Monday, March 29, 2010

Bay and Nepean Demo, Part 3: 259 Bay Street

[It seems there is a problem with the images. Update: the problem is on Google's end.]

Last time, I posted the second in a series of posts on the demolition of houses at Bay and Nepean. In that post, I looked at 255 Bay Street, on the left in the photo below taken in late November 2007.

Today, we'll look at 259 Bay Street. It is not a particularly spectacular house, and as a result this is the shortest post in the series.

As we can see in the photo below, it's a fairly ordinary house, but it does have quite a bit of character underneath the paint and graffiti. The sidewalk has been poured all the way to the foundation, but the window dressings, including shutters and eyelash-like brickwork, give it its charm.

Certainly more charming than a pile of rubble.

In the laneway, big rocks discourage motorists from using the laneway. Here in late May 2009, we see anti-Olympics graffiti on the side wall, reading "Rise Up / Resist / Riot 2010"

Removal of the rubble revealed graffiti in the basement, too.

At the rear, we see that the backyward had also been paved over, probably to save on landscaping costs. In May 2009, after a few years of human absence, we see nature beginning to reclaim its ground.

An architectural curiosity is the small window at the back of the house that was partially obstructed by the roofline of the rear addition. More photos of the rear of the building are in the previous post.

Here we see the rear foundation wall of the original building, with some holes in the middle for what I assume is a woodstove and flue.

Lastly, a foreshadowing of the next post. In the background of this late-November 2007 shot looking through the laneway between 255 and 259 Bay we see not only the tower crane for Hudson Park phase I (which was just reaching ground level at the time), but also the rears of the next two buildings in the series.

Tune in in four more days--Friday Noon, for Part 4: 357-359 Nepean Street.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bay and Nepean Demo, Part 2: 255 Bay Street

Last time, I introduced the series on the demolition of the houses on Bay and Nepean, with a background on the reasons for demolition and a profile of the former building at 249-251 Bay Street.

Today we'll be looking at 255 Bay Street, the cream coloured one in the middle of the row between Gloucester and Nepean streets. I just noticed that in this photo, taken late May 2009, they still hadn't installed permanent signage for the speed humps that had been installed the previous November (the first photo of Part 1).

And a week ago, there wasn't much left--though there is a permanent speed hump sign now. The removal of these houses opens up a clear view of the hirises behind. You can see how the downtown hirises come down to twelve storeys South of Gloucester Street.

Here's a view of the front of the house, in late May 2009. It has a bit of a shoreside feel to it, ignoring the graffiti. There's a fire hydrant in the front yard.

Similar angle a week ago. It was nice of them to leave the bush there. The fencing skirts around the fire hydrant, giving lots of clearance on both sides.

Another view from the front, showing the dark plexiglas elements under the porch roof. A pigeon on the top of the roof adds to the seaside feel. Behind the steps, you can see the porch is supported by a poured concrete block.

There's that concrete block, in front of the pile of rubble.

Enough with the front, here's a shot of the rear of the building, with a tree stump in the foreground, in late May 2009 (The tree was not removed recently). If you look on the second storey, to the left of the door (presumably to a former addition), there is some exposed wall.

Here's a closeup of that exposed wall section. I can make out four or five layers: from bottom to top, wood slats, fake brick patterned tarpaper [Edit: Insulbrick, according to the Ottawa Velo blog. Also, I see some of my photos were out of order--Fixed!], more wood slats, covered by a wood frame with the outer layer of siding. A curious pigeon looks on from the top left.

Back in late November 2007, there was some graffiti on the back of the building, and whatever rear bits of the structure had already been removed.

By late May 2009, the graffiti had been unceremoniously painted over in ochre paint. You can see the large boulders placed in the driveway, presumably to prevent people from parking on the site. Behind the buildings are the two towers of the Bronson Place apartments, foreshadowing the tall structure to eventually rise on this site.

The building on the left is the next one in the series. Tune in four more days from now, on Monday, for Part 3: 259 Bay Street.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wednesday: Open House on Somerset St W reconstruction

Somerset Street West is being reconstructed this year, from Wellington Street West, over the O-Train tracks, to Preston. This is essentially "Phase III" of the Wellington Street West resonstruction, to overhaul the many underground services that have outlived their useful life.

The Dalhousie Community Association (on whose board I sit, along with Eric Darwin) learned about this reconstruction at its December 2009 meeting/annual dinner, and we were rather surprised at the very short notice. All the planning would have to be compressed into a few short months, culminating in tomorrow's Public Open House. A map of the existing conditions was presented at the meeting for all to discuss.

In the months since, the Public Advisory Committee (PAC) met on a regular basis, as often as twice per week. This Committee, comprised of community and business stakeholders in the area, discussed all aspects of the street design, from lamp designs, to parking configurations, to bike lanes, to landscaping, and so on. The consultant, Ron Clarke of Delcan, and the City's Project Engineer, Max Ross, did a good job of presenting analysis from the Technical Advisory Committee and bringing the PAC to a consensus on most of the issues in a tight timeframe.

I sat on the PAC as the cycling representative, and like Eric I'm pretty satisfied with the results.

I've also got a photo album of much of the project area at my Picasa web albums. Due to time constraints and wanting to give a bit of notice before the meeting, I couldn't geo-tag them as with the Bronson consultation photos, but I did include text tags describing what's in each photo. This should help to give an idea of the project area, at least the middle section over the bridge.

To learn more about the recommendations, come to the Public Open House tomorrow, details below (and for some reason not here).

Notice of Public Open House
Somerset Street West Reconstruction

The City of Ottawa is proceeding with the design and reconstruction of a portion of Somerset Street West during the 2010 construction season. The project limits are Somerset Street West between Spadina Avenue and Preston Street, and also includes a short section of Bayswater Avenue Between Wellington Street West and Somerset Street West.

Project Overview:
The work is required to replace sewers and services that have reached the end of their useful life. The roadway and sidewalks will also be reconstructed. The designs respond to the street’s “Traditional Mainstreet” designation and its various character areas. Some of the special features include:

  • Wider sidewalks and shortened crosswalks, with distinctive surfaces
  • On-road cycling facilities including both dedicated cycling lanes and wide shared lanes
  • Street trees wherever possible
  • Opportunities for public art
You are invited:
Public Open House
Wednesday March 24, 2010
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Plant Recreation Centre, Preston Room
930 Somerset Street West (at Preston Street)

The Public Open House will provide an opportunity to review preliminary street designs and implications and to provide input. Members of the volunteer Street Design Committee, City staff and the consulting team will be available to discuss the designs and answer questions in a casual open house format. Comment forms will be provided for written comments, comments will be received until 02 April 2010. The project is being planned to meet the requirements of Ontario’s Municipal Class Environmental Assessment that may apply.

For further information contact the City’s Project Manager:
Max Ross, P. Eng.
Senior Engineer, Infrastructure Projects
Infrastructure Services Department
Design and Construction Municipal West Branch
City of Ottawa
100 Constellation Crescent, 6th Floor
Ottawa, ON K2G 6J8
Tel.: 613-580-2424 ext. 16011
Max.Ross @
The section from Preston to Booth will be reconstructed next year, and planning for that will be done over the Summer and Fall. It looks like work will not continue further East from Booth in the foreseeable future.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bay and Nepean demo, Intro and Part 1 of 6: 249-251 Bay Street

Back in December, I was interviewed by the CBC to talk on behalf of the CCCA about the long-abandoned houses around Bay and Nepean Streets. The houses were bought years ago by the developer Richcraft, who had posted large billboards advertising the condo development to be built there.

There were a few problems with this project. While they did get many successive increases in height for the site, the owners of the buildings on the corners would not sell. The resulting T-shaped site made it difficult to build a particularly substantial building, so the plans never went very far.

Meanwhile, the houses were left virtually abandoned. They were certainly unused, as the project went from being very soon to not in the foreseeable future. As they were unused, they became decrepit, attracting graffiti taggers, vandals and break-ins. Really, these houses should not have been emptied of tenants so swiftly, as (legal) occupants would have allowed them to be kept in decent shape. Instead, we're left with tinder boxes that are falling apart.

Richcraft even applied for a demolition permit for the houses, but when you get such a permit, you are required to build a replacement building within five years. This deters people from demolishing the houses that define our neighbourhoods and leaving our neighbourhoods filled with empty lots and parking lots. Because of this clause, they refused to sign off on the permit (thus accepting its five-year limit) and instead have left the houses to fall apart, threatening the neighbouring buildings.

Finally, in mid-December when the City threatened to replace these unsafe houses with landscaping and bill the property owner, Richcraft applied for another permit, asking for an eight-year timeframe to rebuild, which was approved.

The houses were demolished last week.

As with the Bank Street reconstruction, I've broken this topic into a series of posts. After much wrangling with the photo set, I settled on breaking it up on one post per house, plus a sixth post later in the year once the work is done. The list below will be updated as the entries are posted, every four days:

Part 1: 249-251 Bay Street

Here is how the East side of Bay Street looked from Nepean to Gloucester in mid-November 2008, shortly after the installation of the speed humps on Bay Street (part of the Centretown Traffic Calming plan). Indeed, it would have looked pretty similar until last week as far as the structures are concerned. At the corner of Bay and Nepean is Ricardo's Pizza, which I hear makes very good pizza.

Last Thursday, it was certainly a bit emptier, with demolition progressing.

The building we'll be looking at today is the one furthest from the camera in the above photos. With the address 249-251 Bay Street, this building housed a Bed & Breakfast known as The Bay Guest House. In this photo from late May 2009, it looks more or less as it did for many years, except for more graffiti and fewer stairs. There are even patio tables still on the second-floor balcony.

And on Thursday morning, most of it was gone.

Even much of the graffiti is years-old, as seen in this photo from late November 2007. There's a piece of flashing on the cornice that was falling off, and less graffiti on the building and the "Lifestyle Condos coming soon!" sign, but more or less the same. The "Bayscorner" corner store, which has a faded painted sign from its former life as a drug store, is not being demolished, but someone must have forgotten to tell the graffiti taggers.

Again, it is demolished. You can make out some of the distinguishing porch features in the rubble. The couple portrayed on the sign are still grasped in each other's arms.

Here's a closer shot of the porch from late May 2009. The weeds in the planter boxes were a nice, if unintended, touch. You can also see three pink sheets on the boarded-up front door. These are notices from the City posted after some of the rear porches were removed from some of the buildings without a permit to do so.

And rubble. One of the columns still stands, marking the address of the former building, and a patio table lies atop the rubble. You can make out the top of one of the Hudson Park buildings in the background.

Here's a closeup of the top of one of the columns, plus the brick detail under the cornice.

Here's the same column, fallen. I had originally thought of breaking up these posts chronologically instead of by site, but I figured this way gives better context. Besides, the photos of the buildings are the main point; following them with a post full of photos of debris would be pretty dry.

At the back of the Bay Guest House there used to be an addition, shown here in late November 2007.

This rear addition was demolished in late May 2009, without a permit (hence the pink notices on the front door)

Here you can see a bunch of graffiti along the side of the house, again in late May 2009. Near the back of the side wall, a couple bricks were drilled out of the wall, with the brick dust covering the former driveway.

Here's a closeup of that gap in the bricks. You can see there's a gap of a couple inches between the brick layer and the wall behind it.

By Saturday afternoon, most of the rubble had been removed. Obviously I don't have any photos from the rear of the building, since the site is now fenced off.

So that's the Bay Guest House, 249-251 Bay Street. Tune in Thursday at noon for Part 2: 255 Bay Street.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spectacular fence

These spectacles were seen on the gate at Annedale Court, Elgin and McLeod on a recent evening.

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CCCA Meeting tonight: Segregated Bike Lane Pilot for Centretown?

Tonight, Tuesday, March 15, 2010, is the monthly meeting of the Centretown Citizens Community Association. (I am the CCCA's Corporate Secretary)

While the agenda is not out yet, there will be a presentation by City of Ottawa transportation planner Joel Mulligan on the City's pilot study on an East-West segregated bike lane through Somerset Ward. He made a similar presentation at tonight's meeting of the City's Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee (on which I do not sit), which is summarized in this Ottawa Sun article (note: despite what the Sun article says, lanes would only be added on one street, or one lane in each direction on two parallel streets).

This feasability study/pilot project was directed in conjunction with the approval of the Cycling Plan in 2008, in the form of a motion by Capital Ward Councillor Clive Doucet to explore an east-west segregated bike lane through downtown. The study is studying east-west roads between Wellington to the North and Catherine to the South, between roughly Preston and Elgin, though they are also looking at connections to the pathway network along the Rideau Canal.

The idea is that this would be installed within existing curb allowances for one summer as a pilot study to see how it works, then evaluated. This will give an idea of how a segregated bike lane would work in Ottawa (instead of relying on how it works in other cities, when there are so many extraneous variables to deal with).

I'm hoping they'll put it on Somerset, if only so that they can fix the signal coordination of the lights: going West on Somserset through Centretown, it's impossible to ride legally without arriving at every traffic light right as it turns red! Not much better going East. A pity because of the natural connection to the Corktown Footbridge and the direct line across town.

The timing of the study has a lot of consultation going ahead, but it likely won't get to Transportation Committee until May or June, meaning that by the time it gets Council approval and goes out to tender, it probably won't be installed until the 2011 season. There are certainly a lot of obstacles to go through.

The project website--still rather bare in the early consultation phase--is

So if you want to hear more on this and other Centretown issues, come out to the CCCA meeting tonight!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Imminent Snake Bite

Taken on the sunny Sunday last weekend at the 150 Slater construction site.

Make sure to keep your tires inflated, otherwise you'll get a "pinch flat," caused by your rim pinching holes into your tire when you hit a bump or sidewalk. This leaves your innertube with a telltale pair of holes, called a "snake bite."

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Spring" sweeping

Meteorologists are wisely warning against thinking that Winter is gone for good, but this sight on Metcalfe Street was a welcome one this morning:

Sidewalk sweepers clearing the winter cruft off the sidewalk in preparation for Spring cleaning. Can't wait until they get to my street.

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Monday, March 8, 2010

Images of Bronson

[Edit: visit for information on the community-driven effort to get the City's engineers to redesign Bronson instead of lazily rebuilding it--with all its existing flaws]

Bronson Avenue is undergoing reconstruction beginning in 2011, all the way from Sparks to the Rideau Canal. It's being divided by the Queensway into two sections, each with its own Public Advisory Committee (PAC)--a group of business owners, community members, and other stakeholders. I'm the Centretown Citizens Community Association's representative on the section North of the Queensway. There are also representatives from the Dalhousie Community Association, the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, councillor Holmes' office, various condo boards, etc.

It will be the PAC's job to inform the consultant of what we'd like to see on the street in the redesign, and it will be the job of the Technical Advisory Committee to ensure our desires are met, and to work with the PAC to work out issues. I am similarly on the PAC (as the cycling representative) for the reconstruction of Somerset from Breezehill to Preston, and next year from Preston to Booth. I've found that to be a very fruitful process, with cooperative consultant who found ways to realize the goals of the community.

Not so much with Bronson. Their Technical Advisory Committee met twice and presented their results to Councillor Holmes, and the Public Advisory Committee hasn't even met yet! The consultant has actually tried to widen Bronson (presumably gaining space by shaving the bricks off the houses?), and has used a 1950's highway-expansion suburban model. Not a good sign so far. Councillor Holmes essentially told the City's engineers to start over, with more pedestrian-friendly engineers.

Anyway, I felt it was important that I familiarize myself better with Bronson, so on a nice day in early February, a friend and I took a walk down Bronson to take photos of the existing conditions. No doubt I'll take photos during and after construction as well.

I've tagged, geo-tagged, and uploaded the photos to a Picasa Web Album at, and I've also uploaded them to Panoramio, which should eventually get them added as thumbnails on Google Maps. It was a very time-consuming process, but hopefully it will be useful during consultation.

Here are some highlights from the photos:

From the top. You can also see Bronson coming back up the hill at Laurier:

OMB supervillains on the Ottawa Tech wall:

Crosswalk/sidewalk near Bronson Centre. Note the precast concrete pavers in the crosswalk and the sidewalk. These should be replaced with something at least as good:

McPhail Memorial Baptist Church. You can see the recently-added elevator, built to match the existing style, as documented on West Side Action:

At Somerset. The on-street grates will be removed, a relief to cylcists. On the right you can see Peace Tower Church, formerly Erksine Presbyterian Church (also, wrongly, known as "Erskine"):

Nightmare sidewalk south of Somerset. A sidewalk snow plow requires 1.8m clearance to pass. Imagine trying to pass this sidewalk in a wheelchair!

I was admiring the decorative work above the side door of this house when my friend pointed out the strangely-placed window--in the chimney!

While the front door did not survive the fire at 346 Bronson, the stained-glass windows next to and above the front door did survive. Dr Tung Le has relocated a few blocks East, to O'Connor. (The above-door window and the sign with relocation details are in the the photo)

My friend also pointed out that Gail's Hair Design is just the front of a building, and that there was a house buried inside there somewhere, which you can just make out here. Auntie Loo's is just a couple houses down.

Lastly, since we're ostensibly concerned with the street, the crosswalk at Catherine. I was rather surprised by the backup of traffic on Bronson all the way back up from, presumably, Carling.

A good chunk of the way through, maybe around Gladstone, it became really tiresome to continue taking photos. Partly because I hadn't brought warm enough gloves, but mainly because Bronson Avenue is so incredibly hostile to pedestrians, with largely uninteresting buildings, narrow sidewalks, and high traffic on many lanes. We made a point of using a side street to get back up to Somerset.

Hopefully the City will actually listen to the input of the community so that Bronson can be less depressing and difficult to traverse by foot, bicycle, and wheelchair.

Don't forget to have a look at the Picasa Web Album photos:

There are some really nice photos in there!