Wandering around the Flats – Claridgeland

Lots of people like to dump on LeBreton Flats current development as they drive by on the Commuter Expressways. This weeks OBJ has the latest.

For variety, here’s the fish-eye view of the first two towers and mid rise apartments on Claridge’s portion of LeBreton Flats.


And here’s the springtime view from the ninth floor of the yellow and silver tower, looking back to the fish, over what is the closest Ottawa west will get to a Major’s Hill or Confederation -quality park:


Walking around the nearly complete Claridge buildings the vision of the planners and architects becomes more plain. The brick buildings are superior in looks to many in the city (yes, get out of yer car and walk around them). The glass tower though is hard to get enthused about.



The courtyard arrangements are charming. There are pedestrian streets with real significant building entrances onto them, not just onto the streets for cars.


The “townhouse” apartments, ie ground floor units with walk-off balconies or patios, are as fake as most of those everywhere else in the city, but their main function is to sell the density not to actually be useful. But some at least are used if only on nice summer days.




After making allowances for the youth of the plantings, it is apparent the surroundings will be green and lush. Assuming the dead shrubbery is replaced, and as condo boards find their feet and get going on grounds improvement.


There are some shortfalls. There are no boulevards between the sidewalks and streets, to be planted with trees. In an extraordinary move (vindictiveness?) the city imposed a condition on development on the Flats anywhere east of Booth that prohibits trees along the curbs. This dates back to the rivalry between the NCC /the Flats and the City’s wonderfully better project on Bayview Yards. We all can see how well that turned out.

And the city hasn’t exactly been rushing in to do its share of planting along the park allowances between the condos and the aqueduct or tailrace. These city greenspaces bear the usual whiff of deshabille, if not downright neglect. Tot lot? Fergettaboutit.


the landscaping to the left of the pathways is city parkland? vacant space? leftover space? The planted landscaping and doggy bags are on the condo side.


The Claridge project has a number of common elements. One is the use of “green fences” to subdivide spaces. These are architectural wire fences into which vines are planted. The new ones look weird, but once the vines get going, they are attractive:




The exterior colour scheme is a directive from the NCC which wanted a neighbourhood that looked different from the traditional red brick neighbourhoods of Ottawa.

The first courtyard is yellow brick with one yellow tower and one dark glass tower. The second courtyard is formed from several shades of brownish red and yellow brick and shiny metal panels.

Both complexes offer the contrast of brick to glossy turquoise, green,  or black glass tile panels. Both employ arches and ped scale walk-through spaces.

The earliest buildings now have fuller trees and some owner individuation. The contrast to the latest buildings is stark, but once (if?) those trees grow …




I think some of the negative publicity the project got was earned by the NCC’s neglect of the surrounding spaces that looked more like Aleppo than a desirable downtown locale. Their temporary multimillion dollar Bold Drive By Experience landscaping will help anchor the housing. Much of  that landscaping is on the block that was supposed to be the office component of a mixed use neighbourhood.

It is also worth recalling that the first phase of about 500 houses built on the Flats south of Albert in the early 1980’s was also roundly criticized for its new architectural forms, the density, the lot sizes (14′ wide lots were the norm; some were only 12′ wide meaning houses are 11’6″ wide inside) and the courtyards. Yet they proved popular then and now.


Large master planned projects like this also internalize much infrastructure that would otherwise have been supplied (maybe…) by municipalities, such as indoor and outdoor swimming pools, exercise clubs, meeting rooms,etc. The City of Ottawa’s contribution to the current project is certainly minimal.

The Claridge development on the Flats is now stalled. The site becomes more central and more valuable every year. The Sens plan and Zibi  (both of which use the same planning and architectural conventions as Claridge has on the Flats) will eventually surround it; and Pimisi Station under construction will emphasize the convenient transit location … so Claridge is probably waiting til he can get the plans amended for a really major upzoning. Why build more stacked towns and mid rise apartments when the city is likely to welcome higher?

Personally, I’d like to see the current plan built out to completion so all the constituent parts come to work together and the “brownstones” (ie, stacked towns/apartments) actually get to frame the streetscape.

And once the NCC’s very expensive temporary roadside landscaping is completed south of Wellington and on the site of the someday-to-be-office-towers-to-make-for-a-mixed-use-community, even the driveby experience and view will be pleasant.

In the meantime, take a hike around the current blocks.

5 thoughts on “Wandering around the Flats – Claridgeland

  1. Thanks for an objective evaluation of the project. I totally agree that if plans as presented to get original project approval were built out ( which as you say they are often not ) projects would mature with visible landscaping and enhance the total urban scene. I often bike in the area and wondered why the project stopped.
    The city has a hammer but does no use it effectively. (Example: corner of Bank and Somerset). I wonder how the eventual collaboration of the NCC and the City will work out for the larger area. I guess we will see the arena there first, with little meaningful civic design, and then after a long pause and the original promoters gone (sold out), eventually some other development. After all, influential people change over time in all positions and personal design focus is lost. Long term projetcs suffer “updating” which is usually dollar driven. Less for the public and more for the investor. “The public good” is an expression we have lost.

    1. I suspect that one of the contributing factors to the stalled out development process is the challenge Claridge faces in selling units that are attractive to live in for 50 weeks of the year. The other two weeks (starting last night) involve tens of thousands of strangers invading the neighbourhood to listen to loud music at Bluesfest.

      Don’t get me wrong here. I am not against Bluesfest. I think it is a great festival, and a very positive contribution to Ottawa’s cultural scene. I am merely pointing out that there is a lot of competition out there from other condo developments, and Bluesfest makes it impossible for residents of buildings proximate to the festival site to have quiet enjoyment of their residence for some 17 consecutive nights, each and every year.

      1. Ron: in speaking with someone who lives in one of the towers facing bluesfest, she assured me the walls and glass were soundproof enough that the music / static / noise was minimal and she just runs the a/c for the period. A much bigger problem is the garbage dropped and people parking where they obviously shouldn’t.

        1. Eric, it is good to hear that the buildings are well insulated for sound, and the residents don’t find the music too loud. Having said that, there is a perception out there that the music may be annoying, and that, in conjunction with the consequences of inconsiderate visitors that you cited, can lead to prospective purchasers of $400K+ homes to look elsewhere. The same situation has arisen in the vicinity of the Cattle Castle in Lansdowne, where the noise from weddings and other events keeps nearby residents awake until 2:00 a.m.

  2. This is a very fairly written piece – thanks Eric.

    I also live in one of the towers facing Bluesfest and can say it wasn’t a detraction when we purchased at all but rather a selling feature! The concerts all end between 10:45pm and 11pm and I’m rarely in bed before then anyways but like you said the soundproofing is good regardless. Also, we’re hoping for more frequent events year-round if the Sens arena goes through. I find it strange when people say they wish to live downtown but complain about the traffic, noise and events that go with it. Same can be said about those near Lansdowne.

Comments are closed.