Saturday, November 7, 2009

Landscaping takes root on Preston

One of the true joys of the new streetscaping on Preston street in Little Italy is the abundance of landscaping. The architect has done a marvellous job of squeezing in hundreds of trees (many of small mature size, to fit into small pockets of space) and generous shrub beds. This bed was installed in the spring 09 on part of the street already rebuilt. The rich green shrubs in the foreground are backed up by bright red taller shrubs in the back. This is a pattern repeated in a number of blocks along the street, and is rich in colour and texture all summer and fall.

I usually feel the city is way too timid in its landscaping, reluctant to add or even replace trees because the spaces are "too small" or interfere with sight lines for traffic. The Preston Street experience is refreshing, as it demonstrates that aggressive planting works. I find it interesting to compare Preston with West Wellington in Hintonburg. Preston has way more "soft" landscaping squeezed into corners and in front of buildings. Some of this is due to the lower density of Preston, some is due to the choices of the BIA and community associations that had input into the plans.


  1. I'm surprised to see city landscaping on private property/lawns! I'm not sure I've seen that in Ottawa before? It's a good idea.
    Though perhaps the "common look and feel" of the same three plant species all down the street is a little bit.... bureaucratic. :)

    I'm excited to see the final product. Any idea when we can expect to see arches, art installantion and those swanky interlock areas at certain intersections?

    Good job Preston BIA and others.

  2. The location of property lines is not apparent from the landscaping! All the houses on Preston used to have lawns, gardens, big trees ... all were expropriated by Big City planners who wanted a four lane truck route. So the post-expropriation lot lines remain very close to the houses, often under the verandahs. In short, the city owns right up to the houses. I think it is only right and proper that the landscaping be done well right up to the houses. It is important that we try to restore what was removed before.

    There will be a variety of landscaping shrubs and trees along the street. The planners wanted three different looks and feels along the street - the residential area Somerset to Spruce, a semi-commercial area from Spruce to Gladstone, and a commercial look from Gladstone to Carling. Each area would have different light fixtures, sidewalk textures, benches and shrubs. Residents and the BIA instead wanted something to unify the area, to create some coherent look out of a neighborhood suffering from a grab bag of styles and quality of buildings. Personally, I feel there are still too many paving styles that convey inconsistent messages, but overall the results are fabulous. Preston rocks!

  3. Timing: the concrete curbs and sidewalks and street paving will be done by Dec 14, 2009. Some bits of sidewalk will be temporary asphalt pending further utility work. More fancy paving will be completed in spring 2010, as will all the crosswalks, and finally by June the landscaping will be all installed and the fancy brick intersections installed at Somerset, Gladstone, Beech and entry paving at Carling and Albert.

  4. That's really interesting about lot lines! Thanks for the info.