Laurier Bike Track, phase 2

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The west end of the Laurier Avenue Bike Track peters out past Bay Street. It used to run up the hill to cross Bronson, then continue to the Chinatown neighbourhood via Cambridge and Primrose, but that was removed and replaced by a painted bike lane in order to accommodate the pressing priority for residents of 500 Laurier ( Q E Towers) to have (often free) onstreet parking.

A new segment of path is being taken north from the approximate intersection of Percy and Laurier, across the Ottawa Tech playing fields (cry me a river when the school board claims poverty and cutbacks but sits on acres of developable property it doesn’t need for schooling). At least they allowed the path to cross the field.

After crossing the field, it arrives at the intersection of Bronson and Slater, at the foot of the steep hill. After a two stage crossing, people who cycle will be lead westward towards Brickhill Street (now being used by the LRT folks for digging their tunnel) where a new intersection signal will allow cyclists to connect to the multi user pathway on the north side of Albert.

Sounds confusing, hopefully it will work better in real life, as it does improve access to and from the west side to the Laurier track.

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Given the simplicity of the routing and  topography, I expect to be cycling on this before Christmas.

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Is this the weirdest city ever?

city of industry

This shipping label was on a box I got. Note the return address. City of Industry.

Who names a city like that?

California, of course.

The city of industry basically has no residents (ie, expenses) but has lots of businesses (ie revenue sources).

Recall that businesses cannot vote in elections. Increasingly, their ability to donate money to candidates is being restricted. Not unnaturally, politicians favour those who vote, and pluck funds from those who don’t, or can’t vote. It is surely a politicians wet dream to have a large industrial or commercial tax base to subsidize the residential (voting) base. School boards that can levy taxes love this situation.

Industries and commercial uses therefore pay higher taxes to provide benefits to residents, that do not offer an immediate payback to the business. Like all rational individuals, businesses seek to minimize taxes. There is a reason that Costco looks like it does (it qualifies as an industrial land user at a much lower tax rate than commercial or retail land users).

For many years, downtown Toronto property taxes were ridiculously low compared to Ottawa, because only the small original core city had most of the dense commercial high rise head office towers for the greater region (indeed, the whole province) that generated so much revenue. Outlying municipalities had the residents, but not the tax base, so one paid higher taxes the further one moved out. Ottawa had a similar situation, smaller scale.

city of industry map

The City of Industry is essentially a giant industrial park, spread along a freeway and rail corridor. It carefully excludes tax-consuming residential areas and schools (note the “hole” in its territory off the left, just below the words El Monte). It is also an electoral district (having its own senators, congressmen, mayor, etc).   It has about 12 sq miles of territory (about 7600 acres). It has a resident population of less than a 1000 (2010 census = 219, spread among 73 houses; other sources vary). Residents border a golf course or reside in a nursing home (warehouse for the elderly?).

city of industry aerial view

The aerial shot above clearly shows all the white roofs of giant warehouses and buildings.

Not unexpectedly, there are no business taxes, but there is a property tax and a retail sales tax from the local shopping centre (which was featured in the movie Back to the Future) and a business hotel.

Even more oddly, it has a McDonald’s that has no customers. Ever.

It is a special McD used only for filming movie scenes and commercials. No word if Ronnie or The Hamburgler count as  City residents.

Here’s a photo of it I found on the ‘net, taken by Jason S:

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In my travels, I always check destinations for the urban weirds and wonderfuls. I have lots of pic of strange cities, urban utopias, failed health communities etc. Use the comments section if you want to see some of these, otherwise I’ll stick to the local knitting, Ottawa.

The 100-mile house

Back before it was trendy or politically correct, houses in Ottawa were made mostly from local materials. It was too expensive to import stuff from much further, unless you were JR Booth.

In doing some kitchen renos, here’s a snap of a wall board we uncovered. There are many similar sized boards, but this is the largest:

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At nineteen inches, that tree was right some thick. We don’t grow them like that anymore.

In the basement, I have a very uneven concrete floor that was poured by the previous owners (from 1925 – 1982) in small batches. We broke through that floor and discovered that under the cement topping was a nicely mortared brick floor:

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Bricks were made near this house on the west side of Ottawa at the brickyards where Hartwell Locks now are, and where the RA Centre is now. Maybe it came from one of those yards … but we haven’t been able to find maker’s markings on the brick, which are made of “lumpy” clay. I wonder if they were “recycled, reused” from the previous house on this site that burned down in the great fire of 1900. My house was built in 1902.

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Here’s a map from just up the street, showing land uses after the fire:

Primrose St in prehistory

Maple Street is now Primrose. Rochester Street is clearly shown, the street on the right edge of the map called Division is now Booth Street. Preston runs up the left side. Double click and the map might enlarge for you to squint more productively.

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Now, from old technology to new technology. The west side action word press site has apparently been hacked … by a shoe store. WP , despite the heft fees I pay for this site, is no help. I lack the confidence to remove the hack stuff, despite having detailed instructions from Google on how to do so.  If anyone out there is bored and wants to try, and can promise on risk of a most painful death, to remove the hacked material / link without destroying those pages or losing the whole site or otherwise F’ing things up royally, give me a email EricDarwin1 at gmail.com. Local crowd sourcing … what could be more modern, or older?

Squeeze play on the right

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This green bicycle logo on the back of the truck caught my eye.

I had to cycle closer to actually read the sign. Maybe you can double click the pic to read the sign:

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It says: ” Stay safe. Stay back. Past this point I can’t see you.”

It is surely a useful sign. Kudos to the company for putting it on their truck.

I did wonder a bit about the green square shape and design. I’ve seen signs on the back of long trucks warning not to pass on the right as the vehicle makes wide turns. That graphic is cautionary yellow, and illustrates the danger:

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The difference, of course, is that only a few motorists try to squeeze up the right side of a truck, because cars need a wide lane. The squeeze play will damage your car and cause heart palpitations, but isn’t necessarily fatal.

However, the slightest pulling left of a tractor trailer at an intersection creates a very inviting space for the unaware cyclist to slip up the right side of the vehicle line. The consequences are dreadful.

It’s illegal, but jumping the queue  is also one of the agility advantages of cycling. I once made the mistake of stopping my bike three cars back at the intersection of Kent and Laurier, and boy did commuter cyclists ever let me know that the whole idea is to pull up the right side and cut off those motorists with their right turn signals blinking. Lesson learned, I’m now paranoid at red light queues both when cycling or driving a motor vehicle.

Hickory – Adeline Bridge opens

The City’s newest pedestrian – cyclist bridge opened for public use today.

The bridge, just north of the OTrain Trillium line Carling Station, connects Hickory Street in the Civic Hospital neighbourhood with Adeline and then Preston Street on the Little Italy side.

It makes it much easier for residents to access the Preston traditional main street, and opens a new off-Carling route for east west movements. It provides better access to the Carling Otrain station for those days the OTrain is actually running, and provides every-day access from the new condos and student housing high rises on Champagne Avenue to Pub Italia and other popular rendez-vous. It makes the Trillium multi-use pathway part of a larger, more connected network of off-road paths.

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Around 3.30 Wednesday the steel fences were taken down.

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Above: view from the Trillium pathway looking west. The pathway on the foreground side isn’t paved as work may be starting this year on widening, improving the alignment, and  paving the east side pathway.  In the background is the work crew, congratulating themselves on a such a pretty bridge. They said I was the first cyclist, although a pedestrian had beat me to being the first person to cross just a few minutes before.

I went back and checked, and sure enough, there was only one set of muddy tire marks:

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I’m told there will be an official opening on Monday at 3pm.

I, for one, am grateful that the City has built more infrastructure for people who cycle and walk, and is slowly building out a connected network.

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Search for a new Library

The library board has decided it needs a new building, and it wants a trophy building. And it wants it downtown.  Don’t be fooled for a minute about the mooted site at Albert/Bronson. That’s a stalking horse, although it would not be a disaster if all else fails and a library goes there, adjacent a major LRT station and surrounded by as many residents (eventually…) as the Metcalfe Street brutalist pile.

And don’t rule out larger city-building plans pushing the Library further west than centretowner’s might like, to Trinity Development’s Bayview – LeBreton Arena – Bayview Yards innovation centre site at the crossroads of the two LRT lines. The City Centre moniker may yet be less than ironic.

The library board spilled the beans much earlier in publically identifying the Lyon / Albert / Slater block as its preferred location.

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The only problem was it didn’t own the site. The city does own a bit of the NE corner, expropriated for an LRT entrance that in a spurt of subsequent  “value engineering” got moved to a cheaper   — but not necessarily better-for-users — location at Lyon / Queen.

Even with the soon-underway apartment development on the west end of the site (replacing the CS COOP offices, see previous story) there’s still lots of room for a library building on the east half block. And the block immediately south of this view is assembled by Minto, owners of the adjacent Minto Place. And the empty block north of this site (around Barbarella’s, soon to be photo-stalked by the Ashley Madison police) is owned by Claridge.

It is a corner out of the Claridge lot (already approved for multiple high rise residences)  that the city now plans to build the LRT station entrance.

Each of these lots would be big enough for a library, and each would be directly connected to the downtown LRT station. Claridge is the most direct, but the CS Coop lot could be connected too, if the under-Lyon pedestrian passageway was built to the original LRT Station entrance.  The City claims that any such passageway must be built by private developers at their own expense, but if that project is a library P3 then maybe we will be paying anyway ….

That passageway could also be connected to Minto Place, to Constitution Square, and the new developments along Lyon. (it is another story if we really want such a pathway … can the city support both a lively underground path AND a lively street level, or will duplication kill both?

Recall that in 45 years Place de Ville has always refused to connect to adjacent developments, even 240 Sparks with its underground levels. And for the LRT Station connecting to Place de Ville making an extended underground path, forget it. Their contract with the city requires that the only connection be through the fare-paid station concourse level deep underground, making thru walking most inconvenient.

Now the developers along Lyon aren’t sleeping at this opportunity. Someone is flashing some Raymond Moriyama concept sketches. Moriyama is architect of the of the popular (and economic to build) War Museum and the Beaverbrook Library rebuild, The sketches are pretty sexy, enough to cause heart palpitations at the city.

His sketches are of a stand alone building with soaring green roofs and light filled spaces inside.

Which is a problem.

It’s virtually guaranteed Watson will want an air rights development above, in a P3 agreement, to minimize the city’s costs. If the tower goes on the south (slater) side of the site, there goes the sun. And I wouldn’t hold my breath for this library P3 either, since the city staff to negotiate it are still all tied up in the Arts Court P3 which is running year(s) late and is so bureaucratic it scared off at least two major developers from submitting bids even after they had spent hundreds of thousands working out detailed proposals (shades of the overly bureaucratic fiasco on LeBreton a few years back, or Parks Can and the Rideau Canal boat excursions).

I am not confident that the city has developed better skills post Lansdowne Park P3 and given the never-ending Arts Court. One short term risk is that the public will question more closely just how much or little public amenity actually gets delivered.

Since we are talking new Libraries, you can see Moriyama’s skills on his website: http://mtarch.com/types/civic-commercial/.

I made a point of visiting two much discussed public libraries in the last year, both of them interesting and yet disappointing in their own ways.  Let’s look at them next.

 

 

Real Estate Updates (cont’d)

The Trinity Developers acquisition of the lands adjacent LeBreton Flats and their drawings – shown in the previous story — of 50 storey buildings with large above ground parking garages — is a product and a harbinger of Ottawa’s latest downtown development thinking.

I am not optimistic about a city core with large above ground garages, no matter how pretty.

This downtown core has glittery buildings, including one that took the “temple of commerce” idea literally:

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Look closer:

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that’s the base or podium of the temple of mammon on the right, and while glad in nice granite and shiney gothic windows, its all parking garage for the soaring tower above.  And that 15 storey office building on the centre left … that’s ALL parking garage. It actually did away completely with the office or residential functions. Makes for a lively downtown.

And my bet is that Mayor Watson worships at the congregation of development.

Much more staid are a couple of downtown developments coming down the pipe right now.

Here’s the view of the shuttered downtown hotel, once proudly the Delta, for short while the National, and now the Empty. This  1970’s Teron project had a hotel, an office tower, and across the street to the south, a underground parking lot with the 151 Bay condos above. A good mixed use development with superior architectural interest.

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The hotel wings are soon for the demolishers, as is the little three storey apartment building orphaned at the corner. They will be replaced by two 23 storey towers, one a hotel, the other apartments. The office tower may also be enlarged.

I hope the 151 Bay condo owners scoop up a dozen pallets of brick for future use repairing their building.

A bit further south, the CS Coop building is about to be emptied, the employees moving to the President’s Choice office park on McRae Avenue between Bushtukah and Trailhead. In its place, the developer is seeking approval for a 20ish storey apartment tower. It will be a slab building facing the CentreTown Place building of a previous generation on the opposite side of Slater.

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That still leaves lots of undeveloped land in the core, a lot of it on the west side of Lyon Street.

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And of considerable public interest, where might a new Library go.
More on that next.