It is popular today that the base level of apartment buildings be visually separate from the tower above, through the use of a real three-dimensional podium, or too often in Ottawa: a drawn-on one.
A further refinement is to have separate uses for the ground floor. On traditional main streets, this is usually commercial storefronts. The original Centretown plan required these on side streets too, which gives the area on both sides of Elgin such a unique atmosphere, as there are little storefronts, often with marginal businesses that cannot afford the increasingly-franchise-cluttered main street rents.
Alas, what the Centretown plan cleverly called for, the City subsequently spent decades forbidding, as evident by the 70’s and 80’s apartment buildings also in the downtown but west of Kent, where ground floor commercial was forbidden. Sometimes ground floor apartments sit uncomfortably close to the sidewalk, other buildings just present blank facades or parking garages. Unfortunately, some councillors still think this way.
When LeBreton Flats was being planned, the NCC called for animated streets through active ground floors. Apartments were to have entrances onto the sidewalks and courtyards. Alas, in the first building, these were no more than grass-level balconies, accessed by patio doors without external keyholes, so they could not be used for real coming and going.
In the second phase, things got a bit better. Real doors, with locks and keyholes made them usable. Instead of arriving in the middle of the living room, they arrive in small entry lobbies with tile floors and closet.
But, Claridge still provided an internal corridor to service all the ground floor apartments. This is designed to be more convenient to access the parking garage. And with a hallway, Canada Post will service only the mailroom, not front-door mailboxes. There are no external house numbers. As shown in these pic, they are faux entrances only.
Oh, and yes, each of these pic is of a different home; but the only distinction is the angle of the BBQ and the alarm company sticker on the window:
So where has it been done right? Beaver Barracks, by CCOC (Barry Hobbin architect) put real ground floor units in, no internal corridor, residents have to use their front doors to come and go. Alas, I didn’t walk that far in the fading afternoon winter light to take a pic, so here is a summer one:
Will Claridge do better on his current phase of LeBreton (below) or on the 175 Richmond Road project? Real or fake doors, the choice is up to Mssrs Malhotra until the city requires real doors.
What especially puzzles me, though, is why the developer doesn’t realize that eliminating the corridor turns it into space he can sell for $500/sqft. Perhaps Neil Malhotra could tell us why? One other developer in town is now selling optional storage lockers for three grand, another tried selling off the roof as “private roofdeck patio” space. Surely its time to privatize the ground floor corridor by turning it into sellable square footage. Ironically, the market leader in putting the corridor space into living space is the non-profit CCOC. Hmm.