Category Archives: intensificatioin

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?

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.


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.



Queensview Station Crossing (part iii)

In the West End, the Confederation Line LRT will eventually extend to Lincoln Fields, then along Pinecrest Creek (where the transitway is) and it will split into two directions from a point north of the Queensway.

One leg will carry on to Algonquin College. The other leg vers westward under a city park and emerges from its underground tunnel between the Queensway and the west end bus garage on Queensview Drive. The in-an-open-cut  Queensview Station ( much like Westboro and Tunney’s Stations) will replace the lawn directly in front of The Brick.

Directly opposite The Brick is The Ottawa Citizen plant, and a bit further west, IKEA.

the brick side


Ground level access from Queensview neighbourhood to the Station will be via a walk in pathway between The Brick and the OC Transpo Garage. And also via the new multi user path coming from the Pinecrest Corridor.

The proposed Queensview Crossing pedestrian and cyclist bridge will run from the Queensview Station directly across the freeway to land approximately between the orange pin and the parked white bus  on the above aerial view. This isn’t as long a crossing of the freeway as the Coventry bridge does, but I expect the bridge will be roughly the same look and feel.


A long inclined ramp will come up from the east side of The Brick property, and stairs and elevators will connect the new Bridge down to ground level and then down into the cut where the centre-platform station will be, directly in front of The Brick’s front door.

On the south side of the freeway, users of the Queensview Bridge south end stairs will have a close-up view of the Citizen loading docks:

citizen side , view

or, if they take the long inclined ramp down to street level, they will arrive on Baxter Road about here:

baxter road towards iris

That’s the Citizen parking lot on the left; IKEA is in the distance to the right, and Iris Street is somewhere ahead.

Presumably sidewalks out to Iris Street will be glued to the Baxter Road curb to make access to the bridge easier. No word if IKEA will build walkways into its store. Hopefully it won’t be a walkway following the circuitous road near the Queensway; I’d rather a more direct one through their parking garage so I won’t get wet or sunburned in the Million Acre Parking Lot. Might be a lot safer too.

Courtesy of Google, here’s an aerial view of the location, looking south. The Queensview Ped Bridge will cross the freeway between the Baxter Orange Dot and the white bus parked in the bottom left corner. The long ramp down brings one out on Baxter just south of the 417 road marker on the picture. Notice, BTW, that IKEA has a heat-reflecting white roof in contrast to the older industrial and commercial buildings in the Queensview area.

aerial, looking south


Here’s the same aerial view onto which I have attempted to draw the new LRT alignment with pink arrows, and show the ramps and Queensview Ped bridge with dotted splots.

my drawing of path, bridge


(My kindergarten teacher knew even then that I should do better …)

Unlike the Coventry Station vicinity, there is no intensification plan for the area. Probably because there is less undeveloped land. However, with improved accessibility via transit plus Queensway exposure, we can expect the industrial properties on Queensview (including OC Transpo’s garage) to be redeveloped starting around 2023. By that point, a number of the buildings will be at the end of their life span.  IKEA also has lots of potential for office buildings and more intensive development on its site. Expect new structures to be built above parking decks, much like IKEA is now.

The residential areas north and south of the Queensway corridor will also come under intensive redevelopment and intensification pressure. These are neighbourhoods of affordable small-ish (by today’s standards) 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s  homes on large lots. The city is almost ready to permit severing corner lots to fit in additional houses; there will be more of the usual Mediterranean style monster homes with multiple garage doors, and probably those modern shoe box infills made of corrugated metal. Tell your friends to buy there now in expectation of rapid price increases.

There are no City claims of a grand Transit-Oriented-Development  plan for the area. Expect to see gradual, incremental change over the coming decades. It will be up to community groups and interest groups to lobby for improved infrastructure for people who walk or cycle.There is certainly abundant opportunity for such improvements.

The new Queensview Bridge in particular makes cycling more viable as it creates an alternative crossing of the freeway, allowing people who ride to avoid the Pinecrest Interchange-from-Hell (although “fixes” are on the schedule for the 2020’s for there too, when the Pinecrest LRT Station is built).


(Part i of this series looked at the Coventry crossing now. Part ii looked at the planned bigger-suburban style intensification plans and laments missed opportunities. Part iii shifts to the Coventry’s cousin bridge at Queensview. ) Use the back arrow below to go back to those articles.


Coventry Bridge, Tremblay LRT Station Underachievers (part ii)


Will the redeveloped Tremblay Station area be better than what is there today? Will there be a wonderful world of tomorrow, or just a bigger – higher – denser version of autotopia?

Here’s a city-provided sketchup of the Tremblay LRT Station (formerly known as Train). Construction starts in December this year, for completion in July 2017. The ring road that services the train station is visible at the top; with the VIA Station at the top right. The parking lot shown is existing, but not for long.

While the main LRT entrance is to the east, by the ring road, there is a secondary entrance shown at western end of that very long train. It is shown going to the parking lot, but when that lot becomes a 30-storey office building, it might be a direct entrance to the building, or maybe even the start of a way to get south, beyond the Via Station, over to Train Yards.

The very nice glass roofed area along the ring road – shown below – doesn’t extend all the way to the VIA Station. The parking lot entrance is too important to interrupt.



Shown below is a Google aerial photo of the area, with the ring road to the VIA Station very visible, the thin line of the Coventry Bridge, and the baseball stadium. Presumably one is to walk out to Coventry Road using the lane in front of the Stadium. Once there, Coventry itself is a pretty typical 1970’s looking and feeling suburban “arterial” (aka traffic sewer, choose your vocabulary).

The City is constructing bike lanes on Coventry, and maybe even some segments of bike tracks (bike lanes set back from the traffic, adjacent the sidewalk, like or Churchill).  Better than what is there now. Note too that in the planning horizon, St Laurent Shopping Centre will expand into the area just right of the orange dot (shown below) and Coventry will be rearranged northwards to go around the New Wonderfully Expanded Parking Lots:

google view neighbourhood


The City has a intensification plan for the area shown above. In big block terms, it is thus:

train, development plans

Those red blocks are 30 storey buildings, one on each parking lot beside the VIA Station, and a bunch behind the Station tracks along Terminal Avenue. The yellow star marks the new Tremblay LRT Station. I expect the area to be a mix of apartment towers a la Hurdman style, and some office towers should / when the Feds need more space. I do not expect it to be a pleasant urban environment, rather it will be, in the suburban vocabulary,  “park like” with separate buildings close together in splendid isolation. Like Hurdman.

Here’s the planner’s porn view, although most of the towers seem underbuilt according to the plan. In some areas, the City considers the zoning height to be the minimum acceptable development, but I don’t know if that is the case here:

train, future build out

A pedestrian connection will be essential to get from the new LRT Station to those new residences and offices, and that is shown on the ped plan by a faint blue conceptual line behind the VIA Station:

train area ped plans


Otherwise, the ped plan just shows sidewalks glued to the edge of the roads. Where people want to drive, people who walk must want to go to too. What’s good for cars is good for walkers.

It certainly isn’t Transit-Oriented-Development, or ToD. It is typical last-century road- oriented development parcels that happens to be near a transit stop.  There is nothing organizing or focussing the area around the transit station, or making walking a priority, or encouraging development from the pedestrian / transit spine outwards. Where is that broad pedestrian avenue, lined with Tim Horton’s, with day care  and a senior’s residence and parkettes and ponds and trees and cafe’s??

(Go back and look how Portland does real ToD better, read  three stories here:

In Ottawa, walking is squeezed in as an after thought to motoring. Why isn’t there a big bold blue STRAIGHT-ish  line showing a pedestrian spine running from Coventry, in front of the Stadium, over the bridge, crossing the LRT Station, and  through / beside the VIA Station over to Industrial Avenue? The very crookedness of the City’s current path, its interrupted nature, it’s deviousness, reveals all. Potemkin village ToD. Faux Urbanism. Traditional suburban sprawl writ big.

There is a plan for people who bike, too. It also starts with the motor vehicle plan, and grafts onto it some sharrows and minor facilities. Better than what’s there now, which is nothing.

train area cycle plans

Despite the million dollar Coventry Bridge, there is no bold cycling spine through the planning area, nothing to lead one to want to cycle to the Stations. There will be a devious wiggly route for the truly deluded people who will cycle here. This plan is a sad under-reach that results in under-achievement (pardon my mincing words here).

Look at that sketchup once again, and see if you can spot the transit-oriented plan? If you block out the LRT Station with your finger, would the plan look any different?

train, future build out

On a more cheerful note, maybe it will be years before the area redevelops, and the plan might be updated. There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere.

Next:  Queensview ped bridge:  deja vu all over again?


Building a Better LeBreton, part 9, Walking Portland’s SouthWaterfront streets



The South Waterfront neighbourhood is very well landscaped. Intensively landscaped, with interesting bits of planters, plants, gardens, courtyards, and squares tucked into the smallest corners. The contrast to Ottawa’s LeBreton Flats couldn’t be stronger.

Some of this may be due to a milder climate in Oregon. Or a project that has had vegetation in the ground and growing for longer. Or maybe a much more generous budget for greenery. The Flats look good on paper, and on the ground the “right elements” are laid out, but the execution makes me wince and thus far is poorly maintained. The City has totally neglected its parkland space along the west ridge of the Tailrace. Where is the tot lot or sandpit? Or park benches? Does the NCC and CIty really believe a usable bike and pedestrian path network can be built in 100m segments opening years — decades?? — apart?


above: sidewalks are broad and generous, not limited to two metres width. Better than normal inscribed joints cut the cement. Trees grow by the curb, which the City of Ottawa strictly forbids on the Flats (are there any other neighbourhoods in the City where that restriction is in force?). Note the close proximity of trees to curbs — Ottawa insists on 18-24″ from the curb to the plant zone, and the tree set back further than that. That setback may be to push the tree back from the salty snow, or it maybe catering to the convenience of motorists by giving them a generous car door opening zone.


above: townhouse units, apparently two stories high, line many of the side streets. These barren porches shown here reflect a limited understanding of how to make those spaces work — other buildings were much better implemented.


above: a turning circle in front of an apartment building. Note the benches. Has anyone ever seen a bench around the condos on our LeBreton Flats? Or a play structure? Or large flower pots?


above: a more established block, with vegetation screening the patios from the mews lane (combined walkway and local car access — note the pedestrian feels comfy taking the centre of the right of way). These patio spaces are like front porches of old: semi public, semi private spaces, set back just the right distance and elevation from passersby.


above: the condos closest to the waterfront were obviously very high end. Notice the large patio and large balconies, and the public bench with a backrest and no anti-street-people “armrests” in the centre.  The landscaping showed every sign of being maybe one year old and not yet established or spreading.


above: drainage swale


above: generous patios behind a grassy, naturalistic landscape, fronting onto the riverside park. The mixture of naturalized grass and concrete walls looked well done to provide for the plants and control humans from trampling the vegetation.



above: two very nice block-sized parks were already in place in the centre of the built up area, being the roof vegetation of an underground car park for the medical building. Along the waterfront — shown above — construction of a sophisticated array of lighting, benches, gathering areas, planters, separated bike and pedestrian paths, dog walk zones, etc. was still underway in August 2014.



below: generous size balconies on the lower floors cater to those who value private outdoor space and can pay for it. Upper floor balconies tended to be smaller, altho all these ones are more generous than one usually finds in Ottawa:



A “main street” through the neighbourhood has busier vehicular flow and storefronts all along the various facades. Curiously, many ground floor levels didn’t match the sidewalk elevation, requiring ramps and creating awkward spaces. Can’t we design buildings with ground floors to match the planned walkway grade? Note also the recessed parking bay, power boxes in the tree wells, and awnings.



below: a side street / mews with a very lush planting and interesting tableau in a very small area. The underplanting is new and hasn’t yet grown to form a full groundcover. I did not notice any guards to prevent people from peeling the white bark.



below: A courtyard nestled into the crook of a multibuilding complex combines planting, shade, a sunny patio, outdoor animation. Cleats on the centre planter deter skateboarders.



below: low rise building above condo store fronts. Several buildings had what I thought were “temporary” ground floor uses, like college gathering areas, architects’ open commons office areas, etc. This reinforces the need for flexible zoning so that spaces can evolve, maybe from residential when the neighbourhood is young, to commercial space later on as the area populates and people learn to seek out local sources.




below: a fully occupied  commercial strip along the main street. The businesses (hair salons, eateries, dentists, lawyers, realtors, architects, financial advisors, montessori school) seemed to have custom, people obviously use those large balconies, creating a nascent “real” traditional main street. Architects’ drawings are nice, actual animated streetscapes are nicer.




below: these people are sitting on very large wooden storage boxes outside the montessori school. I suspect they house toys, strollers, or whatnot. I notice throughout the states that daycares and grade schools may offer secure or weather-sheltered stroller and bike storage. Note also the broad canopy over the sidewalk, making it partially sheltered from rain or snow.






below: there was a daycare facility in a repurposed building near the entry transit plaza. It had giant roll up garage doors so that kids played indoors in fresh air. Note also how close the daycare is to the sidewalk and traffic and other people, not fenced off or segregated. Looking inside the window, you can see another open garage door to the side play yard.




below: one side of the medical building had this enormous PV solar array, 60 kW. It looked to me that the arrays might be motorized, to tilt to the optimum angle to catch the sun, although all of these are in the horizontal position where they act as brise-soleils for the south facing facade. The building resuses its own wastewater, with minimal discharge to the sewers.





Windmill developments uses pictures from Portland’s South Waterfront to illustrate what they plan for their Isles development in Ottawa.

I wondered as I wandered the South Waterfront whether the increased density generated the money to provide the lush landscaping and quality exterior spaces. Would a higher density Flats make for better public spaces? Or is the Portland environment a product of the affluent sponsors and market value of the development, ie it is a more expensive place than the Flats.

Of course, no self-respecting new urban place can be without the requisite farmers’ market:



For those long suffering readers than are confused by my walkabout, note the following map: the first story arrived over the i5 ped bridge shown in light gray at the top left, where we had great views down into the South Waterfront aerial tram terminal. Streetcars arrive from the direction of the Ross Island Bridge, proceed straight down SW Moody, loop over a parallel street (follow the faint gray arrows on the map) and come back up by the parks to circle around the H for Hospital building back into the plaza. We walked the high-rise lined streets between the Carruthers park and the River, with a brief look at the low rise buildings (did I see yellow brick?)  at the bottom of the Moody loop:


map of south waterfront, portland


This concludes the overview of Portland’s South Waterfront district. I hope it gives you some ideas of what the Islands project by Windmill might look like, or the next phase of LeBreton, of what LeBreton could have looked like if we had chosen to go with more high rises in phase 1. I hope this helps the discussion of Building LeBetter Flats here at home in Ottawa.

I have lots of other pictures of Portland parks, the SW Waterfront green space, etc but it is time to move on to other subjects.

Next: extending the OTrain Trillium line south…




Building LeBetter Flats, part 7, the view from Portland

Portland, Oregon, is often referred to as a city that has gone further with “Smart Growth” than other cities. It promotes transit by train, streetcar, bike, and aerial tram. It has numerous award winning downtown parks and redevelopment sites. IMO, its planning reputation and branding sometimes exceeds its delivery.

One site in particular is comparable to LeBreton Flats in terms of location (just outside the downtown core, on former industrial lands), although Portland’s South Waterfront is twice the area (402 acres vs NCC’s <200 acres). Portland’s has room to expand as it takes over adjacent industrial users; the NCC’s site abuts additional development lands: the Islands development area, the Gatineau shoreline, and Bayview Yards.

Here’s two aerial views at the same scale:

Side by Side Portland Lebreton Flats


Portland leads redevelopment with transit infrastructure. South Waterfront construction began in 2004; the streetcar connection to downtown arrived in 2006; and the aerial tram opened in December 2006. LeBreton led with road development (the Parkway / Wellington), the 2009 north-south LRT line having been aborted by the City.

This transit oriented development in Portland can be explored first by “arriving by transit”. A long pedestrian bridge crosses the i5 (opened in 2012) that connects the area to the established communities on the other side of the freeways and upslope from the river edge flats. The aerial tram, opened in 2006, carries over 1million passengers per year, many of them students or hospital users, as the uphill station is the main campus of Oregon Health and Sciences U and the lower station is the start of their campus expansion.



Looking over the edge of the bridge to the freeway(s):




The aerial tram was largely funded by the University, and student/staff passes account for many users, ie the U pays for operations too. Non-U folks can buy a $4.35 round trip ticket. The tram rises 500′ in a run of 3300′; each car carries 57 people for the 4 minute trip. Cars leave on demand (if full), or at 6 minute frequency. The upper campus is severely underserved by roads, being on a mountain top, so the connection to the urban transit network via the aerial tram is very valuable.

The freeway ped crossing is directly under the tramway. At the South Waterfront end, there is a single elevator and a stair down to the ground level transit plaza. Just before getting there, here’s a glimpse to the pedestrian’s right side,  into the South Waterfront redevelopment area:



(below):  From the top of the bridge stairs there is a view directly down to the transit plaza. That is a working shipyard immediately to the left, building barges. That 33 acres site will soon be redeveloped for more condos, which I think is a bit of a shame since our very-urban office-dwelling society is deeply severed from industrial work. The NCC, of course, is busy in Ottawa since Greber times to destroy all evidence of industry.




The transit plaza has oodles of bike parking close to the tram/aerial bridge. Cyclists were using the bridge elevator. The dark gray lines border the single streetcar track that arrives from a parallel road one block beyond the building, and circle the building through a pedestrianized plaza. On the near side of the road, streetcars continue  onwards through the redevelopment neighbourhood to the right..

The bike parking facility offers valet parking and bike maintenance while you are at school or work or getting operated on in the adjacent hospital:



Portland maximizes exposure to its transit facilities with very large red “Go By …” neon signs at various points around the city. These are examples of conspicuous city branding.




(below) an example of shared use space, with pedestrians wandering over the streetcar tracks. I cannot imagine our traffic engineers approving, since there are (blind!) turns in the track, one might trip on the rail, etc. etc.




(below): look closely at this entry-plaza point from the i5 ped bridge down onto the transit plaza and gateway to South Waterfront district. A bidirectional bike track arrives from the left, and crosses the road at a crossride while a portion of the track continues onwards to the right (the bike traffic from the right approaches from the far side of the road). Note the presence of a bus shelter; simple bar railings keep the cyclists and transit waiters separated. There is a raised crosswalk marked where pedestrian paths cross the bike track, but the two are adjacent and not fenced off throughout their parallel lengths. The cycle tracks are depressed just where they go behind the transit shelters, discrete and effective means of lane control.




(below): this somewhat dizzying photo captures the rest of the sidewalk and bike track off to the left of the above picture. The cycle track is separated from the walkway by a gray brick strip, but in the higher conflict zone approaching the bus stop and crosswalks, the track is channelized. The streetlamps are in a classic streetcar era format, in a later story I’ll show you the same design that used to be on Somerset Street.




Here’s a closeup of that shipbuilding operation doing its thing, building a Columbia River barge:




(below): a closer view of the transit plaza. A tram is in the station. Each car carries 79 people. Plaza users have an open view into the shipyard (no giant board fence or tree screen).




I was really interested to notice the cycling signage. It is clean, slick, modern. It is of a scale suited to pedestrians and cyclists.


IMG_1764The scale of the new signage system contrasts with the former signage, now painted out, which is of the freeway or motorist scale currently used in Ottawa:



I really liked the new signage both for its appropriate scale and modernity. I cannot imagine we would use something like it because we are tied to the Ont Traffic Act and dominated by motorist standards and mindset at City Hall. But we can be inspired by what others do.

(below): Looking off to the right from the foot of the i5 bridge crossing, the separated cycle track merges onto the road via a buffered transition zone and becomes a bike lane on the quieter local street. If you squint hard enough, you can see the cycle track rises to the level of the crosswalk (also visible in previous pictures). The whole plaza struck me as extraordinarily well thought out, and very very Dutch.



Here’s a streetcar coming around the building alongside the aerial tramway station:




next: buildings, parks, sidewalks … seeing more of how Portland builds a better Flats.


Building LeBetter Flats, part 5, The Isles

The projected build out of Albert and Chaudiere Islands * starts with the material already at hand, ie the existing buildings.

The former brick and stone mill buildings will be converted to commercial uses, starting in 2015. These offer the quickest revenue opportunity for the developer, Windmill, and I imagine it is much easier to attract firms rather than condo residents. Particularly hi-tech-y firms which show a propensity to edgy industrial sites in other cities in part due to their often young employee age group and non-conventional self-image.

The first buildings to be converted will most likely be on Albert Island, immediately behind the War Museum. The Island is small, making it easier for the developer to digest and get the project going. The existing two buildings are right on Booth Street; a single new building is proposed at the western tip of the Island, right behind the Museum:

3b sharper aerial image from windmill

zooming in closer, the Museum is at the bottom of the picture, Booth Street on the right; and the new ped-cyclist bridge to the island over a control dam is shown on the left (previously subject to this story: :

3c albert island close up


The space between the two old buildings the developer proposed to glass-in to make it a four seasons courtyard. The Isles location is windy, and often considerably colder than the rest of the city (it is no coincidence that the Flats was both a cold sink and slum at the same time). This is a brilliant solution to the challenges of the location, amps the glamour aspect, and makes the spaces useable year round. Here’s an artist’s impression as seen from Booth Street just leaving the Ottawa shoreline behind the Museum:

11b windmill photoshop, entry plaza

The large glass roof is an artist’s impression, lacking as it does much in the way of structure to hold it up. Note that the outside traffic lane on Booth Street has been converted to a bike lane appealing enough for parents to use it with children (more on this in a bit). The occupants of the buildings will have water views just inches beyond their windows, which should be very dramatic and marketable.

Moving into the courtyard:

13 inside the entry plaza courtyard

The proposed indoor / four season plaza will be very welcoming and worthwhile destination on the Islands. The reddish hue to the brick suggests the old buildings are red brick underneath all that gray paint that was slapped on to tidy them up in time for the opening of the War Museum. Again, the glass roof is miraculously unsupported, but it is a marketing picture (selling the project for approval to regulators) and is not intended to be 100% realistic.

Moving on towards Chaudiere Island, the screen grab below shows the dense pattern of high and medium rise buildings proposed. These will be a mix of commercial buildings (offices, hotels, retail)  and condos. The prime location, with immediate water views and views of the downtown, mean these will be higher end buildings. There is no social housing component that I am aware of. Will any of these units meet the City’s housing affordability standards? (Claridge does on the Flats; at a recent Windmill open house I couldn’t get an answer to that).

5 islands themselves, photoshop, closer up


As yet, there is no public info as to the proposed palette of materials for the building exteriors. The current Flats projects are mostly brick exteriors, albeit in less-than-popular [NCC-mandated-] yellow and brown. Windmill’s other projects in Ottawa are often brick-free, for eg The Current (home of GCTC, at Holland/Wellington) and The Eddy (Wellington at Spadina). Even their high-end downtown Cathedral Hill condo is mostly clad in metal and panels, with some black brick accents, and stone at the street level. When I look at a number of buildings in Ottawa with metal panels that fade over time, and so-called long-life exterior panels that seem to be delaminating after a mere five years, I am somewhat concerned about the exteriors.  I also suspect that some of these artist impression concept drawings violate Ontario’s new restrictions on how much glazing can be on condo exteriors.

All the concept drawings show Booth Street put on a road diet to two lanes, with some of the existing road asphalt converted to bike lanes and wider sidewalks. There is a third lane shown through Chaudiere Island, presumably it is a left turn lane:


6 chaud bridge closer in

and closer to the historic metal bridge over the main channel:

6b closing into the chaud bridge


Here’s the bridge after the road diet, with two lanes of traffic, and a green bike lane on each side. It is painted green in this illustration simply to emphasize its presence, since in practice Ottawa doesn’t do green lanes except at selected intersections. I hope these will be cycle tracks similar to Churchill Avenue (set back from road by curb and utility poles and plantings), rather than asphalt lanes designed only by a painted stripe that motorists view as invitations to convenient curbside stopping.


7 bike lanes on bridge


The bridge isn’t wide enough for both bike lanes and sidewalks, so the walks have been cantilevered off outside edges, which apparently doesn’t affect the bridge’s  ‘heritage’ designation (the same is proposed for Bank Street over the canal):

7.1 canteliever of ped lanes


On the north end of the metal bridge span, the roadway continues to split into two narrower bridges with a void in between them. Terraces de la Chaudiere is clearly recognizable on the left, and new buildings on the right:

8 far side of the bridge bike lanes



Windmill is proposing a number of buildings on Chaudiere Island and the Gatineau shoreline. They have artist’s impressions of the building sizes (the exterior designs are for marketing purposes only) and the spaces between. Here are few screen grabs of these elements:

15 another view of mixed heights, mod bldgs


The Gatineau side is not the subject area of this blog, but it too is quite dense with a series of tall buildings and shorter ones. Considerable care appears to have taken to maintain view lines and easy access to the shoreline, with multi user pathways along the channels and river.

16 highrises, gatineau side


Artist impression of a residential courtyard: The NCC Flats project has similar courtyards, albeit without a stream but with an occasionally-working fountain. This illustration could apply pretty much equally to either the Isles or the Flats:

16b sidewalk view, their photo


In summary, the Isles project appears to me to be very similar to the Flats project already under way. It appears to be more dense, with buildings closer together than the LeBreton Flats project. In fairness though, Claridge and NCC are apparently in talks to increase the density of the existing Flats plan, and one eight storey building just completed started out in the plans as a four storey, grew to six, then eight.

The water itself is a form of open space, and occupants of The Isles will pay for a water view. As shown before, the Flats apartments also have wonderful water views, but are set further back from the waters edge where it is warmer. In an urban environment, the road allowances, such as Wellington and Booth, also become open spaces between buildings.

photoshop closer up, islands


I’m optimistic The Isles will develop into an attractive urban environment, reasonably well integrated with the adjacent Flats project  (provided the NCC doesn’t insert more of their often-sterile / dead green buffers between the two — I hear rumours of yet another green space on the southwest side of Booth/Wellington to enhance motorist views of the War Museum, which would further push these two communities apart).   I’m even optimistic that, in the long run, Booth Street through the Flats will be tamed — probably long after I’m dead — after the City’s insensitive rebuilding of Booth starting January 15th into a four lane Bronson-style highway to nowhere, sans bike tracks.

I am even cheerful that the proposed building heights for both the Flats and Isles top out at the low twenties (for now). Compare to Preston-Carling area where Claridge’s now-under-construction ICON building, at 45 stories, will someday be topped by Richcraft’s Carling Station  condos going to Planning Committee in January to approve 58 stories, with a second tower in the low 50’s and the “little” 18 storey building which is growing up to 30. Arnon, owners of the property on the west side of the OTrain Station, will surely seek the same heights.

The Flats and the Isles have come a long way from their industrial past:

30 historic aerial photo from windmill



A note on picture sources: the sharp images generally come from site and their planning applications. The fuzzier pictures are screen grabs from their photoshop-animation movie shown at a recent open house in Gatineau. The whole movie should be on their website in late January or February. I copied the whole film off the screen at the open house, but the quality is too atrocious even for my You Tube.  





* The Isles site does not include the big Victoria Island where the Carbide Mill is and Aboriginal Experiences site nor the Aboriginal Embassy site

Industrial Chic: where-ever you can find it

Thanks largely to the NCC’s penchant for eliminating Ottawa’s industrial heritage, we have extraordinarily few industrial sites to convert into condos, lofts, or trendy retail.

A few years back, retail pioneers took over industrial space on Elm and Spruce Streets. The trend then spread to the adjacent City Centre building which has many great industrial features: high ceilings, cheap space, lotsa concrete surfaces. I used to joke the only thing it was missing was Stephen Beckta.

A similar trend has taken over the industrial garages on Beech Street, east of Preston. The baseball bat factory gave way to architect’s offices (certain similarities in function there…) and some food establishments that probably depend a lot on the lunch crowd from NRC next door.


Latest on the block is Beechbone, an offshoot of Whalesbone. Currently open just 11 to 4 on weekdays, it’s rather like an oversize food truck. Only two inside tables, plus some outside picnic tables,  it offers fresh seafood take out.



As for converted lofts, our own “distillery district” or warehouse district … not likely unless someones makes new “old” buildings. The recent sneak peek at a twelve storey condo project in the ‘hood was pulled back by the developer for some re-cladding when the preview audience panned the [somewhat annodyne] modern exterior in preference for something grittier and more reflective of the neighbourhood heritage. This doesn’t mean “faux historique”, of course: just look at the Urban Kaos-designed red caboose building at Breezehill and Somerset to see a neat spin on industrial chic.

The new Tamarack building proposed beside the Grace Hospital has a facade that is alternating planes of old industrial and very modern.

tamarack grace


I like the old industrial bits best. What do you think?