Monday, September 16, 2013

Movie fans visiting World Exchange Theatre tonight

The World Exchange Centre is a shopping centre/office/parking complex that covers the entire block surrounded by Albert, Metcalfe, Queen and O'Connor streets. The complex includes two office towers (TD tower, built in 1991, and 100 Queen, built in 2001), a rooftop clock, a shopping centre (The World Exchange Plaza, also built in 1991, in which is the NCC's infocentre kiosk), a five-storey underground parking garage and a public plaza on the Metcalfe end:

The Plaza also contains Ottawa's last first-run downtown movie theatre, now that the cinemas are closed at the Rideau Centre. With Empire getting out of the cinema business, a new operator is being sought, with uncertain prospects. (More on this further down)

Tonight, people who want to see the theatre stay open are being encouraged to join a Fill The Theatre event to see the 6:30pm screening of the film "The Family" starring Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer. They also have a Facebook group to promote the cause.

Anyhow, back to the building...

The public plaza on the Metcalfe end of the block has an amphitheatre of sorts, and gives breathing room for a view of the office buildings on the south side of Slater, from left to right: 76 Metcalfe and 130 Slater. They aren't particularly captivating to look at, but there they are. Concrete behemoths right up to the sidewalk on one side of the street is better than having it on both sides!

The parking garage entrance is on Metcalfe (which you can see above), and the exit is on O'Connor. As part of the agreement allowing it to be built, the entrances were allowed to occupy a full lane of each street. Here's a view down the O'Connor exit.

There are a number of negative implications of this. For example, these accesses are rather imposing on the street, making O'Connor and Metcalfe even more difficult to bike on. When Metcalfe Street was 'closed' for Car Free Day in 2004 between Wellington and Laurier, passers-by didn't realize there was an event going on because interruptions like this parking garage entrance made the streetscape feel so disconnected. (For the first time since that year, a street will actually be closed—no air quotes required—for this year's Car Free Day celebrations, Sunday, September 22, 2013. Richmond Road will be closed for a good chunk of Westboro.)

It also hampers your options for what you do with Metcalfe. Converting Metcalfe to two-way traffic (not that there are any tangible plans to do so at the moment, but it's been floated) would be a lot more difficult with that chunk of road predetermined.

But the biggest issue is that the decision is virtually irreversible. The City can't really try to get rid of these ramps in the same way that, say, the World Exchange Centre is casually asking to no longer be required to have a theatre City Staff's initial response was to cave in (the Finance and Economic Development Committee, a.k.a. FEDCO, sent the report back to City Staff to try better - more info in news articles at CBC, OBJ, and the Sun). The City can't even really threaten to block the ramps because the public parking they lead to is part of the deal that's important to the City.

So far, the Centre's request to be allowed to convert the space to office is just a contingency, and there are no plans to change the other important elements of the complex: namely the public parking, the plaza, and—let's be honest—the LCBO. This photo was actually taken the same day in September 2010 as the one I blogged at the time, and I'm intrigued by the reflection of the tower in the glass of the Manulife building.

In addition, the CCCA's monthly meeting is tomorrow night, 7pm at City Hall. This is the last Board meeting before the AGM next month, and the agenda (sent to the CCCA e-mail list, if you're on it!) includes draft changes to the By-Laws resulting from the every-five-years review. Everyone's welcome to come to the meeting, and if you care about how Centretown develops, it's very simple to throw down a mere $5 to become a CCCA member!

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