Archive for March, 2008


Snow! And lots of it!

We’ve had an amazing amount of snow here in Ottawa this week. We had 56 cm of snow from Friday through Sunday morning (that compares to a March average total of 40.6 cm) and we’re up to 411 cm on the year, so far. The snowiest year on record is 444 cm, in 1970-1971. We may just pass that total before winter is up.

The aftermath:

Also, I promise I’ll try and return to my recaps of the transit alternatives, I’ve been busy.


Transit alternative the first

As I’m sure many of you know, the City of Ottawa officially released four new transit alternatives on Monday. I’ve decided to go through each of them, presenting the highlights and what my opinion on the plan is, starting with the first alternative.

Alternative 1 is about as conservative as you can get for transit planning in Ottawa. It involves creating a downtown tunnel, yes, but that tunnel would be dedicated to continued Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service like the existing Transitway. It also calls for a significant expansion of the existing Transitway, and would not involve rail transit at all, except for the existing 8 km O-Train line.

This plan would cost about $3.2 billion dollars (the cheapest plan to implement) and require an annual operating budget of $485 million the most expensive estimated budget). There would be twin bus-only tunnels running through the downtown core, with a bus required every 14 seconds by 2031.

I think that it’s pretty obvious the only real advantage of this plan is the cost. It would be relatively cheap and easy to implement, but the advantages end there. It would lock us into a bus-only transit system almost permanently, and I can’t imagine that a bus-only tunnel would be a very pleasant place; you only need to catch a bus at Saint-Laurent to know that. It would be pretty short-sighted of City Council to approve this plan, and hopefully the city’s government is smart enough to know that.

Lastly, a map of the proposed new system:

Alternative 1

Source: City of Ottawa, Beyond 2020


I was reading the Ottawa Citizen today, and I came across an article on a proposal for a national portrait gallery at the corner of Metcalfe and Nepean. The area is currently a parking lot.

The proposal calls for a “gallery would be located at the base of two slender 27-storey condo towers that [would] have ‘a certain panache,’ says Nathan Godlovitch, senior architect with Dan S. Hanganu Architects of Montreal,” according to the article. On the surface, this seemed like it should be a good thing, to me. I’m a supporter of mixed-use development, and a 27-storey condo would certainly add some good density to Centretown.

However, as I read on, I realized that there was a significant problem with the proposal: the gallery itself and the streetscape of the building. To paraphrase one of the criticisms quoted in the Citizen, the proposal for the gallery seems to be a homage—if you’re generous, or a rip-off if you’re not—to American architect Daniel Libeskind, known for his jarring, angular buildings, such as the Crystal extension to the Royal Ontario Museum.

While Ottawa could certainly use some more distinctive architecture, I’m not sure that this is the way to go. Having been by the Crystal in Toronto a couple of times, I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about it. It’s certainly impressive, on some level, even imposing, but it’s certainly not friendly or welcoming. While “imposing” might work for the War Museum, it’s definitely not the atmosphere you want to present for a portrait gallery, of all things. Ideally, a building like this should meet the street in a way that is as open and inviting as possible, in a way that makes you want to walk by and not be totally indifferent to what you’re passing. Will it happen? We’ll have to wait and see with this one, I think.


I also wanted to comment briefly on another aspect of the article:

“The current project is unusually high for Ottawa and will require a zoning change. Most of the area has a maximum permitted height of around 12 stories.” (emphasis mine)

This is something that frustrates me about Ottawa, we seem to be scared of height. Since when is 27 stories (probably between 110-120 metres for a condo development) unusually tall for a city with a metropolitan population of 1.2 million people? I honestly think it may be time for this city to start embracing some taller buildings, especially on the south side of downtown. It would provide some nice definition to the skyline, and, if handled properly, I don’t think it would adversely effect the urban landscape.


Phototour #1: Sandy Hill

Perhaps the best way to start this blog off is with something I’d like to become a defining feature—a photo tour, beginning with the neighborhood of Sandy Hill. Sandy Hill is located just east of downtown, and just south of the Byward Market. The neighborhood was, at one point during the 19th and early 20th century, the wealthiest neighborhood in the city, but as more bridges were constructed over the Rideau Canal and as streetcars began service into the area, it became much closer to downtown. The upper class citizens began moving to different parts of the city, while the wealth of the neighborhood dropped.

Because of this, Sandy Hill today is very strange demographically. On the neighborhood’s western side, you tend to find poorer citizens and students living in subdivided houses, while if you travel east, you very rapidly begin to run into a mix of wealthier citizens, attracted once again to the older downtown neighborhood, as well as many embassies and high commissions. All this combines to make Sandy Hill into one of Ottawa’s most interesting and dynamic neighborhoods, with significant demographic changes over the span of just a few blocks.

Population (2006): 12,078

Continue reading ‘Phototour #1: Sandy Hill’


Hello world!

Welcome to The Ottawa Project!I’m not sure how this blog will end up turning out, but I think it will be an interesting experiment, no matter what happens. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy putting it together.

If you want more info on why I decided to start this blog, take a look at my about page.

What is this?

This is a blog dedicated to exploring and discussing Ottawa, Canada.



Email: dmccl033(at)uottawa(dot)ca

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