On development styles, and what is planning anyway…

I hope that many readers of this blog also read the comments. Most of them are really good, some rise to absolute excellence (and that’s not just because I agree with the writer …).  I will not repeat the material submitted in comments as a “post”; I prefer to write new stuff each day. And there’s too many good comments anyway.

In discussing Soho Italia, the 35 storey small-lot condo proposed for 500 Preston, I lamented that it did not relate well nor contribute to sidewalk life. This ignited a debate amongst readers. Some people prefer the “courtyard” approach whereby condo buildings are woven in with grassy yards, trees, and walkways.

Claridge condo project in the Market focussed around a classic formal courtyard

While the LeBreton Flats projects by Claridge and NCC have seen lots of negative commentary, they are following the courtyard approach. Both Flats pictures emphasize the tall towers; but on site the overall impression is of 6 storey buildings with the taller towers set back (at least on some sides) from the podium buildings.

These are the tallest towers planned for the Flats (until Claridge gets them up-scaled, something they have already achieved with the growth spurt on the next phase going from 4 to 6 and now 8 floors. Most of the next few phases are supposed to be four and sixish-floors; the tallest  towers are on the perimeter of the complex.

the next phases of LeBreton Flats calls for lower rises and courtyards; the building shown at top right has already been increase from four to six stories, and recently approved by the city to grow to eight stories, compromising the low rise-high rise variation that was originally approved

Like the proposed Preston Soho Italia, we have to simultaneously look at the merits of what is proposed now and what is likely to come. The Flats has such a plan in place, one can look to the future with reasonable confidence; the south end of Preston does not.

The south end of Preston along Carling might well look very cool with a bunch of “Vancouver style” point towers, as the Soho architect Rod Lahey advocates. But Vancouver had an overall plan, right down to establishing and preserving sight lines so that new towers don’t block out the previous ones. Public spaces were planned in from day one, and were NOT relegated to be little bits of space left glued to the curbs.

SimPreston: the gallimaufry school of planning

I have previously suggested to Arnon, Mastercraft, Domicile, and the City that what we need for the O-train corridor and the Carling end (it was  obvious for years that the Honda dealership will be multiple towers someday, and the Esso lot will be developed, and 500 Preston has been scheduled for a tower…) is the establishment of sight lines and some planning for tall buildings.

But alas, the Councillors don’t want to admit that tall is likely to happen; the City constantly delays and frustrates the Community Development Plan (until all the lots are approved/developed?); and the developers are betting they can do better — in the short term — by going it alone. As for the residents that will be left with the results… no one gives a damn. It’s all short-term reaction and avoidance of planning.

6 thoughts on “On development styles, and what is planning anyway…

  1. To me, the courtyard vs no setback debate comes down to whether we’re talking about a mainstreet/commercial strip or not. For Preston, I’d personally like to see the side walk paved right up to the front door of shops, with planters and/or trees between the sidewalk and the street.
    This tower has made me think about height a lot too… I’d like to see a 3-4 story base (with retail), then the tower on top can be any height, because it lets us have density but isn’t too noticeable from the sidewalk. The problem, as I think someone else pointed out, is that the parking requirements for a mammoth tower mean a very tall podium. So it seems, ideally, the developers should find a bigger lot, or reduce the number of units or parking spaces…

    By the way, in a previous post I think you mentioned that the developers on Champagne are offering to install a bike path on the west side of the Otrain cut… really?? Wouldn’t it only be able to run one block, between Carling and Beech?

  2. The main bike path is proposed to run from the Ottawa River/Bayview Station south along the OTrain corridor, on the east side, all the way up to Carling. Unfortunately, it seems council has decided not to fund the underpass at Somerset in 2011, which could have been done whilst the road was under reconstruction this 2011 construction season.

    Once the path reaches Beech, there are numerous destinations on both sides of the corridor. On the west side, the civic hospital neighborhood, the condos at 125 Hickory, at the dog shelter, the new HOM tower, the Arnon development at Carling, the existing CMPA two office towers and existing condos by Domicile… So given the cycling traffic generated on the west side, a parallel bike path is proposed from Beech to Carling, and a new ped-cycling bridge is proposed at Hickory over the tracks. The west side path will be built in stages as each lot is built out. Starwood is first … starwood gets to build that segment. This will not be a high speed freeway for bikes: it will be a multi-use path, and also the main sidewalk up to the front doors of the townhouse units on the podium. Expect dog walkers, strollers, etc.

    I dont normally like incremental path building, since the whole path is unusable until the last phase is built out, which could be decades (see for example the slow path progress along the Claridge buildings on LeBreton Flats for the aqueduct path); but in this case, I think we will see development occur soon on all lots plus the cost to the city to go in a build a “missing link” would be low.

    1. Thanks for the info. That’s too bad about the Somerset underpass! I was really looking forward to it. On the topic of building paths incrementally, it would be nice if they would consider extending the current path from Gladstone to Somerset this spring, then continuing to the River once the underpass situation is resolved??

  3. Eric, this Council has not decided the budget yet. Only the draft budget has been released. Council still has an opportunity to approve funds for the O-Train/Somerset pathway underpass.

    I hear the Preston BIA came out strongly opposed to the Preston tower at their meeting on Friday.

    As for your post, it’s bang on. What we learned in our tour of Toronto with George Dark today was that section 37 benefits were all derived in areas that had community design plans (or equivalent), and that the community and City planners need to have a strong idea of where they want their greenspace and other amenities to be. Also, pretty much every new building has townhouses at the street level, with front doors every few feet (even if the wall is relatively blank).

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