Main Street and wires

Despite it’s name, Ottawa’s Main Street hardly looks like one. Originally the main street of a tiny suburban village called Archville, the name was simply held over when the community amalgamated with the City of Ottawa in 1907. Today, Main Street is the central artery of Old Ottawa East, but it somehow feels  incomplete. Despite it’s very urban location, Main Street cannot really be characterized as a pedestrian-friendly area. Large open spaces and parking lots break up the few commercial spaces in the area, and the street’s two educational institutes, Immaculata Secondary School and St. Paul University, both seem to shun the street, preferring to look inwards towards their own campuses.

In spite of all this, it is ostensibly the goal of the City to turn Main Street into—well, a main street. North of Clegg Street, the street is zoned as a “Traditional Main Street”, meaning that the official plan calls for moderate density, mixed use buildings which front directly on the sidewalk to encourage pedestrian traffic, similar to Elgin Street, Bank Street through the Glebe, and so on. However, a recent proposal to build exactly that kind of building at 162 Main Street has been turned down. Why? Well, it would seem that Hydro Ottawa can’t allow a four-storey building at that site because it would interfere with their overhead wires. The developer has come up with a compromise plan, but it would involve reducing the number of apartments in the building, making it three storeys instead of four, and removing an outdoor arcade designed to allow outdoor tables at a street-level cafe. Additionally, the building would have to be five metres back from the sidewalk, instead of fronting it directly—it doesn’t seem like much, but it would definitely make the building less attractive to pedestrians.

The issue here is that this should be something that can be easily fixed, by burying power lines. However, the City makes no budgetary allowances to do so, even when it would seem to be logical. For instance, in Hintonburg right now, Wellington Street has been dug up for some time due to construction work, but it would appear no effort is being made to bury power lines at the same time. This is unfortunate, as it would likely reduce the cost of doing so significantly by combining it with other work. And these missed opportunities will add up—the more that slip past us, the more it will cost us in the long-run to bury wires.

And let’s face it, there’s no good reason for us not to be trying to bury lines. They clutter up the street, making it visually unattractive, and the poles often create obstacles for pedestrians on the sidewalk. And of course, they can block or harm valuable projects like the one at 162 Main. For the sake of our city and its neighborhoods, we need to start thinking about these issues, and being more proactive towards solving them.

A quick aside: I moved to a new apartment this weekend, and currently have no internet access there. Thus if anyone comments and it requires moderation, it may be some time before I can get to it.

4 Responses to “Main Street and wires”

  1. July 12, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Maybe it ought to be renamed “Archville Main”?

    It’s perhaps a more flip reply to the thought than it deserves, but sometimes simple solutions work best.

  2. July 12, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    And now – just after giving the article a proper read-through, I find I’m Not Paying Attention.

    Dumb, Dwight. You’re supposed to be more intelligent than this.

    You’ve got a damn good point about fixing up all the infrastructure if you’re already going to be digging up the street for other infrastructure issues anyway. I don’t look at the wires overhead as part of a Problem because I grew up in a time and places where such was the Normal Look of Things. If you didn’t see wires, you were not in civilization of any sort anymore. We’re all doing a rethink on that, of course, and sometimes I need to be hit over the head with a “clue-by-four”.

    So do a lot of other people, it seems.

  3. July 14, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    That’s too bad. Commercial development on Main Street would really improve the neighbourhood. As it is, there are very few reasons to visit the area.

    • 4 David McClelland
      July 15, 2009 at 3:31 pm

      Indeed. The street has potential, too… Old Ottawa East doesn’t have a real commercial centre.

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Email: dmccl033(at)uottawa(dot)ca

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