Barrhaven: Faith in common elements

Ahh, the artist’s image of what the finished project will look like ! Someday. Maybe. We hope.

For now the trees are smaller and the landscaping thinner and gate posts were “valued out”:

The housing cluster is cleverly arranged around a “grand allee”, a pedestrian spine that will be a busy pedestrian access route from off the grounds, from parking lots, or for smaller tykes zooming around on bikes. Here is another access sidewalk, taken from an apartment building common room patio:

I found these walkways attractive and likely to work in achieving a sense of community, a way to meet the neighbours. Well done.

Alas, there are also quite large parking lots. Residents parking adjacent to their homes will have much less interaction with their neighbours:

There is a rather empty grassy area out to the city sidewalk, although the pigeon-view impressions show a dense row of trees along the sidewalk:

above: an awful lot of the site is housing for cars rather than housing for people

Don’t tell T2, but they have community mail boxes ! Presumably the gravel strip is to be paved somehow, or else the boxes are not easily accessible:

The town houses were originally going to have curb side garbage pickup, but that got squashed somehow by the city, and a “secure, safe” garbage room had to be built, occupying precious site space, and deserving of its nickname “the waste chalet”.

As noted yesterday, the towns have some semi-private space near their front doors. No fences. I saw some pride of place by residents:

and I liked the elevated tap location :

The elevated mail box is curious. Some of my neighbours mount their mailboxes up high, so “kids” won’t steal the mail. I’m not sure kids know what snail mail is, and certainly 90% of it is junkmail. And isn’t it usually kids who are delivering the flyers and bird-cage-liner advertising “news” papers? How do they reach the mailbox?

I find it curious to note the periodic cycling through of private vs no private spaces in affordable housing. Public Housing in the 60’s had no fences and no private spaces at all, the theory being that being exposed enforced being neat. Soon the pendulum swung back the other way. Then dense housing projects, like on LeBreton Flats, or Springfield Rd, maximized the fenced space and minimized the common spaces. Fences were also retrofitted to 60’s projects.

I noticed that the more upscale the new urbanism new towns I visit in the USA (and much featured in earlier stories here) the more private areas there are, with generous common areas too. But new urbanism applied to lower incomes resulted in no private spaces at all, many common spaces that looked too large and too barren, resulting in an awful landscape to my eye. The Haven today lacks private outdoor spaces, everything is exposed, but how will it look in 5 years when plant material and trees (hopefully) grow?

Over at one of the apartment buildings, there is a ground floor entry (left) to the bike room; and garbage room (right).

I think the ground has been heaped up around the foundation to reduce the apparent height of the building, or maybe to save on exterior cladding materials, but it does result in ground floor apartments feeling a bit like they are basement apartments rather than ground floor apartments as seem to have been originally planned:

I note they did not try to make the ground floor floor units into a townhouse walk-out style, which is all the planning rage in more urban neighbourhoods. I am curious to know why this is so important in some developments and not important here.

The whole MHI site is non-smoking (anything) and smokers are exiled to the perimeter of the property. Where the grand allee joins an adjacent multi-user pathway, an entry piazza has become the de facto smoking lounge:

Apparently benches are on their way. After all, this becomes a prime meeting site as smokers are sociable folks, or perhaps commiserating folks.  The wall could have been designed as a sitting wall. At least there is an ash tray. Last I heard, city LRT stations are to be No Smoking zones, and no ashtrays or butt catchers will be installed near them because … well, people simply won’t smoke, will they? The Haven is much more practical.

Throughout the site there are generous opportunities to watch the steady stream of airplanes overhead as we are due west of the main runway:

Next: inside the apartment building

8 thoughts on “Barrhaven: Faith in common elements

  1. The smokers being relegated to that spot makes walking along the MUP,especially with children, very annoying. There are frequently people blocking the path and always someone smoking which just isn’t pleasent to walk near.

    FYI the airplanes are at a much higher frequency than normal due to the other runway being out of service at the moment. The opposite was true over the summer, and there was not a single airplane overhead for more than a month!

    1. George: there are a similar number of airplanes landing and taking off regardless of which runways are in use. The planes just fly over different homes. Barrhaven is on a main flight path, except on weekends when planes are rerouted over the downtown neighbourhoods on the theory we cannot hear them. Mind, the plane shown in the story picture was much quieter than the biplane that circles my west side home all day, everyday, or so it seems.

  2. This looks a bit like what I have heard/seen pictures of in Finland, where the vehicles are parked at the perimeter and the the interior of the housing complex is pedestrian/cyclist only. I have asked a friend who hails from Finland to take a look at this article, and let me know how closely it resembles his homeland’s efforts at community housing.

    As for the centralized garbage/recycle pickup spot, let’s hope that the site maintenance team is prompt with the garden hose, to keep the smells etc. at a minimum. I note that in the townhouse complex near my home that they have a number of asphalt pads that residents place their refuse containers at. It seems to work for garbage bags and blue boxes, but less so for black boxes, as the wind is wont to redistribute newspapers and flyers. I don’t recall seeing too many green compost containers. Perhaps this is a function of the difficulty of moving the wheeled green containers over the common area grass/snowfields. If so, this may be at odds with the provincial and municipal mandates to divert more household refuse from the land fills.

    1. Ron: arrangements of housing that prioritizes “social benefits” tends to go thru phases. 1960’s social projects like Rochester Heights or Lowertown followed the same principles as Haven does today. Then those principles went out of fashion, and came in again with the rise of new urbanism. Recall that Parkwood Hills was based on scandinavian examples, and so was Greenboro. I’ve come to the conclusion that the social benefits emphasis tends to often take a similar approach, its like a preferred model to the suppliers, and they market or sell the idea by saying oh wow look this how progressive europe does it. If the residents of the Haven find the lack of private space a problem, it will incent them to move on, making room for newcomers.

  3. Now after “Spreading your wings”, and going beyond your home turf; on your way home from commenting on the Barhaven Community, and other outside places, you might consider doing a piece on the City View Community, and their fight to preserve some much needed park space at 21 Withrow Avenue…”Park Space” and its preservation isone of your pet subjects…remember…!!

    1. How does a private lot qualify as park space?

      And why should the rest of the city taxpayers pay to buy it and turn it into a park for locals?

      More generally, it would be nice if the city had a policy about making such purchases that required cost-sharing by the surrounding community. If they vote to pay some defined portion of the costs and the area is under-served by parks then sure. The second condition seems to be true, but I haven’t heard anything about locals chipping in. Without that it just sounds like a petition to have other people spend their money to put money in the pocket of locals by improving local property values..

      1. 21 Withrow is the old Rogers Estate…2 acres, and a registered house. Every infill dwelling, in City View puts many thousands of dollars into a “Parkland ” account, which should go towards City View’s shortage of parkland…and residents are willing to support the purchase…

  4. I will not rent, (yes some of us can’t afford to buy), a place with no private outdoor space. Our summers are short but what a treat to have our deck done up with containers of tomato plants, lights to create evening ambience and some bric-a-brac to add personality. (This year instead of putting my beloved plastic flamingoes in with the plants I have them all exploding out of a tall basket.) A welcome new take on a kitschy favourite.Plus we have the only deck in the whole row of town homes that is shaded by mature trees. Trees that bring coolness to Summer’s hottest days. That supply background sounds of rustling leaves in a breeze, helping to drown out the noise of trucks on Preston St. Trees that bring birds and squirrels and even a rare chipmunk or two with them. All you need are two or three friends to share the magic

    with you and it is soooo relaxing. Sprinkle in some music, I like Xavier Cugat and Dean Martin for cocktails and perhaps cool jazz or electronica for later in the night. Some singer-song writers from the seventies also lend a quiet beauty to the deck.These summer nights are so soothing and relaxing, we are making an oasis in the midst of the urban heat. The deck also gives us an additional room in warm weather so we can entertain more friends in our small space than we can in the winter.
    I hope I’ve made a good argument for private space. And as for those who don’t like it. Moving on so more can move in, do you really want your neighbours changing all the time or do you want them to stay long term so you get to know them?

Thank you for reading. So what do you think?