Who’s paving paradise ?

july 2013 065Well, OK, Preston Street ain’t exactly the paradise of the song. But it is a pretty damn nice street. The City spent  eleven (?) million tax dollars about 5 years ago to put the street on a road diet, to widen the sidewalks, install greened side boulevards with trees and shrubs. The front yards of residential properties were landscaped too. And the BIA contributed bike posts, tree lighting, and other features. I think most people would find it a very pleasant street to walk and shop on. It’s even better in the evenings when the lighting effects shine.

The city has directed the development industry to the south end of Preston, by removing height limits (well, putting them as high as their wettest dreams envision), and encouraging a land rush. Rezonings and approvals abounded before the planning rules were formulated. Classic land rush, top-down politics in action. The action is ongoing for both the Preston-Carling end and the plan not yet out of the gate for the middle (Gladstone) section where developers are laying out positions by early applications for rezoning (eg 1440 Somerset, 39 stories).

So now a number of projects are in the actual approval process and some niggling details are being ironed out. They players and their positions might surprise you.

The Richcraft proposal for the Dow Honda site beside the OTrain station now has a traffic study. And all those residents in the 48 storey, second 48 storey, 18 storey, and the final 9 storey buildings are proposed to enter and exit onto Preston. Which will be via Adeline Street. And how will the Adeline-Preston intersection handle this traffic?

By traffic signals, and widening Preston, of course. Just add turn lanes on Preston, so that rush hour commuter traffic isn’t delayed or backed up by  future residents. Say sayonara to the  widened sidewalks, street cafe’s, trees, decorative lighting …

Of course, the initial proposal is for just a minimal bit of turn lane. Barely noticeable. Just a few pavers turned to asphalt. But we all know that in Ottawa turn lanes grow in the dark, or as plans get finalized and details get worked out, once the approvals have already been granted and its too late to make fundamental changes.

So the big nasty developers are going to foul the very things that make the Preston Street area attractive? Not so fast. Think again. The turn lanes are being demanded by the City, not the developer.

The City, is of course, waving its other hand frantically in the air, (“Hey, look over here ! Here !!)  promising a compleat traffic study of the area and all the projects, hopefully to be done by January 2014. In the meantime, it has no compunctions about approving projects on a one by one basis.

Tomorrow: more paving paradise …