LeBetter Flats countown (i)

Just over a week to go before the NCC unveils its latest master plan(s) for the LeBreton Flats area. I’ve lost count how many trial balloons, concept plans, master plans, and other schemes have come and gone over the decades.

Here’s a 1973 one with sunken freeway, two subways, bus platforms, a megabuilding (including space marked library) over top, and a forest of looming highrises in the core:002.

Over the years, this website has had a number of  articles on LeBreton Flats. Some are worth reviewing.

Last January, we compared Portland’s South Waterfront redevelopment area to LeBreton:

Side by Side Portland Lebreton Flats

South Waterfront is twice the area of the NCC’s LeBreton, but if we add in Zibi and Bayview Yards, and some of the Trillium corridor, they are comparable.

They did several things very differently from Ottawa:

  • transit went to the site very early in the process. In Portland, this was a streetcar extension, a new bridge over the river, connection to a desirable and useful cycling network, a passenger cablecar transit connection to a university on a nearby hilltop. In Ottawa, the transitway stations were in isolated fields with minimal access from old and new housing.
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  • Portland was careful to install temporary landscaping (market gardens, garden plots, dog runs, green fields) on vacant sites, pleasing the senses the way that the NCC’s simulacrum of the latest middle east battlefields doesn’t (note, the NCC, urged on by John Baird, is now installing $3million of temporary landscaping along Wellington to create a “bold drive-by experience”, but the barrens will remain just behind the screen)IMG_1833 IMG_1836
  • Portland installed mixed uses early on — a busy hospital medical centre attracts many people, student housing activates the streets 24/7 and provides clientèle for restaurants, most buildings have commercial uses on ground floors or are convertible to commercial space as demand grows
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  • they actually delivered on podium designs, active building frontages, attractive public spaces, nice streetscaping and parks, totlots and daycares, office and commercial uses,  whereas the NCC and Ottawa prefer the Aleppo-look surroundings
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  • a number of developers delivered product at the same time, making a competitive marketplace vying to please (potential) residents of varying incomes
  • they used a lot of yellow brick
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  • Portland put green boulevards between the sidewalk and the curb, which the City specifically forbade the NCC to do in LeBreton Flats, and the NCC contractually acquiesced
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  • the more expensive landscaping along the river came once the project was well underway, but is showing up. In Ottawa, the nice landscaping along the aqueduct, including bike paths, is being built in 100m segments (rather useless) as each building is completed; the riverfront in Ottawa got a simple pastoral (golfcourse) landscape treatment
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  • Portland built some mid-rises, most of which seems to be student housing-on-a-budget, and a bunch of very tall towers but with genuine podiums, sprawling lower level wings,  and lush treatments on the lower floors. The NCC favoured mostly mid rise 7 storey buildings, with occasional taller towers rising above
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  • both developments have some pedestrian-priority naked (no sidewalk) streets done in bricks and pavers; both developments organize buildings on traditional streets and courtyards, Ottawa got way more arches
  • both sites emphasized cutting edge modern architecture with exteriors of brick, glass, composite panelling, tile, and stainless steel. Combined with superior landscaping, the Portland one came out looking better.

Keeners might want to follow these links to the stories from last January:


Building LeBetter Flats, part 7, the view from Portland

http://Building LeBetter Flats, part 8, Portland South Waterf

http://Building a Better LeBreton, part 9, Walking Portland’s SouthWaterfront streets



2 thoughts on “LeBetter Flats countown (i)

  1. You know, the NCC and the city has set the bar so low (as they did with Lansdowne), that really, anything that doesn’t look like it will anger me any time I walk past it (which I do regularly), will get my vote. Screw landmarks, screw model city building, I just want a grocery store, some vaguely manicured public spaces, and then throw whatever the hell else you want in there. It’ll be a thousand times better than what currently exists.

    I’m sick and tired of living next to an open scar of failed urban planning.

  2. Love the Portland info and links. After such a disappointing Lansdowne development (the stadium is nice….and thank god the Aberdeen is there) I feel like dropping out of the LeBreton Flats issues, since I suspect a stadium is going to be our answer to development. How ironic! A stadium there will bring the whole LeBreton development far from what is needed there. At Lansdowne, we needed a stadium, but not the stores and dreary cold offices that went with it. Who has the enthusiasm for another battle. Others I hope.

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