think it only applies to vacant lots. If there are few or no vacant lots, there’s no room for highrises, is there? They seem bonded to the present land use, not realizing how dynamic a city is.
I like to remind people of how much Ottawa has changed over our lifetimes. And it will change more in the future. Especially if the City is serious about TOD.
When the Ottawa built the transitway in the 80’s Council made a very bad decision. They promised neighborhoods along the route that there would be no intensification or upzoning. Except for some developments on vacant lots, the transitway environs look pretty much the same today as when it was built 25 years ago.
This time around will be different. Intensification will come to all areas along the route, except for a lucky few powerful neighborhoods that will be able to delay the redevelopment for a few more years.
Current zoning and neighborhood plans, even recent CDP’s or NIP’s, will all give way to intensification, with much anguish and squealing from the affected areas.
To get a bit of a look at the future, read this story. It takes place in Vancouver, today, one year after the Skytrain got up and running. But pretend it is 2017 in Ottawa, the new OLRT is up and running, and the time has come to encourage the Transit Oriented Development:
The LRT will work to increase the City’s density, and will foster transit-oriented housing, only if the City uses its powers to do so. What the Vancouver article shows is that higher density will be imposed in one form or another on low density single family neighborhoods too. Think of McKeller Park, along the Byron strip. Or both sides of Scott, especially the section between Scott and West Wellington/Richmond Roads. Or the low density neighborhoods on both sides of Carling.
Intensification does not necessarily mean “high rise”, although they will be a component of the plan. Many high rises an be accomodated in vacant areas that abound along the transitway (LeBreton Flats, Bayview Yards, O-Train corridor, CBC Lanark Avenue, etc). It can also mean rezoning large swathes of low rise single family neighborhoods for low rise intensification by townhouses, four storey apartments, etc. The key in that latter strategy is to rezone large areas so that redevelopment is spread out geographically and over time, giving neighborhoods time to adjust and get used to the new city order. The Vancouver story shows that even a thirty-year gradual intensification upsets many.
It will make today’s intensification battles in Westboro look like a picnic.