Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bird sightings along the Ottawa River

The first photo shows a black cormorant ( I think ... I googled the name and it seems to me to match) on the Ottawa River near Lemieux Island. If I recall correctly, cormorants are rapidly becomming an invasive species and are moving en masse into the Ottawa area having already over run the Great Lakes. It seems bird populations have bubbles just like our economy. Back in university, didnt they call it the boom/bust cycle? I first saw these birds about 3 years ago, there were a lot more last year, and this year I see them by the dozen, especially on the islands frequented by gulls between Parkdale and Lemieux Island.


The second picture shows another type of comorant, the mechanical yellow one, on search and rescue mission along the Ottawa River.


Unfortunately I do not have a photo of the birds that excited me the most. Whilst taking the 95 to College Square along the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway, I saw two wild turkeys. Just west of Dominion Station, they were in the median feeding, and were simply huge. Much larger bodies than the Canada Geese so common along the paths. Upon seeing them my mind went through the quick ID list: crows? too big. Geese? too black, too big. Then I saw the wattles, and in profile the birds look just like the ones drawn on kids' colouring sheets at Thanksgiving time. Now, if I had been on my bike instead of the bus, I would have had time to get out the camera and take a picture, instead of talking of them.

Small Lot Water Retention

1.gravel fill

2.vegetation coverage

3. front yard hosta on red stone mulch

4.pea stone driveway

5.permeable pavement patio old water barrel

7.gravel drip line along garage

I think it is possible to retain almost all of the water that lands on a lot. The biggest benefits come easiest: reduce impermeable paved areas, provide soft areas to absorb rain, store rain on site.
The above photos all come from my 29x100 downtown lot. The lot line is less than 2 feet from the city sidewalk. Photo one shows a retaining wall under the fence at the back lot line, with 3' of gravel fill in front of it for sharp drainage down into the subsoil. The flagstone path and ground cover let moisture sink in quickly.
I have no lawn, only garden plants. Stepping stones provide access, so the soil never compacts. While grass is OK as an absorbant surface, I prefer perennial plants. If they dont thrive, they dont survive.
My little front yard is 100% planted, and there is a permeable pavement walk to the porch. All the rain from the second floor verandah runs onto the first floor verandah and then into the red stone front garden with its hostas and ferns and japanese lilac tree. This system absorbs 100% of the rain from the verandah roofs and what falls on the garden, including snow melt.
My driveway - picture #4 - is made of 10" of peastone laid 20 years ago. As fast as it gets rained on, it drains down into the earth. Once a year I loosen the stone with a fork and pick out the grass or other weeds that have moved in.
My patio is made of permeable paving blocks. The joints are quite wide, filled with sand. The whole thing is on a sand bed on top of a gravel base. It is new, and I was anxious to see if I had graded it enough for run off, so twice I have gone out in the midst of those heavy downpours to check on the water. Amazingly, it just runs down into the earth, between the stones. There was no running stream of water downslope to the driveway. BTW, the rubble-stone basement is dry.
I have a single water barrel that fills up very quickly when it rains. I hope to link two more together to retain more water, because I am cheap and that will cut my water and sewer bills. Overflow runs onto another patio, which sometimes puddles in the rain, but it drains down within a half hour or so. None of this water runs overland onto adjacent properties. I have evestrough on one side of my pitched roof, which drains to the flat roof, which drains to the water barrel and patio. The other side of the house pitched roof drips onto my neighbours paved driveway and runs onto his back lawn. Between the pitched roof and the flat roofs, I capture about 60-75% of the roof rain. The flat roofs are slightly concave, and puddle about two inches deep, and drain off slowly after it stops raining, so I can keep 100% of light rains and a bit of heavy rains.
My neighbors garage is shown in picture 7. It is on the lot line. I put recycled red stones (a curbside find) along the garage with landscape fabric under it to control weeds. I take all the rain that lands on the slope that comes towards me and direct it into my periwinkle and lilly beds.
For my flat roofs on the back addition, I have been researching green roof systems suitable for residential installations. I will shortly be building a few shallow boxes/trays for sedums, which I will pop up onto the flat roof to green it and experiment to see if they will retain enough water to survive, since I certainly wont be watering there.
If I can retain a very high percentage of rainfall on my small lot, it should be a lot easier to retain it on larger and suburban lots (lower ratio of building+driveway to vegetated area). Of course, there are other variables, such as subsoil conditions, what is upslope or downslope, and the amount of care the property owner is willing to put in. But the very basics - reducing impermeable surfaces, storing roof runoff, having permeable landscaping - do not require special skills or knowledge and could easily be the "norm" for builders and homeowners alike.

Flooding Responsibility

I feel empathy for the residents flooded in recent heavy rains. I live in a neighborhood area that has suffered sewer backups/flooding in the past (although not this year that I know of...). I dread the thought of having to tear up my basement etc.

But a common thread throughout the media reporting on the flood really bothers me. "The City should ... the City must ... it's the city's fault..." Why are we so quick to blame the City and want taxpayers to cover the cost of our personal losses?

All over the City, in surburban or urban areas, I see a larger percentage of the lots being paved over or built over every year. Cars, it seems, can no longer be parked on gravel. Houses get bigger and bigger, with roofs that channel water to the curb. Grass gets torn out to be replaced with easier maintenance pavement.

Rather than building huge new sewers to carry off the rainfall, maybe we should be looking at better building, retrofitting drainage patterns, and a new attitude.

Better building means grading neighborhoods to retain water rather than run it off. We are part way there with playing fields and parks being given double use, for sports and for water storage. The soccer fields at my neighborhood park (Plouffe Park, behind the Plant Rec Centre on Preston Street) were just lowered 3 feet and regraded to accept any storm surge that comes down Preston (the park is at the lowest point in the neighborhood. It is the lowest point because its natural drainage to the west was blocked off by developments raising the ground level and the City raising the road). I notice the park in Sandy Hill near Ottawa U has also just been rebuilt as a storm basin.

We need more of these storm ponds. And they need not be just in parks, they can be along hydro rights of way or the OTrain. We are at the tail end of a generation of city planners and residents who want all water to drain away fast. We dont like puddles or ponds or creeks. As a youth, I used to live in a west end neighborhood when it was new. Residents paid extra for creekside lots, then promptly filled in the shoreline to make it hard and level for more grass lawns. It no longer looks like a creek or functions like one, it is a sad three sided culvert that is open at the top. Pinecrest creek was recently "improved" with stone sides, when it needs to be widened in places to cope with the surge. Of course, the creek itself disappears into a sewer near Woodroofe HS. (Should I start a facebook site to identify our lost creeks and streams and get them uncovered?).

And this brings me to homeowner responsibility. Its OK to let there be a puddle on the lawn for a day or two after a heavy rain. Really. And for neighborhoods like McKeller Park which when built commonly had their roof gutters connected directly to the sewers, well those environmental practices are now seen as so stupid. Lets take it to the next step. I suggest that the appropriate standard is that NO property should be permitted to rapidly drain off rain water. If it rains on your lot, hold the water. Let it percolate into the soil slowly, or run off gently into surface creeks. This will mean more water barrels or cisterns. It will mean some soggy lawns. Driveways and parking spaces should be permeable pavements, not impermeable ones.

And the City should do its bit too. Stop paving roads with rapid drainage to the catchbasins. Make the basins 5 feet deeper, so the first rainwater stays in the basin and then soaks into the groundwater. Require sidewalks that are permeable concrete (as fast as it rains on the sidewalk it goes straight through into the ground). Require large parking lots at industries, apartment buildings, and shopping malls to have permeable zones where rainwater will reenter the groundwater rather than run directly to a storm sewer. Require all new construction to catch and release the rainfall slowly. Its not all that difficult for most areas of the city.

The natural response of people with flooded basements will be to aggravate the problem by regrading their lots to drain away the water faster, to direct the downspouts directly to the street, when I think the better response is figure out how to keep the rainfall in the neighborhood. It will require some imagination and collective action.

These measures are not an instant solution. Nor is building more larger sewers to shove the water downstream to the next neighborhood. Which way to we want to go: more pavement, more fast drainage into bigger sewers; or slowing down the runoff so it isn't a problem in the first place?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Festival Externalities

Every festival has impacts external to the site it operates on. These get managed in different ways.

Winterlude and the Tulip Festival have numerous events along the canal, abutting neighborhoods like the Golden Triangle and The Glebe. For both these festivals, shuttle buses run along the canal to get crowds to and from the event sites. This distributes parking impacts over a larger area. It also means the City Hall garage and Lansdowne Park parking lots get used.

For Bluesfest, there are no shuttle services, leaving adjacent neighborhoods to suffer from a huge influx of parkers. This is most noticeable in the Dalhousie neighborhood immediately to the south of LeBreton Flats, and Hintonburg to the west. As a resident of Dalhousie, I am astounded at how many people cruise the streets at 8.45 pm expecting to find on-street parking in the first few blocks from Bluesfest, and then expressing their frustration by driving aggressively or parking on the boulevards or paths and right on corners.

The Glebe even gets some its streets temporarily privatized during the festivals, with guards and barriers to control access, keeping out the general public and limiting access to invited guests. There are no similar controls for the neighborhood to the north of Dows Lake, which is Dalhousie again. What's the difference between the north (Dalhousie) side and south (Glebe) side of Carling Avenue? Would it be that houses on the south side sell for $900,000 and up and on the south side for $250,000?

Right after the Bluesfest, there was the Classical Series on LeBreton Flats. Sponsored by the NAC and NCC, the concerts attract smaller crowds than Bluesfest, but they are handled much better, with continuous shuttle bus service from Tunney's Pasture's huge parking lots to the site, via the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway. As a result, the neighborhood was not overrun with parked vehicles. Unfortunately, the City's enforcement of parking regulations during Bluesfest was largely lifted, with the prompt result that parkers once again began taking over the parkland and boulevards and Albert St path with illegal parking that went unticketed.

The Tulip festival and Winterlude get signage at the Carling OTrain station advising patrons OTrain transit access and sidewalks to Dows Lake and Commissioners Park. The Bayview Otrain station remains unconnected to the Ottawa River bike paths just a few hundred feet north of the station, which also offer a fast direct pedestrian route to Bluesfest. There is no signage indicating the way to walk, of course, but OC Transpo employs additional security to prevent people from walking along the transitway to Bluesfest.

Why does the Classical Music series, Winterlude, and Tulip Fest get shuttle buses and Bluesfest doesn't? And it is not the cost of the shuttles, the City already pays for a glorious shuttle service that doesn't operate. I am speaking here of the ridiculous situation whereby OC Transpo supplies extra post-concert buses to handle the exiting crowds. The drivers and vehicles show up around 6pm, gathering in large red herds along old Wellington east of Booth, and at the bus staging area at Bayview. The drivers stand around chatting and having coffee for hours, to make one or two runs at 11pm. I guess they have to paid for an entire shift. Instead of having these drivers stand there, why not run shuttle service from the City Hall garage, from Lansdowne, and from Tunney's, from 6pm to 11.30?

Why do some festivals better control their external parking and crowd access impacts than other festivals? It wouldn't just be the a$$luence of the impacted neighborhoods would it?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Observed Wildlife ...

I never cease to be amazed at what I see along the NCC Ottawa River bikepaths. At dusk the other evening, I watched a group of people with a large trebuchet (a seige engine of the catapult family) flinging objects several hundred metres across the lawns. In the picture above, the upper triangular object is the counterweight, the fulcum is in the centre of the tripod of posts, and the weight to be flung (in earlier days this could have been a stone to break fortification walls or a dead body to fling over the walls to spread terror or disease) is put in a sling suspended at the right end of the lever. The weight drops, the arm rises quickly, flinging the sling with great speed, and the projectile flies. In use as a war tool for over a thousand years, the trebuchet was very accurate and portable. No doubt City council will be meeting shortly to ban the construction, display, or keeping of such armaments in our peaceful city.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Landscaping resumes at Claridge's Condo

I figured that Claridge might never landscape its project on LeBreton Flats. But in the last few weeks, a lot has happened. Sod appeared on the west side of Lett Street (right side of picture 2) in front of the Beirut-style bomb crater. And on Friday, some rather large trees appeared in the front lawn of the building, along the sidewalk. Compare the size of the new trees to the ones planted a few months ago along the north side of the building, shown on the left in picture 2.


Picture 1 is of the rear yard, or courtyard between the current building and next phase just starting. Landscapers have been installing decorative paving designed to turn a plain lawn into a sort of sculpture. Three large trees have been planted too. All the area in picture 1 is on the roof of the parking structure. I have not been able to see if they have started the green roof on the seventh floor planters.


The building has no name, but this week it sprouted a number: 200 Lett Street. Lett is still a private street, as is Fleet, both of which will be assumed by the City as public streets when the development conditions are fully met.


Behind the building, red-tiped stakes mark out the continuation of the short NCC bike path that will someday run along the tailrace / aquaduct.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Is Infill Working?

Proponents of 'smart growth' and higher density cities usually cite as benefits the smaller ecological footprint and lower cost of servicing higher density mixed use urban areas compared to suburban growth.

I wonder just how true this is. In my neighborhood, on the west side of the urban core, it is possible to walk to multiple employment centres. Shopping is a bit of stretch to the Rideau Centre, and for groceries, well they do call it a 'grocery desert' for a reason. However, Loblaws in Westboro does deliver and with a family of teens that is well worth while (I have never had a car).

But over the last decades, noticeable changes have occured in our inner city neighborhood. Some family housing has disappeared, converted by developers, residents, and public agencies into apartments. The population of children evaporated, schools closed, although there seems to be a bit of a mini-boom of kids right now, I hope they stick around to go to school here rather than in suburban portables (schools in the Glebe get renovated, in lower income neighborhoods like mine they get closed). The population of elderly has shrunk drastically, driven out of their homes by high taxes. When retired on a moderate income, $3 - 4k average property taxes takes a huge hit.

But back to densification and smart growth. My question is, do the new residents of these buildings show the same public transit and economic characteristics of the 'traditional' residents?

Consider a theoretical urban professional who moved into a downtown condo tower. Has a car in the building garage. Maybe works in Kanata. Has friends in the 'burbs. Has a cottage/second home/chalet at a ski resort or recreates frequently at up scale resorts, here and abroad. Has a spouse with independent employment characteristics and demands. Hasn't this household just relocated an energy-intensive suburban lifestyle to the inner city? Are these high income incomers behaving the way traditional inner city residents do? Maybe, location is not the determining factor, but income is. Moving in high income people may just relocate their old lifestyle.

It should be easy to find out. Count the cars leaving the garages of a few buildings that are two to five years old. Count the pedestrians leaving the front door. Survey some residents. If the inhabitants adopt the urban behaviour desired in the smart growth model, good. If they don't, then why are we disrupting and / or changing the urban neighborhoods that residents like, to make them more suburban by transplanting suburbanites? Isn't it worth knowing?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blue Herons along the bike path

It is probably necessary to double-click on these pictures to enlarge them. There is a large blue heron under the overhanging willow tree, and a second one sitting on the rocky point. A third one is out of view on the other side of the tree.


The NCC most conveniently provided an interpretation plaque at this very site to educate the viewer on the habits of the blue heron. This is along the NCC bike path just west of the Carleton St underpass... and east of the Island Park parking lot.

Nanny Goat Fish

A dangling fish recently appeared in the shrubs in the little parkette at the top of the Primrose staircase, which ascends Nanny Goat Hill. This is directly behind the Dominican Priory, the large stone castle on the cliff.

DCA garden on Somerset at Empress

There is a delightful abundant flower garden on the north side of Somerset at Empress street, right in front of the Dalhousie Community Centre. It is a great spot for a garden, in full sun, and raised up several feet above the sidewalk. It was planted by community members and is maintained by DCA volunteers. In the centre of the garden is a yucca plant. The cactus-like plant is blooming now with a magnificent spire of blooms. It blooms once a year.


The Somerset Heights BIA - now the Somerset Chinatown BIA - has donated funds for another garden a few doors west at Manphrong store, at the corner of Upper Lorne Place. Lillies were planted this spring, and red mulch recently appeared around the plants, which will help them root and may reduce the foot traffic that sometimes extends beyond the sidewalk limits. The garden space was cleared and planted by the DCA and the Chinese youth group from the Christian Alliance Church on Empress.

NCC vs City Maintenance Practices

city aquaduct

city aquaduct

NCC maintenance

The NCC landscaped the area along the bike path behind the new War Museum and east of Booth Street, shown in photo 3. Along the riverside chain link fence the NCC planted rose bushes and other shrubs, then applied mulch. Mulch does not stop all weed growth. The picture shows little piles of weeds and grass pulled out by NCC contractors. They picked them up just after I took the picture. By removing the weeds, the rose bushes will have more chance to grow stronger and bigger and choke out future weeds. And of course it just plain looks better.


Compare the NCC maintenance to the City's maintenance of the rose bush plantings and other shrubs along the City-owned aquaduct that runs through LeBreton Flats, shown in the first two photos. The landscaping looks similar to the river edge, as both were designed and installed by the NCC. However, the aquaduct plantings were transferred to the City. I cannot recall ever seeing any maintenance activities along the aquaduct. The result is a weedy, overgrown slope. The desired roses, lillies, and other shrubs struggle to survive. It desperately needs some TLC, but will the City give it?

Smart Construction techniques

Claridge has resumed work on the condo project on LeBreton Flats. The new tower will be immediately south of the current yellow brick podium and glass tower, and will appear to be a continuation of the same building around a common courtyard.


The rock material excavated from the parking garage hole is trucked a few hundred meters to the south and dumped. The yellow excavator is moving the rocks into the blue crusher that turns the large rocks into gravel, which is being stacked up by the red shovel. The debris piles did not look that large a few days ago, so I was surprised to see how large the resulting gravel piles are.


This on-site crushing is big improvement over prior practice which would have seen hundreds of truckloads of stone trucked through the neighborhood to some far-away dump; and later hundreds of truckl0ads of gravel would have made their way to the construction site. The Claridge project is aiming for LEED certification.

Recession Over ?

New housing starts is a good leading indicator of economic confidence. Builders must get their product started a year or more before it is to be occupied.


Three new residential projects have begun in the west side area. The top picture shows the excavation for the second tower of Claridge's project on LeBreton Flats. If you look closely, you can see the base for the high crane has been installed on the right side of the hole, near Fleet Street which leads to Pooley's Bridge and the downtown.


Picture 2 shows the demolition of two older housing units on Preston Street. They will be replaced by a new three storey building (2 floors of residential above commercial). The advertisement and elevation for the project was shown in an earlier blog. I really like this project, its scale is perfect for the street, and it more than meets the main street zoning and planning guidelines for at least 50% of the total floor area being residential above the commercial area.


The last picture shows the first bit of hole digging for the Z6 condo building on Booth Street at Balsam, near St Anthony School. The four storey condo has one commercial space on ground floor; the project is 60% sold.

Bus shelter slight-of-hand

An ordinary glass OC Transpo bus shelter, this one on Bronson Avenue, is transformed with printed window cling film into a casino hut with a vaguely tropical influence.
Imaginative, eye-catching, fairly cheap transformation of a standard urban fixture. I like it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Allotment Gardens downtown

Allotment gardens on Laurier Hill, corner Laurier and Bronson, as seen from the QE condos.

double click to enlarge, although photo lacks focus. It might have been too far a zoom for my little camera, or else operator error.

Green Roof - Queen Elizabeth Towers

There are green roofs over the parking garage on the north side of the building (shown) and the south side. Both are about 3-5 floors above street grade. The green roof certainly improves the view from the condos. This particular roof does not seem to have pedestrian amenities - no flowers, benches, minimal paths. I wonder if it gets any use, or is mainly for the viewing pleasure of the above units. Note also the benefit received by the Kevlee tower further to the west, which overlooks the roof.
View is from two thirds the way up the building.
It is just possible to see a bit of the green roof on the south side of the Kevlee tower at the top left of the photo.

Creative Parking

Major events such as Bluesfest attracts plenty of patrons who want to park in the adjacent neighborhoods.

Parking control is much better this year; Kudos to the City for keeping the parkers off the pedestrian-cycling path along Albert, and off the NCC bike path along the aquaduct.

All the construction along Preston has confused parkers. Some people are quite resourceful. In the photo, someone parked on top of the steel plates stacked up on Primrose near Preston. I half expected to find a mini or smart car inside the trenching box itself.

Prince of Wales Bridge

A while ago I questioned the lack of visible maintenance on the Prince of Wales railway bridge over the Ottawa River from Bayview Station to Gatineau. This is an important link in interprovincial transit.
Apparently the City is preparing a maintenance plan. The plan will cost 1.8 million; the repairs or rehabilitation another 20 t0 40 million dollars:

M E M O / N O T E D E S E R V I C E

To / Destinataire
Mayor and ToMembers of Council
File/N° de fichier: File Number
From / Expéditeur
Wayne Newell - FromDirector, Infrastructure Services Department

Subject / Objet
SubjectPrince of Wales Bridge
Date: 18 June 2009Date4 June 2009

On 4 March 2009 Transit Committee passed the following motion:

That the following Motion be referred to staff:

WHEREAS the Chaudière Bridge has proven to need rehabilitation and that supplementary corridors might be needed to assist in short-term inter-provincial transportation demand management;

AND WHEREAS the implementation of light rail on the Prince of Wales bridge would allow reallocation of the current bus fleet to provide additional service across the city;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT City staff be directed to immediately develop a Class A estimate for the rehabilitation of the Prince of Wales Bridge and associated track for light rail use;

AND THAT City staff be directed to report back to Committee and Council on the outcome of the Class A estimate.

The Prince of Wales Bridge is formed by two structures (north and south) separated by an island – comprised of six spans in the south structure and seven spans in the north structure. The clear width of the structure is approximately 5 m carrying one track only. The total crossing length is 989m. The structures were built in 1879 and were last rehabilitated in 1926.

In May 2005, the City purchased this bridge as a possible future transit crossing from Canadian Pacific Railway as part of the NS Light Rail Transit project. Prior to the purchase, the City conducted a visual inspection and condition assessment of the below water piers and abutments. A visual structural analysis was also conducted for the superstructure.

In January 2007, an inspection of the rail infrastructure on the south portion of the structure was carried out.

This structure is currently "out of service", but not abandoned. Capital Railway’s Daily Operating Bulletin (the City’s operating entity) indicates that the Lemieux Island Spur (the track that crosses the Prince of Wales Bridge) is out-of-service.

Transport Canada was consulted regarding regulations for structures “out-of-service”. Bridges on an “out-of-service” rail corridor do not fall under the Railway Safety Act (RSA) and the railway's Bridge Safety Management Program (BSMP) since they do not affect safe railway operations. However, the railway (i.e. the City) inspects these structures from a public safety and liability perspective. Transport Canada advised that before being placed into active service, we will need to inspect the structure in detail to ensure its safety for the operations that are being proposed.
Without a detailed condition assessment it is difficult to estimate the cost or extent of renewal, however based on the information available the cost could vary between $20M and $40M.Scheduled future work

To be able to prepare a Class A estimate - tender ready - a detailed inspection of the structure and rail infrastructure would be required to define the needs, followed by preliminary and detailed design, including seismic evaluation. This work would take approximately eight (8) months to complete at an approximate cost of $1.5M.

Without a detailed condition assessment it is difficult to estimate the cost or extent of renewal, however based on the information available the cost could vary between $20M and $40M.

This structure was identified under the Federal Stimulus Package for rehabilitation of the piers and abutments. The estimated budget for these repairs was $5M, however this project was not approved. The renewal will be undertaken as part of a future budget request.

The structure is also scheduled for new inspection for year 2010.

Should you need further information please contact me at extension 16002.

original signed by W.R. Newell

W.R. Newell, P.Eng.
Director, Infrastructure Services

Author’s InitialsPrepared by Initials
cc: Nancy Schepers, Deputy City Manager - Infrastructure Services and Community SustainabilityGary Craig, Manager, Deputy City Manager's OfficeAlain Mercier, General Manager Transit Services DepartmentJohn Jensen, Manager Transit Rail, Safety and Development BranchAlain Gonthier, Manager Asset Management Branch

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Holland Cross Green Roof

Holland Cross is a mixed use project located at the corner of Holland and Scott Streets. It dates back to the 1980s. There are two office towers nearest Scott, with a not-thriving commercial mall at ground level. There are two residential towers set further south. They share a common parking podium. Two more residential towers were designed but not built on the east side of the common; eventually the land was sold to Domicile which built townhouses instead. Unfortunately, they do not relate in any way to the green roof and do not complete the formal arrangement of structures.
It is one of my favorite green roofs. It dates from the same era as the Rideau Centre, and may be the product of the same landscape architects, as there are numerous similarities. I love the thick plantings, undulating grass lawns, the allee of trees that celebrates the roof level access from the residential towers.
It is marked as private property, but there are no apparent restrictions on access, so anyone can cycle or walk into the garden from the commercial podium area between the office and the residential towers. Unlike the Rideau Centre which has generous paved areas, the paths here are narrow and intimate, the emphasis is on the lush landscape. Well worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Another Green Roof

Another in my occasional series on Green Roofs in Ottawa.
This roof is behind a seniors complex on Somerset St, opposite Hartman's. The roof runs through to Cooper St and is above the Centretown Community Health Centre.
I do not know if the allotments and planters are associated with the seniors building or the Health Centre. Whichever, its a bright spot of green on rooftop.
This view from the 16th floor of the Hudson condo building. There was also an excellent view of the brick paved driveways of the townhouses built on Cooper at Kent. The bricks are laid in an interesting circular pattern that apparent from high up elsewhere but not so apparent at ground level.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Somerset Update

Crawford and Alexander opened their first decor/consulting/retail outlet in the neighborhood near the Grace Manor a few years ago, then opened much larger retail premises on Somerset between Wellington and Bayswater.
Their shop window is always a delight to walk by. The displays change frequently. They even managed to get this cartoon-like car to park in front.

Preston street Update

The old Bell Telephone switch building on Preston just south of Somerset (opposite Plouffe Park and the Plant Pool) has seen a variety of tennants come and go. I hope Darrell Thomas makes a long term stay.
He first opened his button and cushion shop in the lower level of 240 Sparks St, back when that building had a commercial shopping floor on the lower level (the original third floor commercial level had largely closed out and been converted to offices several years before). I think the lower level mall is gone now, too.
Just another step in the retail decline of the downtown core ... recall that Place de Ville has steadily reduced the size of its underground concourse over the years. L'Esplanade Laurier has also converted most of its second floor mall into office space although the food court is still there on the west end of the concourse. Place Bell is much less retail than before. And 90 Sparks has lost most of its retail too. And it's not just food courts that are disappearing ... anything other than the ubiquitous dry cleaners and coffee shops are becoming scarcer. And as I have posted in previous blogs, I do not think the LRT stations will spark a renaissance of a connected underground city.
But Thomas survived 240 Sparks, moving to a Bank Street storefront location a few years ago. Now he has acquired much bigger premises and exposure on Preston Street. Obviously he does not depend on walk-by business but on destination shoppers who are willing to seek him out.
Bank Street's loss is Preston Street's gain. And Preston could use more diversity of businesses, (with residential above the store) to promote more hours of vitality. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Somerset Street update

Zen Kitchen has finally opened up on Somerset Street between Percy and Bronson. Frequent users of the street may have noticed film crews there during the renovation, as the story of opening the restaurant were documented for a food tv show.
The owners live in the neighborhood too. I like the idea of businesses having both residential and commercial interests in the ward, as these interests are sometimes competing, sometimes complementary.
Around the corner on Percy, the vacant lot behind the former Chuck Brown golf has been turned into a large veggie garden. Jill Brown, former alderperson (but not of this ward) owned the store, and demolished the houses behind it to expand the parking lot. Fortunately, council squashed her neighborhood-busting and the lot remained vaguely grass-like for decades. I really like the garden, and its ground-hog proof fence. I do not know who set up the garden, but I suspect it is connected with the Umi Cafe workers coop at the corner.
A block further west, on Cambridge behind the Yangtze, the vacant lot, formerly a pile of debris, has been graded to flat. Years ago the Yangtze got planning permission to build some residential units along the street with commercial parking underneath accessible from the Yangtze lot. It would be good to see this plan resurrected. Housing in this neighborhood sells.

Green Cycling

A few days ago I was cycling back from Loblaws, along the Scott Street multipurpose pathway. My panniers were full of groceries. I noticed that my front tire glowed green as a I cycled. I have to admit I admire those cyclists who whizz by with green or red tire rims, they look so neat, so fast. Not like me, another elderly cyclist on my Cdn Tire six-speed. I stopped at the light at Lanark Avenue.

Hmm, I looked more closely at my front tire.

I reviewed my route. I had cut accross the grass at the end of Clifton or McRae Street to access the path. Were these grass stains?

Nope. It's ground-in goose shit from riding along the Ottawa River pathways. My tires are permanently dyed green.

I do love Ottawa.