Thursday, April 30, 2009

How Many LRT Stations are Needed Downtown?

I am a bit mystified about the mini-controversy about how many stations should be in the downtown core. The DOTT plan calls for two, as was shown in the Feb. open houses.

I have heard a number of suggestions we might need 3. I disagree.

Each station will be a entire block long - the "long" blocks in the downtown, ie the east - west blocks (the north south blocks are much shorter). Each station will have at least two exits, most likely near each end. The stations themselves will be very deep down. Unlike Toronto, where the subway is just below the street, ours will be at least six stories deep. Some elevator access will be straight up to the surface, which means there will be two access points to each station, about a block apart. So in the downtown there will be at least four access points to the LRT stations (ie, two per station). From a pedestrian point of view, its like having four stations.

But not all access to the stations need be elevator. Escalators go up at an angle, and from the start point at the station can drift a considerable block or more in any direction as they ascend to building level. Thus there might well be two elevator accesses on say, Albert St, each a block apart, and there might also be another access point or two from Slater or Queen or even further away depending on where the escalators come up. If they come up in a building complex, it will be possible (at least during business hours) for users to travel through the buildings for at least another block indoors.

In sum, two stations, with four access points or more, should be offer frequent enough entrances throughout the downtown core. Each station costs about $70 million.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Corso Italia - aka Preston Street - Closed

Preston Street has been closed to through traffic until December, to permit reconstruction.

Happily, the tree and shrub planting now going on at Plouffe Park and the sections of Preston rebuilt last year, demonstrate that the aggravation, noise, and dust is well worth it.

One of the minor little pleasures last year was the ability to easily stroll across the street just about anywhere that wasn't a pit, without being run over by a bus or speeding commuter.

Transit tunnel success ...

The City today announced its preferred LRT routes and station configurations.

Good news: the major transfer station from buses-on-the-transitway-west will be at Tunney's Pasture, built on the grassy vacant area north of the current station.

Good news: the configuration at Bayview will permit same train access from the (future) southwest transitway / O-Train alignment to the downtown. This means that we can attract larger conventions to the new convention centre downtown as we will have no-transfer-required service direct from the airport to downtown. The configuration at Bayview permits much greater flexibility in train routing.

Bad News: the LeBreton Station is going to be accessed by bus service along Scott-Albert. This will be about a thousand buses per day per direction (I haven't been able to get a straight answer from DOTT about the number). This will impose a severe noise and dust and vibration penalty on adjacent residents for at least two years during construction of the at-grade LRT system and probably lesser volume of buses for decades after.

Good News: the Rideau St station will be at the north end of the Rideau Centre, under Rideau St. Other alignments examined had put the tunnel directly under the Rideau Centre, which had some bad service implications but preserved foot traffic in the mall. Now the Rideau Centre will have to lobby for moving some bus services off Rideau to the Laurier side of the mall. Maybe they could start with the STO service ... I note that the old Union Station is still being identified as a potential Library site.

Mixed News: the LeBreton station will be at-grade, maybe outdoor, until new developments build over it and turn it into an indoor station. At the rate the Flats are being developed, this could be never ... ironically, the City owns and plans to develop the site above and adjacent the proposed station, which bodes even more poorly for its prospects.

To see the powerpoint presentation by the DOTT committee, click on...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fire Station #2

Ladder truck 11 at Fire Station#2 on Preston Street on Monday afternoon. Practice is about all the firefighters could do, since the street was total backup all the way from Albert to Carling.

Preston Streetscaping; Plouffe Park

Trees on Oak St.await planting

Plouffe Park planters planted

While some trees and shrubs were planted on the reconstructed parts of Preston south of the Queensway last fall, the north side did not get any planting done last winter. The crews are busy now planting.

In Plouffe Park, the combination retaining walls and sitting areas have been planted with periwinkle (vinca), which will eventually spread into a thick mat. Pretty blue flowers in the early spring.

A huge number of trees have been delivered and are being stored for now on Oak Street. Tree types include amur maple, ginko, and cherry.

When all these shrubs and trees are planted in the next few days, it will encourage residents and visitors to put up with the construction mess this summer because we can see what a beautiful streetscape it will be.

Chinatown art festival

Here is all about it, from their press release. I am so pleased that Grace Xin has organized this. It should help put our neighborhood and its businesses on the map, and raise awareness.

Exhibits in unexpected spaces: come see original art in the bakery, giftshop, optician, bookstore, grocery, cafe and restaurants in this multicultural village with Asian flavour. CHINATOWN REMIXED COLLECTIVE is pleased to present the works of over 30 contemporary artists. The artists, mostly local, include the likes of HOWIE TSUI, CYNTHIA O'BRIEN and ADRIAN GOLLNER. More than 15 businesses in Ottawa's Chinatown, from Percy St. westward to Preston St. will be showing the art through the month, from May 1st to the 31st. Juried artworks include: paintings, drawings, multimedia works, photography, sculpture, installation and video/film. CARL DAVID RUTTAN's bright whimsical collages inspired by his travels through Asia will hang at Raw Sugar Cafe. ADRIAN GOLLNER's site specific wall decals inspired by pseudo-science and fortune cookies will adorn Shanghai Restaurant. CYNTHIA O'BRIEN's ceramic ducks displayed in Wakiu Grocery windows, will evoke the typical barbecued poultry specimens that whet passerby appetites. DON KWAN's ambient abstract paintings, lights piercing through muted earth colours, will grace the Chinatown Bakery. There's much more to discover at Sushi 88, Jadeland, Umi Cafe, Yang Sheng, My Sweet Tea and more. TOM EVANS' unique photo portraits of Chinatown residents and visitors, NATASHA BEAUDIN's abstract references to body and geography, and PAMELA LAWLER's playful painted explorations of Chinese menu items will all be on display in Chinatown establishments. Ottawa VJs THE LATEST ARTISTs and local filmmaker PIXIE CRAM will bring 'moving pictures' experiences to the Ottawa public. REBECCA CRAIG's paintings in traditional Japanese style and the lively painted compositions of young JAKOB WEINTRAGER (aged 8!) will delight viewers visiting the venues in May. Openings/ Vernissages: Saturday, May 2, 2009. Meet the artists and explore the culinary wonders of Ottawa's Chinatown. Just for the occasion, local drag queen entertainer CHINA DOLL will serenade the public with endearing karoake croonings along Somerset St.CHINATOWN REMIXED is the first event of its kind in Ottawa; this artistic mix-up of culture, art and food promises something for every taste.It is high time to celebrate our city's cultural endeavours.Time to inject into this world a new vitality. For more information, contact:Grace Xin, Somerset St. West BIA director5-299 Bronson Ave.Ottawa, ON K1R 6J1Tel. 613-230-4707Email: info@chinatown.caWeb:

Along the Ottawa River bike path

There were hundreds of these plants in bloom along the Ottawa River bike path on Monday, with thousands more about to bloom. These plants, about 6" tall, grew in the undergrowth of shrubs. I suspect they are orchids. Anyone have a name?

Royal lunch

click on photo to enlarge & read inscription

Along the path on the north side of the War Museum on LeBreton Flats is a tiny plaque commemorating the planting of some trees by Canadian royalty. The tree bark has become lunch over the winter for the inhabitants of the area.

LeBreton Landscaping adventures continue

NCC plantings along new bike path, view from Wellington

Claridge doing nothing yet... this is their green roof

NCC plants up to edge of Claridge condo

NCC trees along north edge of condo

In a posting in March, there were photos of the NCC doing winter landscaping on the Flats. They filled in the depression on the north side of the Claridge condo on Lett St, phase 1 of LeBreton Flats north of Albert. They graded the land to a lawn area, roughed in bike/pedestrian paths, and installed a generous trench of topsoil for a row of trees along Wellington. They are now planting in the new areas.

Note that the new bike path goes nowhere. It descends downslope from Wellington, along the west side of the tailrace landscaping. Once it reaches the Claridge zone, it stops dead. Claridge is supposed to continue the path and install landscaping along the public lands between its building and the ravine, as part of its subdivision agreement with the city. There is no sign of Claridge crews. Once they build their section of bike path, it still won't go anywhere until Claridge builds tower 2 of the current building. There is also no sign of Claridge installing its green roof on the parking garage or in the roof top planters.

All this is in marked contrast to the lot to the immediate west of the Claridge condos. It remains a hole that is more evocative of Khandahar than Ottawa. Anyone want to spend half a million buying a condo with a view of an open pit?

Green Roofs in Ottawa

War Museum

This photo shows the west side of the War Museum roof. This roof is unusual in that it is at ground level at the west edge and slopes up to be an elevated roof. Another section of roof is beyond the office space structure. It is accessed from a north/south ramp and path system that crosses the building at midpoint. Originally designed to "break" the very long narrow building into two, it "completes" the north / south pedestrian circulation scheme on the Flats, should it ever be developed. Two years ago this path was usually open. Now, whenever I go by, it is blocked off by a locked gate.

This green roof was chosen by the architects primarily for its symbolic role, exemplifying the regreening of battlefields. It is not really visible from the front, back, or east end of the museum. Probably the upper floor future condo owners along Wellington will have the main view.

Green Roof examples

Minto Place podium

With this picture, showing the green roof on the podium level of Minto Place, I intend to start a series of photos of existing green roofs in Ottawa. There are over a dozen green roofs I can think of immediately. Most are at the podium or near ground level, where they have a useful aesthetic function.

I took this from the elevator lobby of Minto Place hotel, about the 8th floor. This window also had an oblique view of the similar roof garden on Constitution Square.

While I think green roofs have a function, they are somewhat a solution in search of a problem. If we want to green our city, I think we should make a list of priorities based on a comparison of benefits. I suspect greening parking lots and walls would have a much higher payback than green roofs, especially ones high up on buildings where there is little aesthetic benefit. Lower level roofs have a higher aesthetic payback, are more amenable to supporting wildlife, and offer the same or better rain fall runoff and air cleaning benefits, compared to higher roofs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Magnolia Blossoms on Walnut Court

The magnolia we always went to see on Spruce St seems to have died. But there is this one in Walnut Court just moving into full bloom now. The Experimental farm has a nice collection of trees just above the OTrain tracks near Prince of Wales Drive. Over the years we have identified many magnolia locations and cycle around to see them all. A favorite large tree is on Cambridge a few doors north of Gladstone.

Green Roofs in Ottawa

A view of Minto Place podium green roof, this one showing an area with public access. The three tepee skylights are over the pool over the Hasty Market; the larger skylight on the right is over the main lobby/concourse. A similar green roof is barely visible in the background on Constitution Square. Access to the roof is from the slightly larger tepee skylight which houses a stair up from the pool deck.

I think it is interesting to note how much of the green roof is actually decking and other "not so green" features.

Turtles on the Ottawa River

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Library - Current vs Future Neighborhood

The City still has not announced where the new main branch library will be located. Councillor Chiarelli has said on Ken Gray's blog The Bulldog that he fears it won't be at Bayview. Apparently it will be on a site that is currently a full city block of parking.

If it is located near the downtown core on a block of parking lot, I truly hope it isn't just another low rise such as this city favours so often, but is the base of a residential building. This would move us toward our goals of a sustainable, smart-growth city.

A location on a current parking lot means it won't be at the old Union Station. The DOTT study maps somehow have identified the old station site as a "major civic structure, ie, library".

The Bayview location had the same site advantages as claimed for the stadium and every other idea that comes along: located at the junction of the north/south and east/west and interprovincial transit lines. In this case, it would also be equidistant to both universities. And it would be in the centre of a high density population zone.

The main problem with Bayview is that the urban city hasn't yet been built around it. Therefore the existing centretown residents have the ear of the council when they want the main branch to be their local branch. No one is there to champion the city building exercise that Bayview/LeBreton / Bayview-Carling redevelopment zone so badly needs.

The feds built the war museum on the Flats with great success. It turned a bleak, isolated area to one that is known once again to most residents of the city and visitors. It is a city-building anchor structure, much like a shopping mall needs a major as a anchor tennant. Once the mall has its anchors, they can rent the rest of the space. With the museum built, and LeBreton park started (it is grass with a border of trees, presumably over the years other amenities will appear) it gives residential pioneers something to reassure them that there will be a neighborhood (someday).

The city owns Bayview yards and has developed plans for a residential community there. Its plans call for a major civic structure located at Bayview Station on the west side of the OTrain tracks. Our previous councillor supported locating the library there, as does Chiarelli. I don't see Holmes doing the same given her antipathy to the NCC's development plans. Without a major non-residential component, we run the risk of brownfield redevelopments being just another residential suburb, in this case, a high rise suburb lacking street level vitality. At worse, we will end up with high rise blight like city's built in the 1970s in Toronto and big cities elsewhere.

If a library isn't built as an achor and catalist for urban redevelopment on the west side of the downtown, I hope the city can come up with something in the future ... other than a stadium. Or maybe we will have to depend on the Feds again, if the Museum of Sci. and Tech. gets a Bayview site. And if the library is built in the existing downtown core, I hope it will be an urban structure rather than a low rise.

Somerset Viaduct (Bridge) over the OTrain Line

Somerset west of Preston rises up and over the OTrain Tracks, near the City Centre Building. At the height of the crest, the bridge itself is only about 20' long; the rest of the road is simply a fill between retaining walls. The road was designed long ago and the angle of the slope means that motorists cannot see what's on the road (for eg, a parked car) over the crest. This creates a stopping-in-time problem.

The solution selected by the City is to narrow the road to two lanes for vehicle traffic. The road is wide enough for a bike lane on each curbside, but whether it is implied or will be painted on I do not know. By narrowing the road, moving vehicles are out of the curbside parking lane.

This project is nearing completion. Decorative lampposts and bollards were installed this week.

The south side concrete sidewalks were laid late last winter and the cement did not set well, with the results the sidewalks are spalled and already look a decade old. More curiously, the bridge repairs -- like the ones at Carling and Prince of Wales -- kept the one-OTrain-track-wide size. [in the comments section, I correct this. This bridge is already two tracks wide] If the OTrain is not double tracked or replaced with a double-track LRT for the next 20 years or so (life span of the repairs) then it will have been a cost effective decision to repair the bridges at their current size. But if the OTrain service is expanded or LRT service to the south is resurrected, the newly repaired bridges will have to be torn out and replaced by longer spans to cross the double tracks.

I sincerely hope that at that point the bridges are made another 15' longer to cross a future bike lane that is supposed to run along the Carling-Bayview alignment, although with no Community Development Plan in place, we run the risk of the Chiarelli-era fiasco whereby the bridges were to be replaced but without provisions for bike and pedestrian lanes. That was a near tragedy averted only because the LRT project was cancelled. Will we do better if the project is reincarnated? Our chances are better if we had CDP in place, but as yet there is no sign of one.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New OC Transpo bus routes impact centretown

OC Transpo is proposing some significant bus routes changes that affect our neighborhoods on the west side of the downtown. Comments on the routes must be in to oc transpo by April 25th.

Most significantly, the number 16 would no longer run along Scott nor Albert in the Flats area. It would instead start somewhere in the downtown ( I couldn't find out where on the OC transpo page) and run east only. And number 18 will run only run as far west as Tunney's. These changes are part of OC Transpo's rerouting scheme to reduce the buses that run through the core in favour of routes that deliver people to the transitway and the express buses on it.

A new route, 150, will start at Tunney's and go west approximately on the old 18 route. It appears that OC Transpo is getting a head start on the major transfer facility proposed in the DOTT plan for Tunney's Pasture.

While the goal is laudable, I find a number of things upsetting. First, it assumes all users commute to the core. What of people in the central neighborhoods that want to travel west? While many transpo users are M-F commuters, many residents depend on OC Transpo for all trips. Well, we'll just have to transfer. For those who live beyond an easy walk to the transitway stations, that means yet another bus transfer. And why do the oc transpo web pages highlight the routes affecting the west end neighborhoods but ignore the trips originating in central area neighborhoods?

A stadium for Ottawa

Lansdowne Live? Scotiabank Place? LeBreton - Bayview?

I am not a fan of a new stadium at Lansdowne Park. It is not accessible enough - the neighborhood streets are narrow, local-style shopping and residential streets. It is not on the Qway nor the transitway. Open air concerts and mass public events are just not compatible enough with the residential area. A major park, including residential development (yes, expensive condos) to help pay for it all, is better. A massive city expenditure on a fancy park just for the Glebe, no. I suggest we continue the urban fabric along Bank Street and maybe on the north side too, with condos and commercial spaces sold to fund the development of the parkland. Do a great job, not a cheap job (the condo sales will help determine the budget).

ScotiaBank Place? A better choice than Lansdowne, for sure. It just makes sense for two major sport facilities to use the same parking lot and eventually the same transit station (extend the transitway out there sooner rather than later, bus rapid transit if necessary but LRT would be best). Open air concerts and games would not be so intrusive on neighbors simply because so much space around the Place is commercial or freeway. And we want our suburbs to be more than dormitory dead zones, so putting another major cultural centre in Kanata makes sense in diversifying their/our economy. And if I recall right, Scotiabank Place is pretty much the geographical centre of the city anyway, and stadiums of this size draw from a wide region.

I realize that the recent city report into stadium locations put three highly rated possible locations in my neighborhood: Bayview, Somerset, and Carling sites. Only Bayview seems large enough to me. But I dont want the noise of the open air concerts (Noisefest is intrusive enough, being permitted to exceed the city's noise bylaws by 100% isn't exactly a subtle musical atmosphere). Nor do I really want all the on-street parking that would accompany every game or event. And Bayview isn't on the Qway but it will be the meeting point of the east-west and north-south and interprovincial transit system. I also lack faith that the city could ever develop a dense enough project, that they couldn't really integrate it into an urban fabric - I fear we would have a big building surrounded by dead space and parking lots (see Scotiabank, and any city funded building elsewhere). Smart growth remains all talk, little action in this city.

So, with some misgivings, put it in Kanata.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Floodlights, Plant Recreation Centre

Work crews have removed the old floodlights from the Plant Rec Centre playing fields "Plouffe Park". As of this afternoon, six new posts and new floodlights were installed. Last week, the city removed the hockey boards. On the north side, against the tot lot, crews were busy today installing new chain link fencing to separate the soccer fields from the path and playstructures.

Hopefully, sod will soon appear on the playing fields. It will be great to have a large green space again.

Seeing work done (ie benches, garbage cans, light standards, paving) to bring visible community benefits is so satisfying after spending all last year in the dust and mud of endless sewer reconstruction (necessary, but after its done, there's no visible amenity). I look forward to seeing the new trees turn green and the shrubs go into the planting zones that are now desolate waste strips.

The dust and mud has returned for this year, with crews working from Oak south to Gladstone. They have cut up and removed portions of the sidewalks to install temporary water lines for the businesses and homes on the west side of the street.

Preston Streetscaping Installations

After so many years of planning and nagging and endless meetings, it is so nice to see parts of the Preston Street streetscaping appearing in final form. While one of the sections done last year got its trees but not its shrubs, the northern section go no plants (yet) at all. But this week benches have started appearing. These stylish aluminum slat benches have a centre arm rest. Several matching garbage cans have also appeared. This bench is bolted to the concrete base; in areas paved in brick, some bricks are removed and a discrete concrete base put in so that the bench is bolted to the concrete (if bolted just to a brick, they can be dislodged). The garbage cans are also bolted down.

A number of concrete bases have also been installed for the bollards that go on bulb outs to warn motorists where the curb line is located. These bollards are a much more attractive solution than the city's former use of a steel post with a yellow-black zebra stripe on it (see Rochester St for examples). I find the old posts and signs are so large they actually cause a hazard since they block the view of a person standing at the corner.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More on Roofs, greening, homeowners

Chris asked me if I had considered a white roof. Yes, I did. But first, consider that there are two subjects here: one is replacing the existing roof covering when it is past its prime, the other is adding something like plant sedums in trays on top of the existing flat roof.

The 100,000 sq ft warehouse I view from my 3rd floor windows was redone two years ago in white. Very reflective. I know white shingles on a sloped roof have a drastically shorter life than black shingles, I dont know if a white flat roof is any shorter lived. If I have to redo my flat roof (coming up in the next year or two, or so I have been saying for a few years ....) I will certainly do it in white or green (better to look at). However, sedum in shallow pots has way more benefits ... its very cooling, its green, absorbs rainfall, and it shades the tar roof itself and effectively doubles or triples its life because sun exposure is the principle cause of roof deterioration.

I am also getting an evaluation of my roofs done for PV solar, unfortunately the best sloped roof already has a big dormer on it and a bank of six skylights, thus reducing the area available to put roof PV up; but I could also put them on the flat roof, even though it has a less ideal exposure (SE rather than SW) but it would be best to redo the flat roof at the same time which adds about 7k to the cost.

The roof is well able to carry the weight of the sedum trays etc as they weigh less than winter snow, so IF i took them all down each fall and laid them on the patio, the roof will hold the snow weight, but will it hold both the sedum and the snow if I leave the sedum up there? Unknown; and high risk too! Plus there is the logistics of putting up and down the trays twice a year.

The base of the municipal water runoff problem is that businesses or homeowners that increase runoff pay the same water /sewer charges as do firms that moderate the flow, like MEC or IKEA, ie there is no reward for the virtuous or punishment (cost) to the extravagant. So, Council should tinker with the pricing mechanism of sewers, not go imposing a green roof "solution" onto those classes of payers they feel are the least able to notice or object to being victimized by a discriminatory tax.

Regardless of municipal policies, my green roof interests are motivated both by environmental concern and my pocketbook: trade off the cost vs the benefits.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Today's paper had a major front page story on green roofs ( Apparently Mayor Millar in Toronto is trying to position Toronto as a green sweepstakes winner. Green roofs have a number of widely recognized benefits (and less widely recognized costs) so Council is considering mandating them on new buildings.

Curiously, they propose to exempt themselves from the rule: their new municipal housing would be exempt, as would schools and, curiouser and curiouser: large commercial buildings. The buildings that would be targeted (ie, forced to install green roofs) include condos and retail malls. Note that both of these types of buildings divide up the cost amongst a myriad of smaller space users. Could it be that the Council is trying to conceal the cost from the payers? This slight of hand trys to hide costs from voters, it's akin to opposing the oil sands out west while Ontario burns coal ... or imposing costs upstream on the producer hoping that the consumer won't realize the cost increase was due to taxes.

It seems to me that large sprawling buildings are a better target: wal marts, factories, and schools (which seem to me to be major polluters, but they go largely uncriticized).

And I find it objectionable that Council is trying to achieve policy ends by forcing other people to pay for Council's wishes. A better course would be to charge each new development for its projected runoff. In Victoria, a large condo project with zero run off was exempted from contributing to storm sewer development fees. This puts the onus on the developer to minimize his costs, which may include green roofs, or things like storm ponds, gray water recycling, storm sewer flow capacity regulators, green walls, waterless toilets, meadows, permeable pavements, green parking lots, etc.

And I would like such charges to apply to existing buildings as well. There is no good reason for an older building to be exempted from its environmental costs. I would rather the city decide the cost of dealing with rainwater runoff is $x per cu.meter and charge for the runoff from a site. If the householder or landlord can reduce his costs, they'll go for it.

I spent some time last summer looking at the cost of green roof planting trays, as I have two sections of flat roof on my home. Partly I want to aid water conservation and improve the urban air environment and reduce the heat island effect, but partly I want to reduce summer heat gain on my flat roofs, and by shading them, prolong the life of the roofing material, ie I am motivated. But I found the cost much higher than I expected, and its difficult to calculate the payback.

The key problem as I see it, is that Cities give away or fail to charge correctly for storm sewer capacity. I would rather the City itemize its costs, charge individual users accordingly, and let each homeowner and landlord use their imagination to come up with the most cost effective solution. But as long as sewer capacity is given away or charged arbitrarily based on some criteria other than useage, the sewers will be abused, green solutions will go unimplemented, and heavy-handled politicans will try to garner votes by forcing a select few into an ordained "solution" that is only superficially green.

Spring blooms at the Ex

Snowdrops (?) blooming this week in the Experimental Farm, near the magnolia trees.

Hartwell Drydocks

The Paula D gets her bottom polished while in Harwell's Drydock.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Uglification Award

quality work ...
looking south on Booth

looking north on Booth

Chado and his Cousin Eddy run body shops on Booth Street between Somerset and Gladstone. Let me clarify that these are automotive body shops, thus legitimate enterprises.
If you double click on photo one, you may notice a row of demised trees along the front of the building. Also evident are abandonned tires and what appears to be the remains of a Subway restuarant bench.
Photo 2 shows a tree stump, all that is remaining of a city boulevard tree. There is another one by the Insurance deductible sign. If you look at the next property along Booth Street you will see how large the trees were before they mysteriously died in front of Chado and his Cousin Eddy's businesses. Double click to enlarge each photo and admire the streetscape.
I guess they can save the insurance deductible but not the landscaping along the boulevard. Amongst the garbage and wreckage of a lawn can you spot their tactful, tasteful signage? Does anyone wonder why the condos nearby at Balsam and Booth are selling like hotcakes with neighborhood amenities like this?
It make take a village to raise a child, but this village seems to have adopted the Slob Cousins. I wonder if their groundskeeping is indicative of their mechanical skills.

Bureaucrats are not Marketeers

aquaduct east of Booth
Beirut Flats

When Urbandale or Minto or one of the large reputable developers begins to build out a new suburban neighborhood there is usually some park amenities available with the first phase of the project. Then each year the parkland is further developed as more houses are built. These builders do not say "this is a twenty year buildout, we will do the public landscaping when the construction is all finished..." Developers realize that to entice residents there have to be amenities from day one, with tangible promise of more amenities to come.
Contrast that with the bureaucrats at the City and NCC on LeBreton Flats.There are unsold condos in the first building. It must be difficult for Claridge to sell $400-700,000? condos in a 'luxury' building when the foreground is of ... mine tailings? Beirut before reconstruction? And Beirut was reconstructed faster than the Flats is being built out so buyers will view the open excavations shown above for years if not decades, as there are no immediate plans to develop the twin office towers called for in the subdivision plan.
There is a long-term conceptual plan for building out bike paths and parkland around the development, but each little bit is to be built as the adjacent building is constructed. Did no one ask what use a bike path is if it goes nowhere for 30 years? The pedestrian/cycling Pooley's Bridge, reconstructed at great expense and opened with much political grandstanding before the cameras, remains closed to this day, a bridge to nowhere, unconnected to the paved roads and nearby bike paths because the adjacent lots haven't been built out yet (and there is no schedule for the build out either). NCC concept plans for the project show commercial space in the base of apartment buildings, with cafes along the aquaduct. None of this commercial space will be leasable if the paths are not there, if there is no traffic, no street level vitality.
The aquaduct through the centre of the Flats is to be the spine of a parkland corridor through the Flats, with adjacent pedestrian and cycling paths, leading to a larger park around the inlet pond at the west. The NCC reconstructed and restored the aquaduct years ago, its intended landscaping is nice. But once the politicians unveiled the plaque commemorating the event, the City hasn't been back. Photo 1 above shows typical conditions along the canal: tall weedy grass and shrubs choking out the lilly beds and rose beds. Dead trees have not been replaced. The zone between the bike path and canal wasn't mowed all last year, and the garbage left there after Bluesfest remains to this day.
There have been some landscaping efforts in the area: the tailrace was expensively redone by the City water dept. to reduce the danger of landslides in the ravine (!); the NCC has started landscaping the vacant lot north of the new condos (with bike paths that don't quite connect to any of the other paths or roads in the project); and of course the initial phase of LeBreton park was built as part of the War Museum project. But the spaces in between ... rubble and garbage strewn pits ... segments of abandonned bike paths ...
WWMD? [what would Minto do]: I suspect they'd make sure the designated parkland areas are mowed so they look green and inviting. Bike paths would be connected in areas where construction is not imminent. Trees would be planted now so that parkland is even more enticing when later phases of housing is built (and would thus yield better returns).
If the City and NCC would cooperate on the basic parkland plan exercise, then a few trees could be planted every year, paths laid out and eventually paved. Then in 2020 or 2030 when residents move in they would be attracted by green parkland and mature treed areas. I fear these future residents will only find promises of parkland, pictures of pathway cafes, and the occasional toy tree.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

O-Train right-of-way filled in

The pictured premises are on Somerset St at Bayview. Last year a number of trees on the slope down to the OTrain track (out of camera range, but down slope from the cars) mysteriously died after strange milky white and green fluids were dumped off the edge of the parking lot. Hmm, who knows where those came from?

I guess it's all the sweepings of grit off the parking lot that that have filled in this generous area beyond the paved lot, enough room to park two cars [for now]. I suspect that a picture this fall will show an even larger parking lot, fewer trees on the slope, and a precarious situation for the OTrain track below.

Shrinking Condos

original Z6
revised Z6
The Z6 is a condo building to be built at the corner of Balsam and Booth, facing St Anthony's schoolyard and the yellow brick convent. Photo 1 shows the 5 storey building orignally proposed for the site, having 26 units. The second photo shows the building "downsized" to 17 units, only four floors now, with the rounded cornice line at the front now removed. Construction is to commence 1 May with completed scheduled for spring 2010.
Immediately to the left of the Z6 are a series of land parcels owned by Fanto. They applied for rezoning to permit a seven storey condo at the corner of Balsam and Rochester, with two more 'future' buildings to be built on either side of it. They did not get the desired rezoning, facing opposition from the Councilor and Dalhousie Community Assoc. I gather they are now considering a lower rise building or stacked townhouses for their site.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Landscaping Goes In, Dow's Lake pathway

Recall that in late fall, 2008, the NCC reconstructed the pedestrian and cycling path along the south side of Dow's Lake (along Commissioner's Park). The new path is wider and in many places a foot higher, which should reduce puddling. There are more bench sitting areas too, set back from the path.

Workers are busy this week cleaning up the unfinished details, including laying cobblestones between the path and the Queen Elizabeth Driveway.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vietnamese Museum & Offices

Test drilling has occured at the vacant lot, corner of Somerset St and Preston. It looks like we might soon see the construction of the Vietnamese centre. It will have a museum, office, and meeting space on the upper floors, and one or two storefronts at ground level. It is diagonally opposite the Plant Recreation centre and existing Vietnamese Monument. The garage entrance is off the Preston side. Question: will sewer and water connections be dug before or after the reconstruction and repaving of Preston?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Luigi Makes Appearance on Preston Street

Preston Street businesses and nearby residents are in for another chaotic year. Construction is starting now on the street, and we will be in for a repeat year of holes, mud, dust, and surprises.

As evidenced from the two sections of street that were largely finished in 2008, the results should be worth it. The wider sidewalks will improve street function. The streetscaping is desperately needed.

The BIA is introducing Luigi on construction signs and advertising to add some personality to the situation. I hope Luigi survives the construction and continues to play a role in the community.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wither the Walls?

The first two sections of improved streetscaping went in on Preston Street in 2008 as part of the underground utilities renewal. The remaining three sections of the street will be done in 2009, except for intersection paving which I will address in a separate post.
The second picture (above) shows new concrete walls installed last year in front of residential properties south of the Queensway. There was not time to finish the landscaping last fall, but this spring the lawns will be replaced and shrubs will be planted between the small curb and the base of the wall. The uniform landscape treatment in front of several properties will help reduce visual clutter. The result should be good.
For the sixteen years I have been on the Preston rezoning and streetscaping project, I have always lobbied for including the predominantly residential areas north of Somerset in the project boundaries. This has been a long long battle. One of my objectives was to improve the streetscape and appearance of the dominant row of houses shown above (picture 1). This row of houses, 3 stories high, suffers from neglect, and some uncaring landlords. I think only one unit is owner occupied. I always argued that no amount of streetscaping elsewhere could undo the strong impression this row makes...
Yet the row has lots of potential. Many verandahs have the original wood columns on stone pillars. It could be improved. For several years the City told me they could, as part of the street reconstruction, install a common concrete wall of standardized height and having standardized individual stairs up from the sidewalk to the terraced area. From the terrace at the top of the wall, each property owner would install and maintain their own verandah steps and decorative landscaping according to taste.
Yet in the final open house of the Preston St project held last night, the planners show all the existing mish mash of wooden walls and irregular walk widths and paving materials left in place. When they relocate the sidewalk out about 1 metre from the existing sidewalk, they propose to plant a row of shrubs and a few trees. That's all. I am so disappointed. This is a rare opportunity to improve a frontage that cannot be otherwise done with 1o individual owners and their diverse interests (a number of which seem to focussed on 'spend no money'). If the City has its way, the prominence of this row and the jumble of irregular walls will leave the strong impression on street users that nothing has improved. Thirty million dollars of improvements later, the north end of Preston will remain a blot on the streetscape.

Springtime BIA Banners

The Preston St BIA puts up post banners along Preston. These change with the seasons. On April 1st the Spring Banners appeared along the street.