Monday, April 29, 2013

Special CCCA Board meeting on Tuesday

After last week's community meeting to discuss the Centretown CDP, the CCCA's Board of Directors will meet tomorrow evening, Tuesday, April 30, at 7pm at City Hall (Billings Room*) to discuss the community response, and as always these meetings are open to the public.

There will also be a public presentation from the City tomorrow (April 30) afternoon at 1:30 at City Hall, where they will reveal their reaciton to the requests made by developers and community association when the CDP was endorsed by the City's Planning Committee on March 26. (This staff presentation was initially to be to some key stakeholders, including the CCCA, but was opened up to the public as consolation for City staff not attending the CCCA's public meeting.)

As discussed last week, the community consultation was to discuss a deal between the CCCA's board and the development community to go to the City seeking changes to the latest draft of the Centretown CDP. The most controversial portion has to do with tall buildings in Mid-Centretown, the area roughly bounded by Cooper, Elgin, Kent and Argyle, whose zoning would increase the height limit to 9 storeys from the current 4 1/2 (Elgin would remain at around 5 storeys). The residents of this area dominated the audience at last week's public meeting.

The latest draft of the City's plan, responding to concerns from the development industry, introduced a provision for "Landmark Buildings". These could be much, much taller than 9 storeys (potentially 30 to 50 storeys), if they met a sizeable list of strict requirements. Such requirements incldue 40% of the area devoted to greenspace or a public amenity, and that each such property must border on three streets, one of which must be Kent, Metcalfe or O'Connor.

The CCCA-Developer agreement proposes an alternative called "Small Moments" which would essentially loosen the criteria for buildings that exceed 9 storeys, but would limit the amount to which they could grow. So there would no longer be a requirement for a site to front on more than one street, and such properties could also be on Bank Street or Elgin Street. In exchange, the development must include a "small moment" of a public amenity, such as a parkette.

There are other elements to the CCCA-Developer proposal, and many other aspects of the community design plan which have been part of the three years of consultation. It has generally been agreed that taller buildings (up to 27 storeys) should remain at the north (north of Cooper) and south (along Catherine) edges of Centretown. However, many people at the meeting were not familiar with the prior stages of consultation, and they expressed frustration that the discussion had such a narrow focus, not mentioning affordable housing, for example.

Nevertheless, the audience was asked for their opinion. The video below shows their response to the four options (the cards are color-coded by area of residence: pink for west of Kent, green for Kent to Elgin, and orange for east of Elgin, although some developers voted also). The options were:
(1) Support the CCCA-Developer agreement (i.e. Small Moments)
(2) Support the latest draft of the City plan (i.e. Landmark Buildings)
(3) Support neither of the above
(4) I don't know

The biggest response was the third option, support for neither. Smaller responses were received for the CCCA-Developer agreement (which included votes by the non-resident developers) and the latest draft of the City plans.

On Tuesday, the CCCA's Board will take the input from this meeting, as well as what it learns about the Staff recommendation earlier that afternoon, and decide whether or not to re-approve the deal with the developers.

Then, a week and a half later, on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, City Council will consider the CDP, and any recommendations from Staff (i.e. the recommendations which staff will present tomorrow afternoon). Council will likely approve the CDP, though it remains to be seen how it will be amended.

As I wrote in last week's blog entry, I do not like the agreement and I voted against it at the CCCA's Board meeting in March. I also do not like the Landmark Buildings provision, but I feel that the Small Moments just makes it worse, with meagre tokens that do little to provide useful amenities to Centretown. The CDP originated because the existing zoning limits were unclear, contradictory and confusing. Nine storeys in mid-Centretown would fix this; however Landmark Buildings and Small Moments would re-introduce the ambiguity that the CDP was supposed to fix. The Landmark Buildings, because they are much more restricted geographically, are the lesser of the two evils. (Disclosure: I work in the office of Councllor Diane Holmes, however this blog post and the opinions therein are my own)

The CCCA's agreement with the development community, as well as a bunch of other CDP-related resources, are available on the CCCA's website.

I hope you can make it to one or both of the meetings tomorrow, as this is such an important issue that will affect Centretown for decades to come.
(*The Billings room can barely handle the amount of people who come out to a regular board meeting, and I suspect a larger one will be needed to accommodate the potential turnout for this one.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

What's Happening in Centretown - April 2013 (CCCA)

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Today's blog post is a message sent yesterday to the e-mail list of the Centretown Citizens Community Association by CCCA President Jordan Charbonneau. I've added the photos to this version.

I encourage all residents of Centretown to attend the Centretown Community Design Plan consultation meeting tomorrow night at 7pm at Dominion-Chalmers United Church. This will be an important opportunity for CCCA members and other Centretowners to learn more about the deal brokered by the CCCA and some members of the development industry. I should also note that I am on the Board of the CCCA. Of the 6 Board members who voted on this agreement on the second day of the February 2013 CCCA board meeting, I was one of the 4 who voted against (one of whom resigned after the motion was approved later by e-mail). I also remind readers, again in the interest of disclosure, that I work in the office of Councillor Diane Holmes, who has publicly objected to a number of provisions of the CCCA-developer agreement. Lots of information is in the April 2013 edition of the Centretown Buzz

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bixi's back for 2013

As of today, Capital Bixi is back in action! For subscribers like me, that means my key should work for the remainder of my one-year subscription (which I bought last June). And for you readers of my blog, that means I'm going to blog about it!

I never got around to blogging my Bixi photos last year (and the year before, my season-opener blog post used photos from the 2009 pilot), so I get to include some of those with this post. For example, the one above was taken last June at the Museum of Nature's east lawn, at Elgin and McLeod. On Saturday night, the bikes had been re-installed, though it was decidedly snowier:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

3D Thursdays: Bruce Garner's Bear on Sparks Street

[Note: I've created a new page on the blog with FAQs about 3D photos. Click the link in the banner at the top of the page.]

A familiar sight on Sparks Street is Bruce Garner's scuplture "Territorial Prerogative" at the intersection of Elgin and Sparks. I often see tourists taking their photos with the large bronze grizzly bear as I head to the post office.

Recently, it has come to light that the sculpture could be moving to make way for a new monument to commemorate the Stanley cup. This has triggered some additional attention to the sculpture, and the late Garner's work in general. [Edit May 2013: there is now a follow-up tour of additional Garner works]

Well, get out your red-and-blue 3D glasses*, because I've got three dazzling photos of the statue for your viewing pleasure. Looking west down Sparks Street:

[Tune in on Thursdays at noon for a new 3D image. View the 3D label for other posts with 3D images]
Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

Looking north-ish (up Elgin toward Wellington, with the post office in the background):

Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

And with the south-side buildings on Sparks in the background:

Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

The sculpture was installed as one of a series of pieces highlighting fountains on either end of each block of Sparks Street. The fountain at this sculpture was de-activated years ago.

Also long since removed are are a pair of accompanying pieces, depicting a bear cub chasing a fish (as seen in the photo on this website.

(* If you don't have 3D glasses, you can pick them up for a couple dollars at the Comic Book Shoppe on Bank near Lisgar. Or flag me down; I usually keep a spare pair on me to give away.)

[Tune in on Thursdays at noon for a new 3D image. View the 3D label for other posts with 3D images. 3D FAQ]

Friday, April 5, 2013

Clever McNabb kids swing high

I was walking along Gladstone McNabb Park about a month ago, back when we still had lots of snow, and noticed this rather clever adaptation of the swingset: because the packed snow had raised the ground level so high, the children (of all ages, I'm sure) wrapped the chain around the bar to lift the seat to a more useable height.

I have fond memories of playing on those swings when I attended McNabb Park (back when it was a public school).

The City will be redeveloping the park to make better use of some of the spaces, using Cash-in-Lieu of Parkland funds. In particular, the local skateboarding community is very interested in getting an outdoor skate park at McNabb, getting over 100 skateboarding enthusiasts to attend last Wednesday's public consultation meeting.

The display panels from the meeting aren't up on the City website yet, but I suspect there will be a link to them on this page of the Councillor's website when they are available, which hopefully will be the case by the time this post goes live.

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Peds on Weds: Taxiscaping

Taxis can get in on the vanscaping action, too. Park on the sidewalk to let cars go by unobstructed, while leaving no room for this pedestrian to pass.

You might be thinking that the taxi driver is annoying his or her own potential customers by doing that, but has that ever influenced your decision to take a taxi, to give a tip, or to tell the driver that, as a customer, you don't appreciate that?
[Tune in on Wednesdays at noon for a new pedestrian-themed blog post. View the Pedestrians label for previous Peds on Weds posts]
[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Six Sixty Three

This house on Gilmour Street is number 663, or as the number plate on the house says, "Six Sixty Three". Back in December, it was all decked out in festive paraphernalia:

At nighttime, it was quite the spectacle. There were only two or three houses in all of Centretown that approached this level of illumination:

Just for fun, here's an animated GIF of the two images (it took a bit of wrestling to get them to mostly line up):

When filing the above photos yesterday, I discovered that 663 MacLaren, just a block to the north, is also rather distinctive in its own way:

I've been very busy lately, and blogging fell by the wayside. Having heard no complaints, I've been in no hurry to get back into the habit.