Friday, December 31, 2010
In this post, I'll go over some of the building's past, and how the top of the building used to look and progress of its renovation. In the next post, I'll take a closer look at the building's former ground-level architecture and streetscaping. In the third and final post, the big reveal of how the renovated building looks, with many before-and-after angles.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
I plan to tweet links to my new posts, and extra comments about things that either don't warrant a full post, or are about posts in development. I've already been replying to other Ottawa bloggers' tweets about Centretown-related topics.
I've also configured Twitterfeed to automatically tweet my new posts. I'm testing it with this one.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I took this photo last night as an STO bus drove past. In retrospect, I should have tilted the camera up a bit.
Expect to see a few more photos in the coming days/weeks from last night's photo expedition to Elgin/Wellington, as the busy winter season pushes my blogging time to the wayside and I resort to easy fodder. I'll probably also revert to Monday/Friday noon updates.
[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]
Monday, December 27, 2010
I'm thinking of producing them in larger quantities and offer the sets for sale to Images of Centretown readers next year, if there is enough interest (with a portion of the proceeds going to the community association). Leave a comment or drop me a line at email@example.com if you would be interested in this for 2011.
[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]
Friday, December 24, 2010
Here's a photo of workers adding the crowning star to the Christmas tree at 150 Slater, which is nearing completion. See the live webcam for the site here
I previously posted a series on the demolition of the former buildings there and the excavation of the site. You can see those and other posts on the site at the 150 Slater label.
[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]
Monday, December 20, 2010
The heritage plaque on the house writes, "Thought to be the oldest house in Centretown, this house was built for Richard Nagle, a successful dealer in timber limits."
The Bytown Museum's Capital Neighbourhoods website lists little more about the house than is on the plaque.
A Google search for Richard Nagle brings up only a few more details. A web page listing Ancestors of Ryan Todd Morgan writes, "66. Richard NAGLE was born 1810 in Ireland and was baptized in Ireland. He died 1877 in Ottawa, Canada. Richard married Margaret MCCARTHY." The site says they had a child, Ann in Clare County, Ireland in 1832, who died in Kansas in 1920.
Another source he married Mary O-Brien in 1854, presumably after Margaret died in 1850.
As for 89-91 Nepean Street, it's pretty frightening what Claridge is asking for on that site. I'll spare the details here, but suffice it to say they're asking for a lot and offering nothing in return. For full details, check out the CCCA's letter to the City regarding this site. The letter includes a plethora of reasons why this application shouldn't be permitted, and Councillor Holmes' comments of a similar nature. This one will go to Planning Committee in the new year, but City staff are compiling their report on the application.
As the Ottawa Citizen writes in a recent editorial, intensification is good, but it needs to be done with a human face.
The CCCA's next regular board meeting is tomorrow, Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 7pm at City Hall (Honeywell Room). All are welcome. There is a vacancy on the Board that will hopefully be filled at the meeting. Check the CCCA's home page for the agenda.
[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]
Friday, December 17, 2010
Here's a shot of the intersection in question in December 2008. At the time, my intent was to photograph the Metropolitan Bible Church, but we also can see three street signs for Gladstone Avenue, at the NW (closest), SW (partly obscured) and SE (furthest) corners. It may not be apparent in this photo, but all three signs have a typo: they read "av. Gladstone Av." instead of "Ave." for the English name.
In the photo above, the Bank and Gladstone signs at the southeast corner were on the same post. The sign at the SW corner--the corner with the Esso station--is on the street side of the post. By June 2009, seen below, it had been flipped around to the building side of the post. The bundle of wires (which were there to accommodate the many changes to the traffic signals during last year's reconstruction of Bank Street) suggests a motivation. The Bank and Gladstone signs are at the same height. Gas is listed at 94.2 cents per litre, but the station is actually closed for repairs.
There are two extra holes on the far side of the sign, but the sign is nevertheless backwards (the arrow on the street numbers is pointing the wrong way). My guess is that the two new holes were drilled so that the sign could be flipped to use the new holes, but that the installers didn't bother to remove it from the mount to flip the sign.
In mid-October 2009, the Gladstone sign was flipped back to the street side, and the jumble of wires are gone. The Gladstone and Bank signs are at different levels, and gas is at 88.9. We know it's the same sign because it has the two holes.
Looking up at the intersection from McLeod street in mid-November 2010, the sign on the northwest corner was moved to a different pole and is facing away from Bank street. It's very definitely not visible from the southbound lanes on Bank.
That same month, a new "av. Gladstone Ave." (sic) sign appeared at the southeast corner--clearly a new sign. It's attached to the metal pole on this corner. Here's a photo of it on February 20, 2010, with the Metropolitan Bible Church facade in the middle of the street. Of course, at the time I wasn't taking a picture of the sign!
The Bank street sign on the east side had been relocated to the North corner. The "Gladstone Av." sign at the northwest corner had been returned to a position where it is visible from the southbound lanes on Bank.
In March 2010, there was some work going on at the southeast corner. The metal pole (being held up by the crane) was either being removed, installed, or relocated.
Meanwhile, here in late May as above in March, the Gladstone sign with the spare holes on the southwest side appears to have disappeared. Gas is still hovering around 94 cents per litre. (Okay, this picture is somewhat redundant, but I really like this shot of the Central's tower crane)
The sign at the southeast corner was moved to the wooden pole, possibly during the exercise in March. The photo below is in August 2010.
The mystery, from your perspective, might be where did these signs end up. For me, the mystery was where did it come from--I already knew where it ended up: in my window!
Appropriately facing Gladstone Avenue. Whatever the original reason for the spare set of holes, they came in very handy in suspending the sign with fishing line.
The other one is presumably still available from where I got this one--on the City of Ottawa's Decommissioned Street Name Signs listing. You can buy used signs for ten dollars, tax in, and pick them up at the Traffic Operations Division building on Loretta. But they're big. The photo above might be deceiving, as the window opening is around 60" wide, making the sign about four feet long (though this is a larger size of sign).
I posted a three-part tour of those facilities in March 2009. In the second part I showed their decommissioned street signs.
The sign itself is neat to own--especially living on Gladstone--and it's that much more interesting that I was able to track a bit of its history (even though, as one of the blue signs, it's no older than the City's amalgamation in 2001).
This story also demonstrates the usefulness of taking lots of photos, because you never know what little detail in the background might be useful.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Here's a closer view of the front of the Vistek building, in mid-May 2009:
The Gladstone Avenue frontage is mostly ignored by the building, except for a showroom window. The wall has collected street furniture and undergrowth. At the rear of the building, a service entrance is covered by a retractable blue awning. This is in August 2009.
In November, Vistek announced they were moving to the newly-renovated building at Bank and Flora (which is where I bought my current camera). On this late morning in mid-November, we can see the pattern of the concrete screen on the second storey of the entranceway. The concrete slabs have a recessed "v" shape to them, creating a shading pattern when the light is right. The same screen wall is in the opening along Gladstone. The new traffic light post has a traffic camera mounted atop it. You can watch it (and all others) at traffic.ottawa.ca.
Here's a front view of the effect. The Watch Clinic is also open, in case you've only ever seen it closed. The new mid-level street lamps on Bank are unique; the City's street lighting policy now requires a high-level street lighting and low-level pedestrian scale lighting for main streets (like on Preston and Wellington West, among others).
When the sun isn't out, or when it isn't at the right angle, the grooves in the screen wall's concrete blocks don't show, though the pattern itself isn't all that bland. The Vistek signs were blacked out in December 2009, but this photo is from mid-August 2010. The street reconstruction is mostly over by this point.
Then, in late September, work began on preparing the building for its next tenant. I knew it looked different, but I didn't notice until reviewing the photos for this post that the screen wall had been removed.
In November, a big red sign announced that this would be the home of Miele Gallery on Bank, a showroom for the well-known appliance maker. Appliances and furniture stores are making a comeback in Centretown with all the new condo units being built.
It opened in December 2010 and I paid them a visit, to welcome them to Centretown and to get a first look at the renovated interior. France Gascon and Mathieu Laquerre are co-owners of the store, which is a franchise and not a corporate store. They removed a mezzanine at the rear of the store which housed enclosed offices, and the result is an open two-storey showroom (which is conceptually reminiscent of the new Tommy & Lefebvre showroom just a block away).
Looking back toward the front of the store, the remaining mezzanine has been retained as an area for cooking demonstrations and other interesting activities. You can bring your comforter or large blanket and they'll show you that it can still fit in the compact laundry machines.
The upper level is not yet finished, but when it is it will brighten up the view from the outside. As it stands, you can't easily tell it's open. In the foreground of the above photo is a rotary press for ironing large quantities of linens. France gave me a demonstration of the funky device, which is geared toward owners of Inns with moderate ironing needs.
You can visit the store at Bank and Gladstone, or online at MieleOnBank.ca
Monday, December 13, 2010
I hope to have more time to prepare longer blog posts after today's meeting of the CCCA's Planning & Development Review Committee at 5pm at City Hall. The packed agenda includes three presentations on upcoming proposed developments, including the Greyhound bus station site and the 27-storey tower proposed for Nepean Street. I encourage you to come.
[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]
Friday, December 10, 2010
Taken from the top floor of Queen Elizabeth Towers, 500-530 Laurier in March at rush hour (click to see full size):
There's the Stonecliffe apartments and the Ottawa Builders' Exchange (now Ottawa Construction Association) headquarters on Bronson Avenue, St. Vincent hospital (Bruyère centre), the Dominican college, the Oak Street government warehouse, City Centre building (after the letters were removed but before it was repainted) and the Somerset Street bridge, Albert Street to Scott Street, Bayview transit station...
More distant items are visible, too. The Queensway on the left, Minto's Metropole condo tower (the tallest building in Ottawa), Holland Cross, and more condos on Richmond Road that I recognize but can't name. The Rideau River is also visible, but far out around Britannia Bay.
Which other buildings and landmarks can you recognize?
[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]
Monday, December 6, 2010
While in Montréal, I took some photos of things that didn't belong in any particular themes. Just some interesting things and observations.
Montréal's old city hall was undergoing renovations during our visit.
But instead of simply hiding this architectural gem behind plain construction material--as has been done with Parliament Hill--the likeness of the building was printed onto the construction webbing so that tourists like us could still get an idea of what was under there. That's a very sensitive way of restoring and appreciating heritage buildings.
Note also in the above photo the Falun Dafa group in blue and white in the square next to City Hall. The group looked smaller than Ottawa's.
Montréal has what we in Ottawa call "kindness meters", which they refer to "Parcodon". In case you're not familiar with them, they're repurposed parking meters where you can give money for homelessness issues, and in Ottawa they're administered by the municipal government. I always found it ironic that small-government Larry O'Brien found a way to bureaucratize panhandling. Montréal's are gussied up more than Ottawa's, thanks to artwork added with sponsorship. There's also an interpretive plaque next to it, which you can read by viewing the full-size photo.
In Old Montréal, this little piece of street art was in an alley. We were hoping to see a swap box, but alas we found none.
When we got off the subway station at Côte-Vertu, we walked around to see some of the things Montréal in its further-out central neighbourhoods. This old mixed-used building has a steel exoskeleton:
Walking around the neighbourhood, I was a bit unsettled by these oval-shaped street name signs. They seem to be of fixed size, and require relatively small print to fit the street name onto them.
I noticed this downtown as well. As I remarked in part 2 of the series, Montréal doesn't have large street signs above major intersections like Ottawa does. This makes it hard to find where you're going if you're not familiar with an area, because you have to look for a small sign on the other side of major arterial to see where you are. I mentioned this to someone from Vélo Québec the other day, and he said the large signs help people go faster, and therefore is unsafe. I don't buy this argument: while yes people may slow down to look for the signs, while they're doing so they aren't paying attention to other traffic.
Riding back toward downtown, we went by some nice sights. This pavillion in Parc Saint-Viateur, for example.
I noticed that the multi-unit houses in Montréal have a front door for each apartment, in contrast to Ottawa's tendency to have a single front door with internal separation of the apartments. It was interesting to go by row houses and see three or four doors on each one. I didn't get a photo of it, but it's not hard to find on Google Street View. Here's an example.
Continuing along, my eye was caught by these bicycle-themed decorations on the fence in front of a house. It wasn't as exciting when I went back to take a closer look, but it's a neat concept nonetheless.
I'll finish off the series with a photo of a really nice mural on the side of a shop. Click to see the full-size photo to see all the intricate linework.
And that is What I Learned in Montréal. I hope you enjoyed it and learned some things about Montréal and Ottawa along the way.
I've noticed that many posts on Images of Centretown lately have been focusing on issues in the south-west end of Centretown (that's where I work, so that's where I can take photos in daylight!), and on cycling issues. Now that the Montréal series is finished, I hope to get back to a wider variety of Centretown topics. I'll try to keep up the Monday-Wednesday-Friday noon updates, with the occasional extra post squeezed in here or there.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Here's the message that went out to the CCCA announcements e-mail list earlier this week, with new and updated items highlighted in red.
Dear member/friend of the CCCA,
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve as President of the Centretown Citizens Community Association, and I would like to thank Shawn Menard and other outgoing Board and Executive members for their work to make the CCCA as vibrant an organization as it is today.
There are some upcoming meetings and events that are very important to Centretown, and I hope you will consider attending some of them. Feel free to forward this message to your friends and neighbours. If they would like to subscribe to this e-mail list, they can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to do so.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 (tomorrow)
Mid-Centretown Community Design Plan - Open House
Iona Hall, Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar St. (At Elgin)
Open House 5:30-8:30 pm, Presentation at 6:30 pm
Project Website: http://www.ottawa.ca/midcentretown
Consultants' project blog: http://midcentretown.wordpress.com/
This Community Design Plan (CDP) looks at how we want the centre part of Centretown to be developed, in order to give a context to new developments. The CCCA has had representatives on the Publice Consultation Group for this project. This open house is an opportunity for all members of the public--especially you Centretowners--to see what the consultants have done so far and if they're on the right track. [Note: the meeting and presentation were very interesting. We will be discussing this at the Planningn & Development Review Committee on the 13th, see below]
Monday, December 6, 2010, 5:30pm [New item!]
CCCA Safety Committee
Somerset West Community Police Centre, 393 Somerset Street West
The CCCA's Safety Committee's mandate is "To advance community safety and security for all the residents of, and visitors to, Centretown." The committee has historically had low attendance, so the new members who signed up at the AGM have a chance to give this committee new energy.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010. 7pm
CCCA Board Orientation Meeting
Ottawa City Hall, Billings Room
With all the new faces on the CCCA's Board of Directors following the AGM on November 16, it's important that the Board meet soon to appoint new members to the executive from among the Board. We will also review the nine committees and various representatives to other groups. This is a great opportunity for members to learn about the activities of the association, and if you didn't get a chance to sign up for a CCCA committee at the AGM, you can do so then as well. More details of the various committees is on the CCCA website.
At the Board meeting, we will also be discussing the matter of a zoning by-law amendment for 89-91 Nepean Street, which seeks to rezone the double-lot site to allow a 27-storey condo tower on a wider footprint than currently allowed, which would put the building at over six times what is currently permitted for the site. The proposal also seeks to eliminate all visitor parking spaces, and reduce amenity spaces and setbacks on all sides. Because feedback on this project is requested by December 13th, I will be asking the Board to discuss the matter at the December 7 meeting. Councillor Holmes has already objected strongly to this application.
Thursday, December 9, 2010, 7pm
Christ Church development - public meeting
Cathedral Hall, Christ Church Cathedral, 439 Queen Street (near Bronson)
We received the following note from the developer, who wants your feedback: "We are going to host an open public meeting on the Christ Church development on Thursday December 9th at 7pm in Cathedral Hall. We will provide updated renderings of the proposed project and describe in some detail our proposal in order to solicit feedback from the community. We want to hold this before Christmas because mid January will be too late for meaningful input into our design, as we are moving quickly now towards a site plan approval submission."
[See also this article in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen, including a rendering of the proposed development. My photo of Christ Church is from July 2009, a couple months after this post on comfort stations was added to URBSite.]
Monday, December 13, 2010, 5pm [note new time]
CCCA Planning and Development Review Committee
City Hall, Honeywell Room
The CCCA's Planning and Development Review Committee looks at applications like the ones for 89-91 Nepean and Christ Church, above, and makes recommendations to the CCCA's Board of Directors on how to respond. Attending the PDR Committee meetings is a good way to learn about upcoming developments and to take an active part. If you view the committee's report to the AGM in the 2010 AGM agenda package on the CCCA's website, you'll see how many applications there are in a given year, and how important this committee is.
New: The meeting has been moved up to 5pm to hear from the owner of the Greyhound Bus Terminal station, who wants to consult with the CCCA in order to have redevelopment plans ready in the event Greyhound leaves.
There is currently a freeze on Development Charge Fees in Centretown, and this freeze will be lifted soon. Many developers are submitting their applications before these fees return and we have to be ready to respond to these applications (in support or in opposition) swiftly.
This is just one of the CCCA's many committees. Your participation in any committee will be a great help.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 5:30pm [New item!]
CCCA Transportation Committee
City Hall (Billings Room)
The CCCA's Transportation Committee discusses important transportation issues in Centretown. Current major projects include the East-West Segregated Bike Lane, the Rescue Bronson initiative, and the Downtown Ottawa Transit Tunnel. As part of the Mid-Centretown Community Design Plan, there are discussions on modifications to Metcalfe and other north/south streets, including the conversion of one-way streets to two ways.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 7pm
CCCA Board Meeting
Ottawa City Hall, Honeywell Room
The CCCA's regular Board meeting is on the third Tuesday of the month, which falls on December 21. Last year we skipped the December meeting, but this year the AGM was a month later, making December our first regular Board meeting. The Board meeting receives reports from the Executive and from the committees, then responds to any recommendations in those reports. Board meetings also usually include a presentation on a topic relevant to Centretown. CCCA members and the public are welcome to attend the CCCA's Board meetings, which are a good way to learn about what's happening in our neighbourhood.
Due to the proximity to Christmas, this meeting might be cancelled if there are no pressing matters that can't wait until the regular meeting in January. You can also participate in our committees, whose meetings are often less formal than the Board meetings.
Video: History of the CCCA
Lastly, for those of you who couldn't make it to the initial screening in April 2010, the video produced by the CCCA Heritage Committee is now online for you to watch on YouTube. Learn how and why the CCCA got started!
If you didn't have a chance to renew your CCCA membership at the AGM, we just want to remind you that CCCA memberships expire every year at the AGM. Annual membership is only $5, but when added up, it goes a long way to helping the CCCA. You can renew at a Board meeting or with a board member at a committee meeting, who can then pass along your renewal information and payment. You can also mail it to us at 101-210 Gloucester Street, Ottawa, Ontario K2P 2K4. If you don't like sending a cheque for only $5, consider adding a donation to it! ;-)
I hope to see you at many of these upcoming events. If not, I wish you all the best for the new year and hope to see you then. If you have any questions or comments about the CCCA, feel free to contact me.
Centretown Citizens Community Association (CCCA)
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Keeping on the cycling theme but climbing out of the subways, I next want to talk about Montréal's famous Bixi (Bicycle-Taxi) bicycle sharing system. And while I discussed segregated bicycle lanes and other cycling route infrastructure in Part 2, I'll also talk about what we saw that Montréal does for bicycle parking for those who don't use Bixi.
As soon as we got off the Greyhound bus, we crossed the street and came upon a Bixi station, as pictured above. They Bixi stations are labelled on the big advertising poster boxes, and this one at Berri and Maisonneuve had a very big capacity. Just behind the bikes, you can make out the segregated bike lane I posted about in Part 2 of this series.
This other downtown station also has a large number of stalls; I'd guess between 40 and 50. In an ideal system, only half the spots would be occupied, to provide equal functionality to people who are arriving on a Bixi looking for a place to park, and to people who want to rent a Bixi to ride elsewhere. This station, however, is full.
Further from the downtown core, it's a different story. This station at Bernard/Bloomfield has 20 spots, and all but four are occupied. Lots of people take bikes from the outer areas into the downtown, which is why these smaller stations are so empty, and the downtown ones are so big and full. I'm curious about the stop sign that seems to be loosely placed in the middle of the street. We sure don't get that in Ottawa. Is it permanent/semipermanent?
At Saint-Viateur and Clark (the red L next to the street names indicates which street is which), this station was completely empty. At one point, only one of us could find a bike. I believe a console at a different station (which had the one bike that we rented) directed us to this one, telling us a bike was available. Alas, when we got there, it wasn't. While in theory the console directing you to the nearest station would be helpful, we found the interface confusing to get to that information, and when we got the information, we didn't know where to go to get to the station it was directing us to. It would have been better if it showed a map, or at least if it had said "1 block west". Luckily, the stations are so close together that we just had to walk around for a couple of blocks in either direction and we found other stations that had bikes.
The Bixi stands are put right on the street, except where there are large, wide sidewalk areas like at the downtown stations we saw. When they're put on the street, they occupy about two car parking stalls. For non-Bixi cyclists, two parking stalls are taken over to accommodate bike racks that are delineated by yellow road paint and green bollards.
Both the Bixi stands and the standard parking stalls are installed between April 1 and October 31 of each year; the rest of the time, they are used for car parking. Even with this parking, you can see lots of cyclists locking their bikes to pipes along the wall of a nearby building.
There are a couple of key differences between Montréal and Ottawa on this. First, Montréal seems to have a lot more on-street parking spots than Ottawa, owing to its wider streets, so the loss of a couple parking spots to bicycles doesn't have the same impact as it would in Ottawa (where the loss of a single parking stall is met with hue and cry).
Second, Montréal has switched to centralized-payment parking, as Ottawa recently has. However, they have retained assigned parking spots. Ottawa's goal for Pay & Display is to increase revenues by removing designated spaces and thus squeezing more cars into the same parking zones. Montréal's goal is probably to increase payment options. As such, Montréal has kept the former parking meter posts, and has replaced the heads with information markers that identify the number of the parking spot, so that you pay for the correct one at the nearby kiosk (and don't need to put your receipt on your dashboard). The upshot for cyclists is that every one of these posts has a ring around it to allow cyclists to lock their bikes to the post. By contrast, Ottawa has removed the heads from parking meter posts (even ones with bikes attached!), and will be replacing only a fraction of them with Toronto-style post-and-ring racks.
Where the parking stall is being used for Bixi or standard bike parking, the identification head is removed and a bag placed over the post, which is still usable for secure bike parking because of the little ring.
That's the last I have to talk about regarding Montréal and cycling, though I'm sure I'd have more to share if I spent more time cycling there. Stay tuned for the last post in the series, Part 8, where I'll share some miscellaneous observations of the civic aesthetic in Montréal.