The Alt Sidewalk Design

ALT seems to be a trendy new word. Here’s how it applies in downtown Ottawa.

We now have an Alt sidewalk. Go on, go walk on it today.

The Alt Hotel occupies part of condo building on Slater. The building was specifically designed to be half hotel, half residential condo.


Yet somehow, it never occurred * to the building developer, or hotel operator, or the city planners, or the design review folks, that hotels have certain needs. Like drop offs at check in and check out.

Other hotels have them: the Lord Elgin … the Marriot … the Delta … the Albert at Bay … the Mariott Residence … the Sheraton.

And a very few do not: the Indigo … the Arc … Capital Hill. Which are all old buildings, or hotel conversions.

You get the idea.

But Alt went one step further. First, they built the hotel without a drop off spot, even though one could have been added to the garage entry, or at garage level, or with a tuck in of the building’s ground floor.

And then they put one in ON TOP OF THE SIDEWALK.


It’s not as if there is a lot of sidewalk space to share. This building is built out the the front of its lot. But there it is, drawn right onto the concrete with gray flush curbs, is the driveway.

Notice the car in the background, half on, half off the drive in. Obviously the driver had doubts about the legality or propriety of driving on the sidewalk.

No doubt one of the not-laid-off city staff in bright safety vest is hurrying there now with an armful  truckful of permissive signs.


Just how much space will a pedestrian have when a large SUV is parked there? Don’t forget, the ped zone along the curb also includes space-consuming “street furniture” which is planner speak for that utility pole and mailbox.

While the upper floors of this building are actually quite attractive in a modern way, this sidewalk environment is a tad lacking. Perhaps parking a SUV or delivery van or airporter taxi might help liven it up. Encrusted in salt at Winterlude.


I have no doubt the City will term this “flex space” or “shared space” or maybe even a Woonerf. Foreign terms sound so much better.

Or maybe it is pedestrian calming.

I have been leary of these shared spaces for a while. A bunch went in on Rideau Street. When there’s not a vehicle on them, in theory peds can use the space as a sidewalk.

And on the much ballyhoo’d Queen Street rebuild the city can claim there are wider sidewalks by calling the same space sidewalks to ped lobby, and parking spaces to building owners, and taxi stands to the taxi industry and delivery zones to the truckers.

The City even narrowed on the sidewalk right in front of the main downtown LRT station entrance so as to provide one of these trendy shared space parking spots.

Alt indeed.

Downtown Moves planners tell me it is so it will function as a sidewalk at pedestrian rush hours, and parking spaces when the civil servants are busy being back at work.

I can’t wait to see it.


* Am I too cynical to wonder if maybe the building owner, the city, and others in know actually knew about this oversight before the plans were approved? That it is not a bug, but a feature? And the developer, I think it is Broccolini, managed to fob off his parking and drop off access onto city space instead of his own, quite deliberately?

*And will I be cynical in suggesting that the Planners-who-were-not-yet-laid-off will try to misdirect our indignation by suggesting it is all just temporary, and when Slater is reconstructed post-bus-lanes in 2019 or so, a proper curbside layby will be provided?

Of course, that layby will still be on city space instead of the developer’s, and will reduce the pedestrian and cycling amenity space and tree planting bits and landscaping bits promised as a wonderful new downtown streetscape once the transit users have been banished to the underground ??

Or maybe all that wonderful new downtown amenity space will all be “flex space”?

It’s an Alt Future.




4 thoughts on “The Alt Sidewalk Design

  1. Not all of us are civil servants. Some of us need sidewalks at all times of the day.

  2. Had a brief look at the new (post rationalization) city staff organization charts. I saw four development review boxes, but no city planning department. Is that an ominous evolution?

  3. Argh! Sorry – sidewalks belong to people, not cars. Should we take to walking on the road in these circumstances? Oh, I forgot, that was what roads were invented for in the first place. Why not do away with sidewalks and just paint sharrows (sacarsm)?

  4. Confirms the growing certainty that people are not a priority in Ottawa – developers and noisy voters are. So yes Alex, an event where 2 cars drive onto that sidewalk, and as many people as possible flood the street as displaced pedestrians.

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