Posts Tagged ‘plans

16
Sep
09

One step forward…

If you’ve ever wondered why it seems like nothing ever seems to get done in Ottawa, look no further than this story. Essentially, John Martin, a Glebe business owner, has filed a legal challenge against Lansdowne Live, claiming that it violates the City’s purchasing bylaws.

Now, I’ve remained quiet on the latest version of Lansdowne Live until now, but I think it’s time I said my piece. I’ll get back to the legal challenge in a moment, but first, let’s take a look at the plan itself.

The proposed site plan for Lansdowne Live

The proposed site plan for Lansdowne Live

So what do I like about the plan? Well, it’s mixed use—in accordance with the City’s master plan and stated goals to control sprawl through intensification. It adds a significant amount of greenery what is currently a concrete wasteland, preserves the heritage aspects of the site, provides space for the farmer’s market, and will provide amenities that the area is currently lacking, such as a modern movie theatre (which is Ottawa’s urban core sorely lacks). Of course, it will also completely refurbish Frank Clair Stadium, which is currently in a fairly decrepit state.

Frank Clair Stadium looking rather worse for the wear before a Gee-Gees football game on Sept. 6.

Frank Clair Stadium looking rather worse for the wear before a Gee-Gees football game on Sept. 6.

It isn’t a perfect plan, of course. The fact that it’s being built by a single developer means that the site could become very architecturally repetitive, which could make the site a little less interesting. It’s also somewhat unsettling that public land will be used for a private development, but then again it’s not as if the land will actually be sold, and it’s not like greenspace will be paved over or anything like that—in fact, it’s much closer to the opposite.

Overall, it’s a nice, solid plan that aims to accomplish quite a lot in a thoroughly urban manner. It isn’t flawless, but it also seems as though early fears over big box stores and power centres were rather unfounded.

The elephant in the room, meanwhile, is the procurement process, and the legal challenge I opened this post with. I’ll grant that we haven’t necessarily taken the best route to get to this plan, and that the design competition probably should have been cancelled. But I do think many people are romanticizing the design competition process.

For one, it was not a design competition in the sense of architects simply submitting ideas for the site, and the City selecting the one they liked best. Rather, it was a “rights to develop” competion, meaning that developers would be coming forwards with plans for the site, complete with a financial plan: how to fund the redevelopment, and how to keep it viable afterwords. That’s why the Lansdowne Live plan was such a knockout when it first appeared, as there was very clear local financial backing, as well as a tenant for Frank Clair in a resurrected Canadian Football League franchise, something that no other developer would be able to offer.

Another aspect of the competition worth mentioning is the fact that any Request For Proposals would very likely have called for a site plan that included both Frank Clair Stadium and the Civic Centre, as the City did not have any plans to move either facility. As well, removing the stadium would cause Ottawa-Gatineau to become North America’s only metro with a population greater than one million with no large stadium facility—not a situation we’d want to be facing. The stadium is notably missing from Martin’s own proposal for the site, meaning it likely would have been rejected from the competition. Martin did propose building a stadium at Bayview instead, but there are far too many unknowns for that to be a viable alternative right now.

So while we may not have taken the ideal route to get where we are, I don’t think it’s anywhere near as disaterous as people like Martin and Clive Doucet are making it out to be. And I fear that taking legal action against the plan will lead to the delay of it’s implementation, while an extremely valuable piece of Ottawa’s infrastructure crumbles before our eyes. Furthermore, if it is blocked, then it will undoubtably be years before we see any action at the site, furthering Ottawa’s unfortunate reputation as a backwater that can’t seem to get anything done, and killing any hope of getting professional football and soccer into the nation’s capital any time soon. That’s a scenario that I’d rather not contemplate.

12
Jul
09

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.

20
Dec
08

What kind of Ottawa do you want?

The subject of this post is the challenge raised by the Ottawa Citizen‘s Ken Gray in his column today. Others have already posted their remarks on the subject, such as here and here (and, please, let me know if you know of any others) and I decided that I should chime in with my own thoughts.

First of all, I think that the biggest thing I want Ottawa to become is a city that Ottawans are proud of, not one we are merely content with. I want Ottawans to be able to love their city the way Torontonians, Montrealers, New Yorkers and Londoners do. People will say things like, “Sure Ottawa isn’t exciting like Toronto or Montreal, but there’s so much green space and housing is cheap”, but why can’t we be exciting, too?

Let’s create a city that can finally shed that label of being a sleepy government town. Let’s rejuvanate the CBD by building more condos and apartments to replace parking lots,  and encouraging the creation of bigger and better shopping and entertainment districts.  Maybe that way the streets of downtown won’t be virtually abandoned by 7 p.m. every evening.  Let’s make a city where people can live, work and play.

But we can’t end there. We have to dream big, and embrace the fact that we are Canada’s capital and the fourth largest city in the country and that our city should reflect that. Let’s build infrastructure that stands out because of how well it’s made: proposals like Lansdowne Live! and the DOTT are steps in that direction. Both show that we aren’t afraid to dream big, so all we need to do is start making those dreams a reality.

And while we’re at it (and I know this is a tall order) let’s try and cut down on the petty squabling. I’m sick of City Council fighting over the budget every year because they haven’t managed funds properly and threatening to cut programs that are important to the city’s health. Let’s get some real leadership at City Hall, people who aren’t afraid to get things done and know how to respond to the needs of the city.

Lastly, there’s one thing I don’t want to change. I want Ottawans to care about what goes on, like they did when arts funding was threatened during the budget deliberations. A city is meaningless without its citizens, and the more engaged we are in what goes around us, the city will be better for it. We won’t always agree, and some issues may even bitterly divide people between different opinions, but that, too, will just make Ottawa a better place. We have the potential to be—and really should be—a great world city. But unless we work together, it will never happen. And that would be a tragic waste.

05
Mar
08

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




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