Traffic calming with meaning

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This deceptively simple picture shows just how easy real traffic calming can be accomplished. The concrete planter / bollard on the right holds the traffic calming sign, reminding motorists the maximum speed limit is 30.

But that doesn’t mean you are entitled to do 30 kmh.

The speed limit sign and its pedestal take up half the traffic lane.

In the distance (double click picture to enlarge) are concrete planters smack dab in the middle of the traffic lanes. It is necessary to fully move over into the oncoming traffic lane in order to pass, as does the traffic coming towards you. It requires unusual motorist skills to actually look at the road, assess whether traffic is coming, make a decision as to when to move lanes, who has right of way, etc. In short, the motorist is engaged in driving rather than on autopilot.

Fences line the curbs, so there is no spare space. It looks like this zone is shared by people who walk, people who cycle, people who drive cars ….  The photo is “zoomed” in, so each of those barriers occur short blocks apart.

Meanwhile, back in Ottawa, the traffic dept still has conniptions about expanding a local park onto the adjacent “parking lane”, never mind onto the traffic lane … and little “drive over” green speed limit wands are in the front line of traffic calming.

Ignoring the Evidence is bliss

From time to time community groups advocate for road traffic changes. These are often to reduce through traffic (ie, people going from “not here” to somewhere else that also is
“not here”. Or at least perceived to be by and for the benefit of “outsiders”)

The usual response of city officials is that “its complicated” (implying it is too complicated for your little minds; leave it up to the experts). With a smirk, traffic boffins love to point out that traffic is like water flowing. If you dam it up here, it will flood over there, making those folks unhappy. Or, slightly more upbeat, busy traffic roads are “arteries” in the urban body, and we all know what happens when there’s a coronary event. It doesn’t matter that either of these analogies is untrue, they seem  “truthy” and simple and refuting them takes several minutes of logic, so the quick and dirty image prevails as common sense.

In response, anti-traffic activists have tried changing the terminology, replacing busy roads with traffic sewer, etc. although the main sewerization that goes on in Ottawa is putting transit underground, leaving the frustrated green hayfields with riparian views to private motorists.

Other evidence can be gathered too, documenting the health hazards, increased death rates, and lower tax revenues to the City that come from neighbourhoods blighted with too much road traffic compared to neighbourhoods that are preserved from it. We have reported here several times on exactly those studies in Ottawa. However, the Health Dept remains too scared to actually put these to council when road abuse occurs.

However, roads and how they are used is not a decision made by health boards, or local residents, but by traffic boffins who, in their daily actions, emphasize the fast and efficient movement of vehicles, primarily private autos, over all the nice talk about transit or pedestrian priorities and safe neighbourhoods, etc.

Booth Street is a busy four lane commuter traffic sewer when it runs through the LeBreton brownfields wasteland between Albert St and Gatineau. From Albert south to the Queensway, it is exactly the same width as all the other quiet-ish residential streets around it, but it is abused by thousands of civil servants cutting through the residential neighbourhood to get to their valued jobs providing Canadians with the public services they want and need.

(I say civil servants, because … on Nov 11, when the civil service is closed, but universities, colleges, schools, and private businesses are not on holiday, the road is totally deserted. On the Feb “family day” holiday when private sector and schools are closed … but the Feds are at work … the road is as congested as usual. Let’s call it informally observed evidence.)

Over the years, neighbourhood groups have repeatedly called upon the City to disconnect the residential portion of Booth from the Flats portion at the Albert intersection. There are various ways to do this, most quite inexpensive and easy.

The City’s response is the same: we’d need a major traffic study and simulation expercise to figure would where all that traffic  would shift to, and consult with the people who live on those streets, all the streets nearby, about the increased traffic and congestion they would suffer. Have the councillor convince the other councillors to fund this study please, and we’ll put it on the long range list of tasks to do someday.

Do you notice any sort of self-fufilling bias in this recommendation?

Booth has been subject to a number of “natural” experiments over the last decade, however, that pretty much obviate any need to do traffic modelling and forecasting. Several times it has been closed for multiple-month periods to permit construction at “closed” intersections like at Somerset. And it is right now closed for over a year to through traffic due to constructing the Pimisi Station flyover (4-6 lanes of traffic, sidewalks, no bike lanes though pity about that).

So where did all that traffic go? If indeed, it went anywhere.

Each time we have had a closure, I’ve pressured our Councillor to get traffic counters on the road and parallel roads  from Bronson right over to Parkdale. They have shown up a number of times in the areas I walk, but I cannot get the data because the traffic analysis folks are busy doing other things, this is not a priority, etc.

In short, if we don’t know the impact of closing Booth, its because we don’t want to know.

But if we looked at the data today, and identified if there are gaps we want filled, there is plenty of time to go out and do those additional traffic counts and travel time measures for Bronson, Preston, Parkdale, etc. while Booth is till closed.

I’d like to think our councillors could get the data scanned, and new counts authorized. But perhaps they don’t want to know. The municipal political process is complaint driven, and if no one is barking at them, why disturb sleeping dogs?

If they do want to know, I’d suggest they use their office budgets to hire someone local- to-Vancouver or elsewhere to analyze the data and not our city staff or regular consultant gang, since they have vested interests in traffic planning and road building. Would you hire Hannibal Lecter to do your annual checkup?

Or maybe get the data and throw it out there for crowd sourced analysis. That’s cheap.

I noted earlier that the frequent close-open-close-open-close routine on Booth is a marvellous practical experiment. Here’s a link to a 8 minute Tedx talk on a similar experiment in Stockholm, where bridge tolls were off-on-off-on-off-on and the traffic counts were made daily. Astoundingly, motorists adjusted within 12 hours to the changes. And later, denied ever changing their behaviours. If you have patience, watch the whole 8 minute thing, if in a hurry, start at minute 2.3; if you are super busy, skip to minute 4: http://www.ted.com/talks/jonas_eliasson_how_to_solve_traffic_jams?language=en

 

 

 

 

LeBetter Flats (xi) Which proposal will win?

So, we have two development proposals for the remaining bits of the LeBreton Flats site. There’s been lots of public debate and discussion about which one is better, which one you prefer.

There’s been no discussion of financial viability, as none of that info was released. So, we have two sexy proposals, with bells and whistles.

Which one is better urban design?

It doesn’t matter all that much. Urban design accounts for less than 20% of the evaluation criteria:evaluation points

Notice that the “delivery model”, aka who pays, counts for as much as the development plan, and of the development plan, design excellence is only a subcomponent.

Looks pretty much like a coin toss to me.

Or who lobbies best.

LeBetter Flats (x) programming the site

Guest story from Richard Eade; excerpted from a longer on-line conversation. Just pretend you are coming onto a conversation that has been going on for bit, so you have to figure out just what is being discussed:

I’ll point out that the DCDLS [Devcore] proposal [which puts their arena right up against Bayview Station) has pathways that go directly across the path of a north extension of the Trillium Line going towards the Prince of Wales Bridge. That is how they ‘connect’ to the O-Train. This is not a factor for the Senator’s plan since their arena is between LRT stations and not ‘connected’ to one.

Personally, I do have issues with connecting the arena to a single station. I prefer the Senators idea of having people walk to either of two stations. This will a) reduce the sudden ‘crush’ of people arriving at one station; b) force people to walk past other amenities (bars, etc.) on their way to/from the LRT stations (although the amenities mostly seem to be in the direction of Pimisi), and c) frees up the space immediately around the stations for high-density uses (office and residential towers) that generate more constant (virtually every day instead of 100 nights/y) LRT use.

Originally, the plan for Kanata was to build a 20,500 seat Palladium, but that was scaled back by the OMB to 18,500. Since then, the City has allowed the arena to increase its seating to 19,153. The Canadian Tire Centre’s seating was 19,153 until the 2015 upgrade when the overall seating was reduced to 18,694 when several rows of individual seats were removed to make way for much more expensive Victory Suite seats; the idea being that there is more profit from selling fewer seats at a much higher price. So, why is the Senator’s plan to build an 18,000 seat stadium (18,500 seats for DCDLS) on LeBreton? I expect that we will see a sizable bump up in the price of tickets for all seats; because the Senators will not take a revenue drop. Moving the arena downtown will make it more expensive for people to attend.

Overall, I find the Senator’s bid to be a greedy one. They are building their new arena, and a central Sens-plex (their other two Sens-plex developments make money by selling ice-time), and a whole whack of residential and office towers that they are going to make money on. Where is the public good? Even their idea for a public library is to put it on someone else’s property and it is not going to be financed by them.

I also don’t think that the Sen’s neighbourhood will be a ‘buzzing’, vibrant area any more than the residential neighbourhood around the Walter Baker Recreational Complex or the area around the Centrum Mall in Kanata is. The Senators have lots of unsubstantiated words about programming the area, but that is not something that is going to be constant and perpetual. They talk about all the people who will be strolling the streets – why are they strolling? There really isn’t anything more to draw them out on the street than there is along Sparks Street.

The Senator’s bid just fills the area (and the Senator’s pockets), but I don’t see how that makes it special. Take away the arena and what is there that makes this an area that you would want to visit? It doesn’t look as if the Senators looked any further than themselves for inspiration. Even the main thing connected with the arena that is supposed to attract people, the ‘forest path’ around the top (the much larger central portion will not be green as it is often depicted, it is just a gravel roof), is only accessible from within the arena by elevator. I predict that it will be used as often as the ‘public’ space that the City insisted be built into 150 Elgin. Does anyone go into that building to take the special elevator up to the ‘public’ balcony? Not very many.

On the other hand, the DCDLS [Devcore]  bid has all manner of attractions. If they were all built, there is no doubt that there would be a lot of day-time traffic through the area. I do appreciate that that group actually went out and asked for commitments from others to occupy dedicated facilities that the group would build for them. Although it might sound like small potatoes, they asked Skyventure of Laval to set up an indoor ‘skydivng’ company there. (Actually, I have driven to Laval specifically for this attraction, and many of my family want to go back. If this facility was built on the Flats, I have no doubt that it would be as popular as the one in Laval, or any of the others around the U.S..) They asked Farm Boy if they would set up a store, and the french school board for a school, and the YMCA, and Ripley’s, etc. Yup, some of the ideas might fall through, but they literally went out to find things that might make the area a draw for a wide variety of people. They were not planning a one-horse town. Having all, or even some (since taking one away wouldn’t kill the area), of these features in such a concentrated area would definitely create an area that is lively, and that energy would feed on itself. It would be a place that buskers would want to go (and that the City should encourage), that Poutine and other Fests would want to be. This would be an area that would generate a lot of its own ‘programming, instead of waiting for the Senators to do something.

Alas, the DCDLS bid seems to fall behind the Senator’s bid in creating a residential/office/hotel neighbourhood that is meant for pedestrians. There are too few crossings of the aqueduct and LRT line and their plan to ‘animate’ one side of Albert seems like nothing more than wishful dreaming. (Especially since the ‘drop-off’ road for the residential towers is probably where the front of the building will be – putting the back-side along Albert.)

Saying that the Senator’s plan is more pedestrian oriented is more damning than it sounds because, of course, the Senator’s plan has way too many roads within the main area (for example the Canada Drive over the LRT is a main road), but roads are what the Sens use to bolster their ‘public space’ number. (The DCDLS bid has no real roads in the interior of their public area, north of the aqueduct, but there are underground parking facilities accessed from the periphery.) The big benefit of the Sen’s layout is the porosity and ease of movement for pedestrians – even if they are sharing those routes with cars. The DCDLS idea of separating the private residential component from the public use portion isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that segregation shouldn’t be so limiting.

All-in-all, I would prefer that neither of the bids be accepted as they are. If the NCC could cherry-pick, then a hybrid of the two plans could be a good starting point to begin polishing.

Richard Eade

 

 

LeBetter Flats (ix) No Development site is an Island

The two current LeBreton Flats proposals are not on islands —  they abut existing or proposed city spaces on all sides. How well do the proposals play with their neighbours?

To the North, the Zibi plans are approved and under construction. They seem compatible with whichever proponent “wins” the right to proceed. Windmill, Zibi’s owners, are part of the Rendez Vous (RV) Sens applicants. Both applicants want improved access to the northern riverfront lands; RV was the most aggressive in crossing the (dotted) red line of sacred do-not-touch NCC property to propose several at-grade crossings to get to the River.

To the East, the two bids front onto Booth Street. The other side of Booth was awarded to Claridge some years ago, and they are steadily building out units to meet market demand. While much maligned by “drive by planners”, the buildings have good exterior materials (lots of brick), interesting shapes and spaces and encompass many trendy urban planning memes. I fully expect Claridge to apply to build (many) taller buildings on their remaining lands and to downplay the large number of townhouse units currently in the approved plan. They’ll cite changing times, proximity to Pimisi, etc. Indeed, the RV model showed the Claridge property like this, with taller-than-now-approved buildings:

IMG_7316

(Claridge’s lands: four foreground buildings are built; the four remaining towers and townhouse units are roughly per the original plan shown at the end of the story. The swirly green plot is actually Fed lands designated for two 11 storey office towers — the landscaping is a temporary, bold, drive by experience. Notice the fanciful greenery down the centre of Wellington St and its vacuous south side.

 

I have no doubt Claridge will get approval to build taller. Someday we will look fondly at the mostly low rise and podium style of the just-built units. Built with actual brick exteriors.

To the West, there is the OTrain Trillium corridor, and beyond that, Bayview Yards, which the City used to avow would “show the NCC” the better way to build urban communities. Before the City was mugged by reality, and discovered it couldn’t actually afford to build 5 story apartments. Indeed, it has been unable to build even the 25 storey ones it decided on. It couldn’t even put in a donated Sens community ice pad. The site escapes public scorn because it isn’t highly visible from adjacent highways. The cost of undevelopment doesn’t show up on the City’s books.

RV group proposes a new street running east west through their Flats and over the tracks to connect to the Bayview Yards. I highly approve. It help knits adjacent residential areas together that are badly cut up by transportation corridors and wastelands.

Mainly on the south side does LeBreton Flats come up against an existing neighbourhood. There is a significant vacant lot at the southwestern corner, by City Centre Avenue, that Trinity Developments, the major backer of RV, already owns and has approval for high rises, and for which they are negotiating higher rises. They can be seen in the picture below at the far left, by the neck tie.

The RV group model showed proposed higher rise buildings on the adjacent lands, which made their model fit better into the context.

IMG_7311

Along Albert, a number of the RV buildings have lower-rise podiums with the high rises set back a half block. The corner of Booth got a “gateway” tower which looks out of scale.

The Devcore model rendered all the surrounding lands as flatlands, which makes their higher rises look more starkly aloof. They also have no significant setbacks or podiums.

IMG_7319

The north edge of Albert is a mess. The 1980’s phase 1 LeBreton development (by CMHC and NCC) turned its back to the Albert transportation sewer. The high sound barrier walls have been reduced in height in the last few years, but the north side is still unappealing. The houses of Walnut court back onto Albert at a six foot elevation, making any future integration very hard. The next apartment building  — a seniors residence — at Preston actually has a usable door facing Albert, which could be improved.

All of the block from Preston to Rochester is Ottawa Community Housing, elevated above the sidewalk level and fortified with concrete block walls. The City recently re-mortgaged these for another 35 years (rolling over the unpaid previous mortgage into the new one…) but there is little expectation they will outlive their mortgage. More likely, at least some will be demolished well before then.

The average house in North America has a 50 year life expectancy, before it is obsolete and demolished, or replaced, or converted to something else. *  Rental housing projects have a harder life, and early death. Public Housing projects have an even shorter life span.

The City has already told LeBreton Flats proponents it will replace (some of?) these stacked townhouses with apartments, facing the road, someday. They already rezoned the first bunch for this in 2015. (If you live there, don’t panic, the city moves slowly. Very slowly. Very very slowly. You are more likely to die of old age than get evicted. )

This will smooth the gradient between the four storey heights along Primrose and the rest of the neighbourhood, upwards towards Albert. A few new nine storey buildings, coupled with the two existing 5 storey ones, will ease the transition to the taller ones proposed for the north side of Albert on the Flats, and return the street face to something more normal.

There are also CCOC townhouses in the Rochester to Booth block that have front doors at street level, but hidden behind a yet-to-be-demolished brick wall. The CCOC property, including the bright red brick apartment building at the corner of Booth, could easily be modified to “open up”  onto Albert and create a more active streetscape.
East of Booth, there are already bits of original 1902 housing facing the street, and then there is the Good Companions Centre, struggling in its old building that sits on a very large and redevelopable lot.  Just ripe for a mixed-use building. The City is conveniently installing new sewers and water lines this summer on Empress. Alas, the City missed the opportunity to rebuild the street as a naked street, wonerf, or pedestrian priority zone. Our foresight is so selective.

There remains one adjacent bit of neighbourhood that is neither “existing” or in play. Those are the lands along the north side of Albert from Bronson to Booth. Some are city owned, and it approved “The Escarpment Plan”  a number of years ago for 20+ storey apartment buildings along that strip. Some is NCC owned, which of course the city has designated as Parkland, rather than give up some of its own space. Keep in mind that the Bronson-Slater-Albert intersection will be rebuilt, perhaps more like this:

bronson albert option 1

and there all those wonderful ideas for a new Central Library edifice either at the CON in the picture above, or on Albert at Booth per the RV and Devcore proposals, all three featuring possible indoor connections to Pimisi Station.

In short, there is potential to transition and integrate the urban fabric from south to north along Albert over the next 25++ years its takes to build the Flats. And in 2018, the city has contracted to refashion Albert into a complete street, like Main or Churchill, with cycle tracks and even a few (very few) trees. Both proponents for the Flats, RV and Devcore, show Albert returned to its four lane status. Mind, city traffic engineers may yet take another whack at this.

Residents living south of Albert, in the Chinatown and Little Italy neighbourhoods, have long complained about a lack of access to the NCC riverfront parklands. In 1964, the NCC went so far as to remove the river and push it further away, by filling in Nepean Bay with toxic waste that now has to be dug out again at guess-who’s expense. The aqueduct running through the Flats has several restored heritage bridges, but the City or the NCC has closed off several of these “for soil remediation”.

Recent City reno’s to the Bronson-Commisioner Hill further make it difficult to go north towards the parkland. Empress and Brickhill no longer provide northward access, being left cut off by the deep and open LRT trench. Booth is closed; the Bayview MUP to the river closes at the end of February for 2 years, and the Preston extension is only temporary and will close next year. At least the 95 bus is closer now, for residents to take the bus to Dominion Station and walk to the river from there.

The new LeBreton Flats proponents do provide some (someday) riverfront access. Because it decks over the LRT line, RV provides a bit more connection from south to north; but Devcore also shows a mid-canal new ped bridge. Both plans leave Wellington in front of the War Museum and the Sir JAM parkway (ie commuter expressway) as is. Which is too fast, too freeway like, and effectively cutting off the old and new residents from the River.

Unfortunately, RV leaves the south side of Wellington as a linear park / wide boulevard, to facilitate views from their event centre to Parliament, at the price of Wellington remaining a too wide too bleak too fast no-go zone. The NCC needs a very serious rethink about Wellington at the Museum and Sir JAM as far as Sliddel or even Parkdale.  Something closer to Sussex Drive, and less like the Queensway, would be nice.

Any bunch of new plans dropped down on or near existing neighbourhoods is going to elicit squeals of anguish. Too tall, too dense, not compatible, not enough greenery, not enough whatever it is that might serve to derail the project at hand. The RV plan meshes better with adjacent neighbourhoods than does the Devcore plan. Both need improvements.

 

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*The average house in North America has a 50 year life expectancy, before it is obsolete and demolished, or replaced, or converted to something else. *  This is a factoid lodged in my pre-Alzheimer brain cells. Maybe someday I’ll remember its source. It is perhaps more applicable to the bulk of pre-1970 urban areas, since post-1970 segregated land uses became the municipal gospel, so redevelopment is less organic and more rigour mortis. The original vibrant community of kind, loving wonderful people who lived on the flats, to be expropriated in 1963, lived in houses built post-1902, so 60 years old max. My own house is on Primrose, is about 114 years old, and a total money pit of repairs and renewal and will never be energy efficient or carbon neutral.

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the approved build out for Claridge at LeBreton is shown below. They already got four stories added to the triangular building closest to the aqueduct:

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

LeBetter Flats (viii) on the role of lobbyists

It would be nice, but naive, to think that the two proponents for redevelopment of the remaining portion of LeBreton Flats simply put out their best proposals and the NCC gets to choose Eeny vs Meeny (Miny and Mo having not come to the party).

The NCC conspicuously led off its public presentations with a report from its fairness judges. I saw gender bias at play there, but they I am prone to conspiracy theories. It is, after all, 2016.

But the floorshow at the War Museum and events prior, and subsequent, are well populated by lobbyists. One of whom assured me of exactly what certain federal cabinet ministers knew of the proposals. Oh, is this decision a NCC planning based one or a political one at cabinet level? Is there a difference?

Sometimes the role of lobbyists is apparent. The Devcore proposal has a science and technology “pavilion” on their mall. With stuff on loan from the Science and Tech Museum. It sure looked, smelled, walked and talked like a placeholder for a new Science and Tech museum pending funding for a new museum building. Said funding being a result of … lobbying. It isn’t exactly unobvious that the Devcore group has a number of prominent Montreal families with connections. Just as the Rendez-vous group is Toronto based and well connected. Are their families back home enjoying a quiet January in Barbados or are they lobbying their provincial power bases to lobby their federal power bases?

Both developers showed a new Central Library, on opposite corners of the Booth-Albert intersection, connected directly into Pimisi Station. They will need to “sell” the merits of their proposals to the City, which is where the well-connected lobbyists come in. And don’t forget the potential role of the National Library. A project of this size, with spin off jobs to architects and landscape designers and engineering firms …  it is a veritable lobbyist heaven. So many to lobby, for showers of money from yet another source to help propel their massive redevelopment schemes.

I am surprised by some of the public commentary and folk belief that all the money for this redevelopment scheme comes from one giant developer with a very large piggy bank. And that as a result, everything might look all alike. Both proponents have set up consortiums of participants. The seniors home in one proposal comes with a operator of it and I think it is safe to presume its pay to play. That French school isn’t going to be free either, the developer offers to build it with school board funding from the Province. Similarly, associating with a subsidized housing provider doesn’t mean the developer is giving away houses to them, it means they can buy into the project providing they bring funding with them.

So tax dollars again appear on the scene, whether it be for schools, libraries, or subsidized housing. Similarly, the developers want someone else, ie a corporation, to fund the Brewseum. The developers are diversifying risk, spreading options, increasing diversity, getting buy in, whatever what terms it, there will be many players and pots of money.

Now the east-west LRT Confederation Line is going to be built regardless of whether the NCC accepts either proposal, or a hybrid, or rejects them both and leaves the land fallow for a few more decades. So I don’t count the current LRT projects, or the Stage2 expansion of the OTrains south to Riverside, east to Orleans, or west to Bayshore (en route to Kanata), as being public subsidies to the LeBreton developers.
And an eventual expansion of the LRT over the city-owned Prince of Wales railway bridge, or the bringing over the STO Rapibus to Bayview via the same bridge, is also long term logical. But it sure makes a great plank for the Mayor(s) to stand on when asking for stimulus funding now. Such a connection is highly desirable for the  Arena Event Space to make sense, which is key to the success of the larger development scheme. What a fortuitous complementary alignment of municipal, developer, provincial and federal interests (and yes, public interest too), which it is of course the job of lobbyists to point out. And to promote the merits of these shovel-ready projects with their accompanying shovel-loads-of-brainy-resourcefullness, over the dull brawn of shovel ready projects elsewhere.

I pointed out in a previous story the happy coincidence of one of the major proponents for the Flats having acquired an adjacent piece of development property, and efforts to buy “air rights” from the city from over the OTrain tracks, said air rights maybe being for a building above the rail corridor but more likely to be “transferable” to the top of adjacent approved towers. I mention this because it is imperative to look beyond the dotted line the NCC drew around the biddable site. There will be an abundance of ancillary projects and spending and things to lobby for. Another partner in the RV consortium is Windmill, already developing Zibi on an adjacent site. Road changes, transit, ped bridges … all influence both sites.

Mega projects like the Flats are job creating machines for lobbyists. There are the merits of the proposals, themselves, and merits of the proposals and the proponents to politicians and their agendas. There is money they bring to the table, and money they can get others to bring to the table. There is money to be spent here, and money trails to follow to other places.

 

 

 

 

 

LeBetter Flats (vii) see the details

There is lots of coverage about what is in the two proposals to rebuild LeBreton Flats. The Citizen, for example, offers good photo spreads and text.

If you prefer original sources, here are the links to the two proposals. My advice is to skip the videos, they are all flash and camera angles zooming in and out on the still pictures. Just go the slide shows to see the pictures themselves.

There is no one to walk you through the proposals, which is a shame. Both proponents need 10 minute and 20 minute YouTube videos that walk the viewer through the project. Perhaps they could hire someone good at presentations while they are at it?

http://www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/planning/master-plans/lebreton-flats/rendezvous-lebreton-group

http://www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/planning/master-plans/lebreton-flats/devcore-canderel-dls-group

The two proposals are both similar and yet very different. Yes, both have arenas, which they both call Event Spaces, since they must be used more than 40 times a year. And yes, an arena there can work, can be accessed primarily by transit, and can be a good neighbour, if done right.

The Rendez vous (RV) proposal has a more complete community, with 4400 residences, when fully built out in 25 years (or more). Devcore has 2400 units.

RV offers a integrated neighbourhood with residences and hotels intermixed with attractions in a fairly fine grained mix. Devcore split the site in two, putting a world’s fair or museum mall collection of attractions north of the aqueduct and the residences along Albert Street.

Both promise about 50-55% of the site to be open space / public space. Presumably this includes road surfaces. It was never clear if this includes Albert Street surface, or Wellington / Sir JAM parkway, or even if it includes the NCC’s waterfront along the River. Rather than too little green space, I am concerned both proposals have too much. One of the reasons Lansdowne feels empty is the spaces are too wide, too focussed on game day (or here, Canada Day) crowds. To work, those public grand allees and promenades have to be filled with people. Twenty four seven. Three hundred sixty five. Four seasons. We do not need another Sparks Street, let alone 10 of them. We simply dont have enough cannons to shoot down them.

RV puts a walkway all the way east-west through the side above the LRT tracks. This also facilitates north-south movement through the site.  Devcore left the track open air, but grassed it between the rails, making the aqueduct corridor more open.

RV replaces the soon-to-be-closed Preston Extension (which actually has a city street name, does anyone out there know what it is?) with a new road that must rise up quite high to get over the tracks and out to the museum intersection. They treated the underside of the bridge very well. I hope the city does half as well under the Booth Street overpass. Devcore takes Preston north but terminates it before it gets to the Parkway, which is a really surprising option.

RV put the arena, err, event centre, right out at the edge of the parkway. Gotta make sure everyone on the parkway sees it. But then they widened the view plane along Wellington so that motorists get the NCC’s sacred view plane for car commuters from the rise in the road over the railway tracks, and people inside the event centre also get a great parliamentary view. But, and its a major design flaw in the proposal, this requires yet another green space on the south side of Wellington, ie a park opposite the existing Bluesfest park. They tried to gussy this up with a feature walk, but it isn’t on the pedestrian or resident or visitor desire lines, and the wide open road simply encourages cars to speed up, as it continues the parkway’s continued frustrated hayfield landscaping. Neither proponent bothered with scenic placemaking for transit users, so the Bayview Station, on the highest piece of land in the area, with great potential views of the downtown and the river, gets ignored. The NCC is just plain oblivious to transit; the City simply directed that views not be taken into any account. Pimisi gets slightly better treatment, with a thin view out to the War Museum spike.

Devcore put their arena right up close to Bayview Station, where the Confederation and Trillium lines meet, which is very logical, and even better region building if the trains extend north over the unused unloved Prince of Wales railway bridge. Because Devcore leaves the LRT tracks open air along the aqueduct, transit users will get a view of the Epcotty-buildings. And daylight. The drawback to the RV decision to bridge over the tracks is the further sewerizing of transit users — tunnel downtown, a brief glimpse of daylight at Pimisi, tunnel under LeBreton, daylight at Bayview, ditch through to Westboro, then tunnel along the parkway, then tunnel along Richmond …  Ottawa will be very scenic, provided you dont take transit.

Both proponents talk a lot about a variety of housing units. Towers of apartments or condos are obvious. The low rise stuff is less visible. Certainly no one is offering 1500 sq ft starter bungalows, but the “townhouse” units at the base of the towers, or in the RV case, long rows of them in building podiums, are necessarily built like the high rises, of concrete. So they cost $600 a sq foot or more … but potential inhabitants can go a few blocks away and buy wood frame ones for $400 a sq foot, and in the far ‘burbs, for $300 a sq foot. Commuting in Ottawa-Gatineau is still pretty easy, so it will continue to be tempting to drive further, unlike Montreal or Toronto where long commutes are difficult, which makes paying more to live closer to the core more attractive.

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I’ll write more over the next few days. In the meantime, go see the models on display at the Museum today til 9 or so tonight.

The show was very crowded yesterday. Public interest bodes well.

I noticed the sign in tables, and info tables, were populated by women, who also directed traffic flows. Men in suits strode the hallways and manned the podiums. Because its 2016.

As soon as the public question period started last night, the only NCC board member I recognize left the room. Valued input, indeed.

And the NCC, which earlier this month hosted an urban forum event on urban blogging, didn’t invite bloggers (or was it just me?) to the media pre-shows. Mind, I was on the CBC this morning, right after Eugene Melnyk, and yes, I checked the seat cushions for money.

http://www.cbc.ca/ottawamorning/#