Posts Tagged ‘condos

03
Sep
09

On developers

I’m going to refrain from comment on the new Lansdowne Live plan for now, mostly because there’s a lot of kneejerk reaction out there right now, and I don’t think I can say much at this point that will add anything to the debate. Maybe in a few days, but for now, I’ll be keeping quiet about it in this space.

That aside, watching the reactions has got me thinking about the way we think about large developers like Minto and Claridge in today’s cities. To read some of the comments on the Citizen and the CBC (and yes, I know, comments at online news sites do trend towards being overly hysteric, no matter the viewpoint) you would think that there is a vast conspiracy at play at City Hall, and that anyone who speaks up in favour of Lansdowne Live is obviously a plant charged with playing up the plan. This, I think, all stems from the fact that to some, developers are inherently evil and want nothing more than to steamroll over our precious land and turn it into money factories.

Now I’m not necessarily saying that developers are necessarily good, either—take Minto’s gargantuan sprawling subdivision planned for Manotick, for example—it’s more that to paint them solely with either brush is, frankly, a little ridiculous. The fact is, developers are important to urban places, whether we like it or not. Without them, cities would be stagnant, as civic projects can’t do everything, and nor should they. Someone needs to build new homes, condos, shops and offices and the average private citizen doesn’t have the assets to do so themselves, which ultimately leaves it up to the corporations.

What I’m trying to say here is that we, as urban citizens, need to rethink how we interact with developers just as they need to rethink how they interact with us. We want the places we call home to be vibrant, liveable spaces, whilst developers want to be able to turn a profit off of constructing new buildings. What we need, then, is more dialogue: communities should interact with developers to tell them what they want to see, while developers should interact with the community to ensure that they’re going to be building something that people actually want.

Fortunately, this seems to be happening in some cases. Take the Westboro Collection project, for example, where the developer has openly posted the community comments they recieved on their website (PDF warning). It’s a small thing, but I think it’s exactly the sort of step we need to be taking both to improve the dialogue surrounding future developments in this city, and to ensure that those same developments will improve the cityscape. That, in my mind, will be a key element in making Ottawa a place people truly want to live.

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01
Mar
08

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.




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