LeBetter Flats (vii) see the details

There is lots of coverage about what is in the two proposals to rebuild LeBreton Flats. The Citizen, for example, offers good photo spreads and text.

If you prefer original sources, here are the links to the two proposals. My advice is to skip the videos, they are all flash and camera angles zooming in and out on the still pictures. Just go the slide shows to see the pictures themselves.

There is no one to walk you through the proposals, which is a shame. Both proponents need 10 minute and 20 minute YouTube videos that walk the viewer through the project. Perhaps they could hire someone good at presentations while they are at it?



The two proposals are both similar and yet very different. Yes, both have arenas, which they both call Event Spaces, since they must be used more than 40 times a year. And yes, an arena there can work, can be accessed primarily by transit, and can be a good neighbour, if done right.

The Rendez vous (RV) proposal has a more complete community, with 4400 residences, when fully built out in 25 years (or more). Devcore has 2400 units.

RV offers a integrated neighbourhood with residences and hotels intermixed with attractions in a fairly fine grained mix. Devcore split the site in two, putting a world’s fair or museum mall collection of attractions north of the aqueduct and the residences along Albert Street.

Both promise about 50-55% of the site to be open space / public space. Presumably this includes road surfaces. It was never clear if this includes Albert Street surface, or Wellington / Sir JAM parkway, or even if it includes the NCC’s waterfront along the River. Rather than too little green space, I am concerned both proposals have too much. One of the reasons Lansdowne feels empty is the spaces are too wide, too focussed on game day (or here, Canada Day) crowds. To work, those public grand allees and promenades have to be filled with people. Twenty four seven. Three hundred sixty five. Four seasons. We do not need another Sparks Street, let alone 10 of them. We simply dont have enough cannons to shoot down them.

RV puts a walkway all the way east-west through the side above the LRT tracks. This also facilitates north-south movement through the site.  Devcore left the track open air, but grassed it between the rails, making the aqueduct corridor more open.

RV replaces the soon-to-be-closed Preston Extension (which actually has a city street name, does anyone out there know what it is?) with a new road that must rise up quite high to get over the tracks and out to the museum intersection. They treated the underside of the bridge very well. I hope the city does half as well under the Booth Street overpass. Devcore takes Preston north but terminates it before it gets to the Parkway, which is a really surprising option.

RV put the arena, err, event centre, right out at the edge of the parkway. Gotta make sure everyone on the parkway sees it. But then they widened the view plane along Wellington so that motorists get the NCC’s sacred view plane for car commuters from the rise in the road over the railway tracks, and people inside the event centre also get a great parliamentary view. But, and its a major design flaw in the proposal, this requires yet another green space on the south side of Wellington, ie a park opposite the existing Bluesfest park. They tried to gussy this up with a feature walk, but it isn’t on the pedestrian or resident or visitor desire lines, and the wide open road simply encourages cars to speed up, as it continues the parkway’s continued frustrated hayfield landscaping. Neither proponent bothered with scenic placemaking for transit users, so the Bayview Station, on the highest piece of land in the area, with great potential views of the downtown and the river, gets ignored. The NCC is just plain oblivious to transit; the City simply directed that views not be taken into any account. Pimisi gets slightly better treatment, with a thin view out to the War Museum spike.

Devcore put their arena right up close to Bayview Station, where the Confederation and Trillium lines meet, which is very logical, and even better region building if the trains extend north over the unused unloved Prince of Wales railway bridge. Because Devcore leaves the LRT tracks open air along the aqueduct, transit users will get a view of the Epcotty-buildings. And daylight. The drawback to the RV decision to bridge over the tracks is the further sewerizing of transit users — tunnel downtown, a brief glimpse of daylight at Pimisi, tunnel under LeBreton, daylight at Bayview, ditch through to Westboro, then tunnel along the parkway, then tunnel along Richmond …  Ottawa will be very scenic, provided you dont take transit.

Both proponents talk a lot about a variety of housing units. Towers of apartments or condos are obvious. The low rise stuff is less visible. Certainly no one is offering 1500 sq ft starter bungalows, but the “townhouse” units at the base of the towers, or in the RV case, long rows of them in building podiums, are necessarily built like the high rises, of concrete. So they cost $600 a sq foot or more … but potential inhabitants can go a few blocks away and buy wood frame ones for $400 a sq foot, and in the far ‘burbs, for $300 a sq foot. Commuting in Ottawa-Gatineau is still pretty easy, so it will continue to be tempting to drive further, unlike Montreal or Toronto where long commutes are difficult, which makes paying more to live closer to the core more attractive.


I’ll write more over the next few days. In the meantime, go see the models on display at the Museum today til 9 or so tonight.

The show was very crowded yesterday. Public interest bodes well.

I noticed the sign in tables, and info tables, were populated by women, who also directed traffic flows. Men in suits strode the hallways and manned the podiums. Because its 2016.

As soon as the public question period started last night, the only NCC board member I recognize left the room. Valued input, indeed.

And the NCC, which earlier this month hosted an urban forum event on urban blogging, didn’t invite bloggers (or was it just me?) to the media pre-shows. Mind, I was on the CBC this morning, right after Eugene Melnyk, and yes, I checked the seat cushions for money.




3 thoughts on “LeBetter Flats (vii) see the details

  1. I got the sense from the slides that this was not really planning but just a brochure and that everything is subject to change. Is that how the presentation felt like?

  2. Still digesting everything but overall I’m feeling both proposals really tried hard but missed the mark.

    1. Regardless of the bid, both have the same basic problem. These are no different then the older development models from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and the 00’s, designed for this site. Both are looking for the right combination of magic bullet sites, NHL Arenas, Aquariums, Planetariums, Museums and so on to make these sites important and memorable. They all pay attention to the big issue, at least both offered impressive lip service towards it, but then ignore it completely as they show all the magic bullet sites they came up with. The thing about great place making they ignored was that, people and families have to live there. Only one had a school. Thousands of residents but yet, only one main large functional grocery store. Some community sites usually in overly large super buildings. Although, the Ability Centre that is similar to the one built in Whitby and Variety Village in Scarborough that has disabled and abled bodied people recreating together is a big plus. Lots of open space but no functional parks or athletic fields with soccer pitches and baseball diamonds, both of which, we are critically short of here in Ottawa, city wide not just in the core. It’s nice that you offer many different housing types but who wants to really live in a neighborhood where most of the built up area is to give people who don’t live there, lots of neat things to do and provides almost nothing unless you are a young University aged student, have no kids and a really good income. One project offered a senior’s zone that had all the warmth and feeling of a nice looking internment camp.

    2. Lets bury the transit or place it under multiple levels of concrete terraces similar to development projects in Canada and the UK from the late 1960’s to mid 1970’s.On top of the terraces we can put pedestrian access and more useless open space. We used to go through stacks of these plans when I was in urban planning school in the late 1980’s. What goes around comes around I guess! However, very few were actually built in Canada. Some were built with varying degrees of success in the UK. The main problem with all of them now is that, they have aged and the financial and legal mechanisms designed to maintain them structurally disappeared years ago. Guess what, no one wants to pay to upgrade them, it’s always, “someone else’s responsibility, not ours” or “we don’t have the money to fix those structures”. Then they get pulled down and people discover, “wow we really didn’t need those after all”. When I asked why they used the terraces, I get told its because of the change in elevation on the site. One my professors who still is a developer in Markham, use to tell us that, this is one of many common classic excuses used by people who are not very creative.

    3. One has to take these pretty pictures with a grain of salt! They are rough guides of what they want and it doesn’t mean that some or any of those could be built. The glossy pictures are done as if the person viewing the picture is 4-5 metres tall not average height on a sidewalk, which would definitely change the perspective of many of those pictures. Trees are always fully mature and at the least 25-40 years old, not the saplings most developments really start with. The main problem here is the sheer magnitude and area of all the planned buildings, whether they are residential, commercial retail, or commercial office space. When you ask the experts of each development plan, they have to check cheat sheets on how many units and leaseable commercial, retail and office space there actually is. The actual numbers after a 25-30 year build out for both plans are at best optimistic. Both come close or surpass the total available space in each category for the current downtown of Ottawa. We can’t currently give away a lot of downtown “Class A” office space, no one wants it. many of those Condos towers are not sold out. They also don’t include the numbers regarding the city’s development plans in the area around Bayview and their development totals, as well.

    The Superior Court of Ontario just struck down what the city had been using to control building heights very effectively. Community Design Plans, which are a form of Secondary Plans, they had been used as building height control mechanism because OMB cases could not overturn them easily. The courts have told the city you can’t do that and you have to rely on your actual height control By-laws. The same By-Laws that developers have been blasting holes in very effectively for years. This means we have very little height control left in our planning books. This means that areas like the existing built up downtown core which had very few places left that were really developable is now effectively wide open for redevelopment. That will definitely effect the Lebreton site and how much condo, retail and office space actually gets developed and or sold.

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