Sparks Street Mall — SOUTH (part ii)

The Burlington VT marketplace is in a much smaller town than Ottawa, with a metro population of about 200,000 (Ottawa is 1 million or so, depending on combien des Gatineaux you count). Yet their mall showed much more vitality than the Ottawa version. Some of this may be due to the proximity of a college; students were visible on the street. It is also surrounded by a residential and commercial hinterland, whereas Sparks is shoved off to the side of the Ottawa downtown commercial district and centretown residential areas. I saw several kindergarten or daycare rope-trains of tykes walking the mall, including a major love-fest with the patrolling constable.



People watching is the important entertainment event. There were numerous restaurants of varying price levels that had generous windows on the street. I couldn’t help but compare this to Yesterday’s on our mall, whose greenhouse windows feature a view of the staircase to the basement washrooms. Ditto the semi-open stairway to the basement food court at 90 Sparks (Darcy McGee building). I ate at a Panera, affordable food, giant windows onto the outside world. I have hopes we may do better at 240 Sparks were a new bar might have windows on the mall, or is it windows on the imbibers?.

Most of the restos had outside eating areas. Not many were in use mid-day in the fall, but the furniture was often still out, and the neat roll-up awnings could be unfurled very quickly:


I was very impressed at how Burlington handled the cross-streets. Sparks Street attempted to reduce the impact of Metcalfe and O’Connor streets with bulb outs, but Burlington continues its mall without interruption. Cross-traffic vehicles hit a raised intersection of brick and had to yield to peds who simply “owned the space”. What a huge contrast to Ottawa’s design and our vehicle-first planners:



No curb or elevation change marks the cross streets, which carry vehicular traffic. There is a tactile strip for the vision impaired. That’s it. Notice also the discrete signage on the granite column to the far left. Ottawa continues to be offensively sign crazy. I guess that’s what we choose to buy with our high property taxes.

Here’s another view of the intersection, capturing more of the cross street:



Note also the presence of reasonably sized trees, actually growing in the ground.


More in next post.


4 thoughts on “Sparks Street Mall — SOUTH (part ii)

  1. Also there doesn’t seem to be fencing around all the cafe areas. We seem to be so concerned that the imbibers will get loose and mingle with the others and have to ‘cage’ these places where people meet. The fences obviously impair sightlines too. I loved the casual spillage of cafe/bar goers in Amsterdam onto the sidewalks. There never seemed to be a problem with it as folks sauntered through the chattering groups and as people left the establishment they just rolled back the tables and chairs as need be. So civilized! Just too many rules here, it’s as though the gov’t doesn’t trust adults to behave accordingly.

    1. The phenomena of fencing around patios is related to provincial liquor control laws, not municipal regulation (though I’m sure the municipality is involved in the administration). Cafés where alcohol is not served are not subject to those requirements and you do seem examples here and there of cafés without such impediments (a number of Bridgeheads come to mind, as does the Starbucks in Westboro).

      Possibly being able to rid ourselves of this and other petty regulations is one possible advantage of establishing a federal capital territory, though I wouldn’t bank on it, either.

        1. I guess if Ontario goes ahead with selling wine and beer in grocery stores they will end up having to put massive chain link fences around every Loblaws.

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