Friday, November 27, 2009

Exit Teriyaki, enter Quizno's

Back in April, I expounded on the versatile take-away containers of the Japanese-themed fast food restaurant on Elgin next to Harvey's, in the post Made In Japan: A Leftover Experience.

In late August, the store was shut down, due to arrears in the payment of rent, according to the letter posted in the front window.

The lettering from the sign was removed, leaving a black rectangle below the Elgin's trademark sign.

The door was open one day last week when I went by, and you could see that the former decorations were still inside. Some workers were removing boxes of old merchandise.

A sign in the door on that day advertised a Quizno's would be opening up. This would be the fourth in Centretown, after the ones at Bronson and Arlington, Bank and MacLaren, and Bank and Slater. A handwritten sign advertises an e-mail address to apply to work there. (I'd note that the one at Bank and MacLaren always has a "we're hiring" sign in the window every time I look)

This week, one of the panels in the sidewalk-facing windows was replaced from a "franchise opportunity" plus phone number to "Opening Soon" and Quizno's logo.

When I was having lunch at the Harvey's beside it on Tuesday, a constant banging of hammers emanated from the vacant store. Today (Friday) the door was open again and you could see the fruits of that labour: new walls, new paint job. Two building permits are posted on the inside door (not visible when the outer door is closed).

A colleague of mine suggested Genji on Lisgar as an alternative (and, frankly, more authentic) Japanese restaurant. There's also the noodle house between Somerset and MacLaren for other asian food. Not being a big fan of sushi, I might pass; I liked the Teriyaki place more for its takeout containers.

The Quizno's will be replacing one franchise fast food place with another, but it'll be better than another vacant storefront on Elgin.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Patterson Creek

Nothing much to say here, just a beautiful photo of Patterson Creek:

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

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Capping the bus stop post

Recently, OC Transpo route 51 was canceled, so the bus stops going down Lyon Street are out of service. The removal of the flags at the top of the posts has exposed the decorative cap at the top of one of the posts. The beautiful brickwork on the rowhouse on James makes for an elegant backdrop.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bank Street Phase III, Part 6: Bike racks

[This post is part of a series on Bank Street's new look. See the introduction and part I here.]

Last time, I talked about the surfaces on Bank Street. Today's post is on my favourite topic--the bike racks.

As described in this panel from the March 2008 consultation, there isn't enough room on Bank for separate artworks as part of the Percent for Art program. So the decision was made to combine art with function by having bike racks with artistic designs.

A mainstay of bike parking in Ottawa are these blue advertising-supported Velocity racks. There are other designs too, not all of which are successful. Unfortunately, as these little stickers reminded us this week, most of the blue racks are removed for the winter:

The most secure year-round place to lock your bike to is parking meters. However, this has two problems for Bank Street. For one, parking meters will be phased out for Pay & Display over the next few years. But they also don't support the bike at two points, as recommended in the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals' Bicycle Parking Guidelines, this unfortunate Bank Street cyclist's bike is a case in point: it's fallen and the front wheel may get hit by a car, and passers-by may think it abandoned, inviting tripping, vandalism, and other damage.

At a few of the side-street bulbouts, these ring-and-post racks were installed. There are a couple other shots of these in Part 4 of the series, benches. Ring-and-post is one of the better types of racks, though many of the ones on Bank Street were located far from where cyclists wanted to park.

Here's one of the ring-and-post racks removed during construction, next to the Scotiabank at Gloucester. You can see the clump of concrete at the base of the post that served as an anchor for the bike rack in the sidewalk.

North of Laurier, a ring-and-post variant, designed by a Montreal company, were installed, and are kept in place throughout the year. They certainly have a different aesthetic to them. I've heard complaints from some cyclists that these racks don't allow you to use the central post for locking a U-lock, which limits your options for securing your bike. I've noticed myself that there are too few of them around when you want to have a meeting at the Bridgehead at Bank and Albert and the committee members all got there by bike.

As part of the reconstruction for phases II and III, these triangular Cora racks were installed at many corners (this one at Bank and Cooper, North-East) for higher capacity bike parking, to take overflow when the racks along the street are full. They're also better for longer-term parking than the parking meters or the artistic racks, because there's less pedestrian traffic going by to bump into your bike.

They were particularly useful over the past winter, because the new artistic bike racks weren't installed until this year. They eventually came, and here are two of them installed in front of the Rogers Plus store at Bank and Gilmour. Their panels haven't been installed yet.

Here are some more at Bank and Flora, looking South toward the Queensway underpass at the European Glass and Paint store.

Normally bike parking is in high demand at Herb & Spice on Bank at Lewis, but on the day I took this photo, two dogs were all that was parked on the rack:

To install the racks, these cylindrical cores were cut out of the sidewalk down to the gravel, and the new racks are secured to strong foundations underneath. This one, of course, is at Bank and Gloucester looking North toward Laurier.

The racks are outfitted with these fingers which hold the steel panels. The horizontal piece will also double as another place to wrap your lock around.

The steel panels were laser-cut and delivered separately on pallets. There are 90 racks in all, featuring 30 different designs.

There was an official unveiling ceremony for the racks, held November 4, 2009 at Café Suprème at Bank and Cooper. Here we see one of the artists, Howie Tsui, describing the inspiration for his design to the crowd inside the coffeeshop.

All the designs were on display at the event, and each design was accompanied by a description of the design written by its artist.

And the official unveiling! This rack was designed by Roy Lumagbas, who is standing at the far left. (Photo courtesy of Councillor Holmes' office)

Finally, the completed designs are installed all down Bank Street. I quite like this stylistic representation of a cyclist.

And what's Bank Street without pigeons!

Café Suprème serves an ideal backdrop for this design. Can you see what it is*?

Be sure to check out my previous two posts on bicycle parking and design, as well as my other posts on cycling.

Tune in again in a few days for the next, and possibly last, installment of this series.

*It's a frog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bank Street Phase III, Part 5: Surfaces

[This post is part of a series on Bank Street's new look. See the introduction and part I here.]

Last time, I shared some photos of the benches on Bank Street. Incidentally, they've removed the new benches South of Somerset, too. I think they were just doing a dry fit before removing them for the Winter.

Today it's surfaces. Lots of the more interesting aspects of the Bank Street redesign is the new, broader sidewalks and the various pieces of street furniture on them, but the surfaces that stretch between the sidewalks--i.e. the roads and crosswalks--have enough going on to merit their own post.

Here's a photo looking South down Bank at Lisgar from July 2007 on the Phase II portion of Bank Street, from Laurier to Somerset, in case you've forgotten how lumpy and bumpy Bank Street used to be. I believe they were drilling some core samples to get an idea of exactly what's underneath Bank Street in preparation for the following year's digging up of the century-old infrastructure. At the right is a newspaper box for Transcontinental Media's short-lived downtown weekly paper, the Ottawa City Journal:

After the underground work was complete, they paved a layer of asphalt in July to contain things. Here are some of the paving machines at Gilmour in front of the Rogers Plus store, at the end of a block-long carpet of asphalt. It doesn't go all the way to the curbs, because there was still more finishing to do on them.

South of McLeod, partial access to Bank Street was maintained so that people could get into and out of the mid-block parking lots on Bank. In late June, this alley of asphalt was laid to give drivers something more reasonable to drive on. The paving workers were very precise, following the string guide line to the inch:

In the final preparations for opening of the block, a pair of layers of asphalt were laid, stretching from curb to curb. This was taken in Phase II (looking North at Cooper) on November 14, 2008, with two more weeks of preparations before the street reopened.

By contrast, the second layer of asphalt went on this year's segment at the end of September, as seen here looking North up Bank from Gladstone. They've refined their techniques and were able, and by November 14 this year, Bank Street was already back open!

It seems more often than not that they pave asphalt right on or before a rainy day. You can see the water beading up on the surface of the asphalt. These bags of calcium chloride flakes were stacked outside Herb & Spice at Bank and Lewis. When applied, it looks like someone dropped piles of styrofoam pellets over the dusty gravel, apparently to control dust.

Once the second layer of asphalt was paved, the street looked nearly ready to go. Since the streets were still closed to cars, they became a de facto pedestrian space. These folks animated the street with a street hockey game between Gilmour and MacLaren streets, using construction pylons as goalposts. Others used the closed (or open, depending on how you look at it) road to practise their skateboarding tricks.

Before the street could be re-opened, these asphalt berms had to be installed along the edges of the streets to smooth out the lip on the edge of the sidewalks. I'm not entirely sure what the lips are for, as they come and go. For example, across the street in this photo, in front of the Staples store at Bank and Waverley, you notice that the berm (and the lip it covers) stops at the lamppost, and the sidewalk continues with no lip. I suspect the lip is drainage-related. (Photo taken last week)

Next to come are the crosswalk markings. Guide lines were spray-painted on the crossing of Lewis so that the stop line and crosswalk lines could be drawn precisely.

The following day, the lines were painted. Because the closed roads prevent cars driving over them, these lines at MacLaren were still shiny when I photographed them on Thursday night:

Most of the above describes the work done on Phase III, the section under construction this year. Last year, the majority of this same work was on Phase II, between Laurier and Somerset. Finishing touches for Phase II were done this year, and similar finishing touches will be done on Phase III next year.

In this photo, taken in mid-August 2009, they've dug up one of the manhole covers at Bank and Somerset (the first photo in this post shows this being done at Bank and Cooper), and applied a temporary cold patch around it. The four holes, which were frightening to cycle over, allowed drainage and a leverage point to re-extract the manhole cover more easily. They'll need to raise it up with a spacer when they pave the final layer of asphalt. This also explains the height discrepency at the curb requiring the temporary berm--You can see the berm that was installed last year coming down off the lip at the edge of the curb.

About a week after they dug up the manholes, the final layer of asphalt had been laid (although the ones at the intersection of Bank and Somerset would remain for a number of weeks). Here's a shot looking South at Lisgar again--much nicer than in the photo above from two years ago! The crosswalks have been painted, and marks made for the yellow centre line to be painted.

On the cross-streets (in this case, Lisgar again), they needed to scrape off some of the old asphalt to give a straight cut for the asphalt to cover over smoothly. If you click the photo to zoom in, you can see the four holes around the manhole cover. The old crosswalk paint will simply be paved over.

The final asphalt makes for a smooth transition on the cross streets. In this case, Nepean Street.

In mid-September, these paint marks outlined the location of crosswalks. You'll note that they line up well with the border of the concrete sidewalk.

The lines guide a slice through the asphalt and crosswalk pavers are installed over a bed of sand:

The precast paver crosswalks help to define the crosswalk as a pedestrian zone and continuation of the sidewalk. Looks pretty good, if you ask me.

Tune in in a couple days for my Part 6: Bike Racks (my favourite).

Note also the upcoming CCCA meeting on Tuesday night, 7pm in the Honeywell Room at City Hall.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bank Street Phase III, Part 4: Benches

[This post is part of a series on Bank Street's new look. See the introduction and part I here.]

Last time, I discussed the installation of trees on Bank Street.

Today's post is on the benches. Here's one of the beautiful benches installed as part of Phase I of the Bank Street reconstruction between Wellington and Laurier in June 2007:

As for Phase II and III, the old seating was nothing to sneeze at; shown here with some of the old bike racks in the foregound, they were rings of metal grate seating around a circular tree planter. They were uncomfortable to sit on, and very antisocial--you couldn't easily talk with more than one other person while sitting on them. (Photo taken August 2004)

In a March 2008 open house on the look of Phase II of the Bank Street project (Laurier to Somerset), this design charette described some possible designs for benches. The one on the top was designed to allow two people to sit together and have a conversation, while preventing someone from sleeping on the bench. (Not a goal I value highly)

As posted in last year's post on Bank Street reconstruction, this ugly cafeteria chair was the closest they could come to that design. Luckily, it was only put there for evaluation purposes, and thankfully the evaluation failed.

For reference, here's a shot of the two ring-and-post bike racks that used to be on that bulbout, as well as the concrete sidewalk design. This corner now contains a higher-capacity bike rack. Bike racks will be the subjecdt of Part 6 in this series.

It's hard to take photos of the benches, because I don't like taking photos of people without their permission, yet the benches are almost always occupied. Even before construction finished, this is a signal of a great pedestrian space. This photo is about the closest I could come, at Bank and Lisgar, looking at the Wallack's store and the Invisible Cinema, in mid-September 2008:

More benches were installed next to the Scotiabank at Bank and Gloucester, across from the Royal Oak. Here in April 2009 you can see that the two benches face each other:

Whereas in late September 2009, the benches have ben reconfigured, and a bunch of spray paint violates the relatively new decorative surface elements. The spray paint indicates the location of underground traffic signal wires:

In early November 2009, the benches were installed on the section of Bank under construction this year, from Somerset to Arlington. Here's one freshly installed outside Quizno's at Bank and MacLaren:

Here's another one kitty-corner from the previous photo, behind Hartman's. The protective styrofoam packaging is still on the arms of the benches.

At the March 2008 open house (where the design charette above was on display), I had a discussion with the designer of the benches about the middle arm. Obviously designed to keep people from sleeping on the benches (it seems we can't fight that sentiment any more), but the arm's location in the middle of the bench made it hard to use. I mentioned that each half of the bench could only really hold one-and-a-half people, reducing its overall capacity. A mother and her son would have to sit on opposite halves of the bench.

I suggested to the designer that the arm be moved to one side, so that you could fit three people on the bench. Furthermore, elderly people would be able to use both arms to lift themselves if they sit on the narrower part of the bench. The architect argued that it broke the symmetry, but I was delighted to see that someone eventually agreed with my point (imagine consultation actually yielding results!). Behold the design of the benches installed south of Somerset, including this one at Florence:

The really confusing bit was that the same week the new benches were installed south of Somerset, the benches from Laurier to Somerset were removed. You can still see the shadows where two benches had been installed on the South-East corner of Bank and Nepean. Why were they removed?!?

Tune in on Monday for Part 5: Surfaces