Three temporary landscapes on the Flats

Last night the NCC held an open house to unveil 3 concepts for landscaping the Beirut  Bagdad  Syrian war zone post-apocalyptic landscape in downtown Ottawa on the south side of the Parkway between Vimy Private (the War Museum entrance road) and Claridge’s condos on LeBreton Flats. It has long been a puzzle to WSA regulars as to why bureaucrats think people would rush to buy homes with such dismal surroundings. So the new NCC, with new Leadership, responding to criticism (not least of which came from their bosses up on the Hill) of the desolate lands, announced a few weeks ago that they were interested in public consultation and quickie landscaping. Landscape architects then translated these wishes into sketches:

IMG_0219 Squint a bit at the snap above, and you can see the intersection of Booth (running vertical) and the Parkway, at the intersection  in front of the War Museum. All three plans add texture or something to the Parkway asphalt. But all of them showed the Parkway at four lanes, when it is to be widened to six lanes of traffic next year. And all of them drew pretty blue lines on Booth and the Parkway labelled “cycle link” but none of them provide a cycle track (off road) or bike lane (painted on road) which leaves only mixed vehicular cycling, which isn’t a sure winner strategy when we’ve employed it for the last five decades. IMG_0220   The main landscaped area on the lower right is the hole in the ground between the condos and Booth, owned by PWGSC, and destined someday for two 11 storey office towers or embassies. This proposal had “art walls” and bike racks and open space. It did leave me wondering if that was enough to attract any one here. After all, the Fallen Firefighters Monument immediately next door is well landscaped but doesn’t exactly attract anyone. But then, all three schemes seemed more aimed at a superficially attractive quick view from high speed passing motorists rather than genuine placemaking (a “bold drive-by experience”, to quote the NCC).

To “animate” the War Museum forecourt, the ever popular concept of a (farmers’?) market : IMG_022o-bAnother proposal, from the landscape firm of Potemkin, Putin et al, proposed to celebrate the heritage of the area, that was previously so carefully removed by the same agency: IMG_0221 Yup, that’s a big wall, with a picture of the former neighbourhood (suitably glorified of course, since it was a dreadful slum) with a dozen backless-benches so beloved by architects and avoided by real people. Sigh. But wait, it gets better.

On the alignment of the former Duke Street, there could be a silhouette of a wood house, or maybe a ghost-house, raised high on stilts, for visitors to walk under: IMG_0225   Cyclists, of course, will gladly park their trusty steeds across the busy street and walk the last distance to the heritage park or the Museum.  And don’t underestimate the attractiveness of relaid street car lines (going nowhere, of course) and a possibly-restored or possibly-recreated streetcar parked thereon shown in red along Fleet Street.

All three concepts included wooden bleachers or seating on the south side of the Parkway. Seats might be made of giant log-boom timbers (similar to benches on the canal near the old train station).  I guess at Bluesfest those freebie-seekers that cluster outside the paid zone (me, me) could have a seat and view of the tractor trailers that keep the unpaying from seeing the main stage. IMG_0226   Another proposed option built on the aboriginal heritage of the area, making a large “eel” mound in the landscape. This option also had a better pedestrian crossing at the old Broad Street alignment (left edge of the picture):   IMG_0222   I have fond memories of long-ago camping at Serpent Mound Provincial Park, although I suspect I should apologize for camping (and other activities) on a sacred site, even if mis-named and of mangled interpretation. The mound would probably be the best looking installation for passing motorists. IMG_0223   The budget, I gather, is about $3million, with construction to begin in 2015 and be complete for the sesquicentennial celebrations in 2017. Eventually the landscaping installations would be replaced by buildings as the whole Flats is built out.

There was no alternative presented that might have just planted a boulevard of trees and shrubs along the roadsides and street frontages, which could have been permanent, and offered mature greenery when, someday in the far distant future, more people move in.

Nor was there any mention of accelerating the development of the Flats, maybe by inviting in some other developers or building a hotel or something to attract a variety of users.

All the proposals were classic NCC landscaping and beautification. The NCC deserves credit for doing something in this area, perhaps it’s just me as I am not overwhelmed by the proposals. And they are moving rapidly (in bureaucratic scale) and as an additional bonus, annoying certain high bureaucrats at City Hall (S-s-s-sh) who did not participate.


Coming soon: the proposed Bronsification of Booth street.

2 thoughts on “Three temporary landscapes on the Flats

  1. Ugh. It’s worse than I thought. The area is full of empty green (and brown) space, why the hell would anyone think:”I know what we need in the middle of all this empty space! A park!” The NCC is idiotic.

    The really idiotic part: The Centretown west area has a massive deficit of parks in the actual living area. So instead of the City buying up the pre-made park that the Dominican University was selling, we get another NCC park made to look pretty out the window of your car as you’re commuting to work in the morning. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

  2. This is such a typical NCC story — so pitiful. Given the history, the “potemkin” LeBreton Flats houses is just…what can one say?

    I agree: if there was any way they could speed up the redevelopment process, clearly that’s the optimal approach. But, even though I live right beside the flats, I really don’t pay too much attention to anything the NCC says about them (i.e. this latest: “maybe we should re-examine putting tall buildings in our plans…”), since, even if they say something I like, I’m just setting myself up for disappointment when things inevitably fall apart/drag on forever.

    Normally, I’d say that putting up a temporary park is asking for trouble when they eventually want to take it down to put up a condo — but the cynic in me doesn’t think these “greenspaces” will create a vocal group of users/supporters.

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