Soho slow to planning dept

sidewalk view

The Soho Italia project continues to interest people.

I am interested in knowing what the city planners think (they are professional planners after all, and I like talking to the ones who are knowledgeable about what constitutes good urban design).

And the project location  is within the design priority area, it is subject to the urban design review committee for review. A preconsultation with the urban design review committee is also required before the formal review of the design by the committee. And of course the developer has to apply for zoning, variances, and all those other things.

But alas, despite all the public interest, the planning dept is still in the dark, as the proposal has not yet wandered into their realm. Is Starwood enjoying the media attention, viewing it as hype that promotes their project (if you read the comments on these blog postings, most of the comments are thoughtful and positive, none are “awful”, which must be consoling to the promoters).

Still, the court of public opinion only goes so far, as does the weight of the politicians who have been blessed with a preview of the project. Let’s hear from the planning dept, which should be able to give its views quickly after the developer drops by for a visit, as they are familiar with the project from … reading this blog.

It would also be nice to hear from some architects or planners via the comments section on the blog. It can be anonymous.


To find out what the Soho Italia project looks like, see the previous blog posting. To see what the neighborhood might look like if more developments follow, read tomorrow’s blog post.

16 thoughts on “Soho slow to planning dept

  1. I am interested in knowing what the city planners think (they are professional planners after all, and I like talking to the ones who are knowledgeable about what constitutes good urban design).

    There is precious little overlap between the set of people who are city planners, and the set of people who are knowledgeable about what constitutes good urban design

  2. My God, what a lot of info! If only the civil service were filled with characters as efficient as this guy. Hats off.

    As for the renderings, that south facade is awful and should be changed if the developer wants to gain support for the project. It could easily be changed to something that doesn’t look like a movie theatre entrance. Blending the podium into the godawful building to the west would be a stretch, but they can start by not having the facade be black and opaque.

    As well, that CIBC building and its parking lot should be developed into something maybe 5 storeys tall, a bit of a setback halfway up, and have the bank on the ground floor. Then it would (1) block the ugly co-op, neighbouring facade, and (2) serve as a nice gateway that would hopefully be matched by something on the lot across Preston.

    1. Is it movie theatre-esque! It has drama, at least.

      Definitely agree that the CIBC building in an unfortunate entrance to the neighbourhood. I would love to see it redeveloped with some symmetry to whatever goes up in the empty lot across the street.

      I wonder what kind of ‘community benefit’ we can ask for at that critical corner… 🙂

  3. Yes, it would be nice to hear from architects or planners! They have a lot to do with the shape this city is taking, but they keep their heads very low indeed.

    My experience is that a working architect is loathe to publicly comment on any building built after 1975; seems to be a professional thing. In private, however, it’s a whole other ball game – they are scathing about each other’s work.

    But developers are their lifeline; a builder can be the worst philistine you can imagine, but he’s a paycheck. Even teaching architects are scared to criticize developers – they might, after all, make a big donation to the faculty. (Screw the public, who “donate” to the faculty in terms of fiscal support for universities each and every year; somehow the interests of the taxpayers who have to live and work and navigate through the dreck most developers slap up doesn’t mean a hill of beans alongside the odd 5 million a tract-home builder can “bestow” after a life-time of buying land cheap, and selling chipboard and drywall boxes dear.)

    Planners? One or two city planners I’ve met are outspoken, but years of showing up at CDPs and applications and the like, to have NIMBYs line up at the mic to berate you for doing anything at all other than letting entropy take its course over the built form of the City – that’s got to take a toll. I’d keep it zipped too, if I was a planner.

    Is any of this good for democratic civic engagement? Not at all. That’s why citizen activism is so vital – so keep up the good work, West Side Action.

  4. You don’t need to be an urban planner or an architect to know that this development is wrong for this area. It is completely unacceptable to allow this high of a development in the Little Italy Area. Firstly, the scale of this building next to other buildings in the neighborhood looks ridiculous. It completely dwarfs the buildings around the area and casts a huge shadow on surrounding neighborhood buildings. I want to make clear I am not against development, but can we please get more thought into a proposal than building a square rectangular box with waves and stuffing as many people in it as we can? Where’s the imagination and ingenuity by their designers? Did they even consider the context in which they are building this super duper high rise tower?? Did anyone ever think about this building creating a transportation nightmare for this area? Affect the heritage and cultural values of the street? How this building affects the pedestrian view off the street? I hope everyone voices their opinion on this matter to save the integrity of the Little Italy area. Just because there is space in this area for development, doesn’t mean we need the same old cookie cutter condo development. P.S. Mr. Developer, if you are reading this, and I hope you are, just because you slap a multicultural space or museum on the side of the building doesn’t make it sellable to the community. You aren’t going to pull the wool over our eyes that easily. City of Ottawa, reject this proposal and consult with those who live in this vibrant community.

  5. I think that just because a multi-unit building is tall doesn’t make it cookie cutter. If you want cookie-cutter, go to Orleans and have a look at the housing stock there – beige, vinyl siding two storey boxes – the kind many would like downtown to be filled with so no one gets offended. When I showed by former west coaster co-worker the renderings of this building, she said it looked like ‘something in Vancouver’.
    I think that’s telling. This city could use a little Vancouver in it – a city with less population that Ottawa that has more of a cultural, city feel to it than Ottawa ever will, at least if things continue the way they are.

    1. A bit disingenuous to state that Vancouver has “less” population than Ottawa, when what is really Vancouver is 19 seperate municipalities comprising over 2 million people.

      What seperates Vancouver from Ottawa is that Vancouver has a plan, cannot be overridden by a provincial body and makes demands on its developers. Number 2 is especially critical – look at how Wal-Mart got screwed when it wanted to put in a big box store in an area where it was clearly allowed. That owuld have been overturned by the OMB, but in BC, it is accepted that Council can decide the fate of a city.

      All the papers etc. made noises about how this would cause capital flight from Vancouver, and big retailers would all leave. Instead the opposite has happened – big retailers fought over each other to get downtown stores (witness the Canadian Tire at 5th and Cambie, built for an urban, not suburban environment and the Costco built under a condo tower downtown).

      Back to Starwood-Mastercraft. The problem I have is that it does not suit the plan for the neighbourhood. What is the point of having a plan if you change it on a whim?

    2. S-Man, I think it is really sad and disturbing that living in Ottawa you think that Ottawa has less “of a cultural, city feel to it” than Vancouver. And, why would you want a Vancouver like building built in Ottawa? Do you want all cities in Canada to reflect the same architecture, same urban planning? I personally don’t want to drive down the street in Ottawa, and say wow this looks like Vancouver, or Toronto. Let’s celebrate our regional differences by having architecture and spaces that reflect how unique each Canadian city is. I encourage you to read up on controversial urban planning in China, where they are replicating Italian towns, the Eiffel Tower and Paris areas in China. Why would anyone support emulating cultural areas when Little Italy in Ottawa is truly authentic and should be celebrated for that?!

      1. I wanted to ask, why is this called Soho Italia? Is this referring to Soho in NYC? If so, Soho refers to a street/area in NYC and has nothing to do with Ottawa. Doesn’t make sense to me.

      2. Soho is an area of West London and has been for centuries. All others – including NYC’s – are named after it.

  6. As a current civil servant, I tip my hat to a former civil servant. Well done, Mr. Darwin. And we all (well, most of us) work that hard.

  7. In my defense, nobody drives down any street in Ottawa (besides Wellington or maybe the canal) and says ‘wow’. I’m not asking for all cities in Canada to share the same architecture – you’re looking at this nationally, not locally. I’m asking for Ottawa to reflect different architecture than what it has now (and not a tacky facsimile of some other city’s landmark, a la China). Our culture in this country is diverse, so why shouldn’t its capital city also reflect some sort of architectural diversity? We embrace so much in this country, pride ourselves on our expanded minds, but if you support something being built in Ottawa that doesn’t look like the ‘vibrant, diverse’ grey Soviet slabs put up en masse in the ’70’s (our claim to fame – more Brutalist structures in one place than seemingly any other city), you’re labeled ‘disturbed’ and are to be pitied for your mindset.
    Oh well, some people just have the idea that if something tall is built near something you like, the thing you like ceases to exist. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go gave in wonder at the awe-inspiring architecture that is the Ottawa General Hospital, the Central Library branch, and Tunney’s Pasture. Sorry, that level of sarcasm should probably be illegal…

  8. I like the idea of building some height around the O-Train station, just not 35 stories. 20-25 would be plenty. Also, I am fine with the lower floor parking, but do they have to make the outside around the parking structure so ugly? This design certainly has potential. It just needs to be a little more modest and less garish.

Comments are closed.