Friday, March 30, 2012

Joe Cassey, 1926-2012

Last Friday, longtime Centretown resident Joe Cassey passed away.

I had the pleasure of meeting Joe when I interviewed him in 2009 for the video celebrating the 40th anniversary of the CCCA. The video was debuted at a special event in April 2010 where the four couples featured in the video (Joe & June Cassey, Nan and Tony Griffiths, Maureen and Mike Cassidy, and Elspeth and Jim Menendez) were each given a special CCCA Legacy Award for getting Centretown organized in the first place back in 1969. Here are Joe and June with their certificate:

As a result of that interview, his is one of the voices that tells the story of the community association's beginnings in 1968-1969 in the video:

Joe was born in 1926 in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay) Ontario, and served in the Navy in World War II.

He subsequently moved to Ottawa in 1959, and in 1968 moved into a house at the end of Cartier Street with his wife June, where the couple became famous for giving the best parties in Centretown, for which Joe did most of the cooking himself. The house dates to the late 1800s and served as a branch of the Bank of Ottawa from 1911 to 1919:

Just months after moving in, Joe and June learned that their house might be demolished (as previously described in the video, starting at 2m50s) in order for the City to run offramps through the neighbourhood as a replacement to Pretoria Bridge. This was part of a greater scheme of proposed massive downtown road projects including the 17-lane downtown distributor.

The fight to protect the Pretoria Bridge (and the neighbourhoods) involved many existing and nascent community associations banding together to form the Federation of Citizens' Associations (described in the video at 9m19s). As Joe recounts in the Video, he felt it was important that these efforts be recognized, which they were with a plaque that named the associations following the reconstruction of the bridge in the '80s:

After helping to found the community association, Joe succeeded Mike Cassidy as alderman for Wellington Ward (the Eastern half of what is now Somerset Ward) in 1973-1974, where he worked alongside Britannia Ward Alderman Marion Dewar, another community-based representative who treated the position as a full-time job.

Joe worked on many issues, including improving conditions in rooming houses (he told me of a pair of young women who had to use a garbage bag for a door or be kicked out if they complain to the landlord) and raising awareness of gay issues.

In the following municipal election, Joe made an unsuccessful bid for the Board of Control, coming in fifth in the race for four spots. A 1974 issue of the Centretown News covered his candidacy, as well as that of Marion Dewar who did get on the Board of Control that year, eventually to become Mayor of Ottawa: (click to view full size)

In 1976, Brian Bourns, who played a central role in the development of the Centretown Plan and who is still active in the CCCA, was running for a second term in Wellington Ward. Joe instead put in a successful bid against incumbent alderman Don Lockhart in Capital Ward, just on the other side of the Queensway. Here is an ad of his that ran in the December 1976 Glebe Report (PDF) days before the December 6 election:

The same issue has a profile of Joe on page 6. Already by this time he had served on community associations, the FCA, the Air and Water Pollution Board, the Regional Housing Committee and the Youth Services Board.

As he told me in the interview (mp3, 0m36s, 585KB), he got some criticism for not living in the ward. June recounts, at the end of the clip, that Joe's response was "Do you want an alderman who works in the ward or one who sleeps in the ward?"

Joe later served as President of the Central Canada Exhibition Association (he credits Nancy Smith for saving the Aberdeen Pavillion from demolition) and as the founding Chair of the Ottawa Congress Centre.

I didn't meet Joe until long after all this activity, but every time I stopped by he was always in the mood to talk.

I visited him in hospital a month before he passed away and he was still on top of current events at City Hall, asking me one by one for the latest news on each of the files. He was quite a force and I am glad to have known him.

Arrangements are to be held at Hulse, Playfair and McGarry (McLeod and O'Connor) this evening and tomorrow. Details are at, as is the virtual guestbook. Donations in memory of Joe can be made to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Somerset Street Reconstruction Part 8: Bridge sidewalks A

This 15-part series on the reconstruction of Somerset Street West finished with the section east of Preston with Part 7, which talked about trees and bike racks. We now turn our attention to the sidewalks on the section between Preston and Breezehill, over the O-Train tracks. Since sidewalks are pedestrian-related, this'll count as my Peds on Weds post for this week.

The drawing shown below was from the very first meeting where this project was introduced to the community. In stark contrast to the Bronson avenue consultation, the project team for Somerset West came to us with a drawing of what it looks like now, and some markers. Since then, they have worked with the community design team to make Somerset into a much improved street.

The sidewalks on the bridge weren't re-done simultaneously, so this photo of the sidewalks on the south side being broken up was taken at the same time that the forms were being laid for the sidewalks on the north side, which had been broken up quite some time before.

Unlike most sidewalks in Ottawa, the ones going over the O-Train tracks are built with reinforced concrete. This meant that they couldn't simply be pulled up by a big digger, but had to be chipped away by jackhammers. Here a few spent jackhammer tips sit amid the rebar.

Monday, March 26, 2012

CCCA News & Events March 2012

The following message was recently sent to the e-mail list of the Centretown Citizens Community Association by CCCA President Jordan Charbonneau. I've added the photos to this version. Join the CCCA and get on the e-mail list to receive 2-3 updates per month from the CCCA. Note that Images of Centretown is my personal blog and not a blog of the CCCA.

Good evening,

I hope that you enjoyed the recent heat wave that has auspiciously marked the beginning of spring. While temperatures look as though they will be more seasonable for the near future, we've certainly had a taste of the coming warmth!

I've outlined below a short summary of some of the events and initiatives of note in Centretown. More information on upcoming events is available on the CCCA website, which I encourage you to check often.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Somerset Street Reconstruction Part 7: Trees & bike racks

We've had some very summer-like weather the last few days, and the bike counter on the Laurier segregated bike lane registered 1519 cyclists on Wednesday, 2/3 of the highest daily number ever counted at that location!

That makes a good opportunity to talk about the trees and bike racks in this installment of the 15-part series on the reconstruction of Somerset Street West. Previously, in part 6 the subject was poles and signals.

Ging Sing Chinese restaurantIn the seventeen meetings of the design committee, great persistence by the community representatives and creative thinking all around enabled many more trees to be fit into the design. A particular challenge was getting trees on the viaduct/bridges by the City Centre building, because the drainage patterns make a challenging environment for trees' chance of survival. The solution is described in the next post in the series, part 8*, but this preliminary diagram gives an idea of how many more new trees (the dark green circles) will be added to join the old ones (lighter green circles):

Monday, March 19, 2012

Somerset Street Reconstruction Part 6: Poles and signals

Here's part 6 of the 15-part series on the reconstruction of Somerset Street West. In the previous part, we looked at the reconstruction of the roadway along Somerset between Booth and Preston. This time, we'll take a look at the traffic signals and hydro poles in the same stretch.

You'll note that the longer posts are now shortened on the summary pages. You can read more about that here.

Most of the photos in this post were taken in the winter, after Eric Darwin pointed out some concerns with the traffic signal pole design on his blog, West Side Action. I took this one, showing a carefully choreographed dance between two cherry pickers at Somerset and LeBreton, in mid-February.

Even though this is a couple of blocks east of the project limits at Booth Street, it looks like the opportunity was taken to replace some of the other streetposts that had been chipped away by years of snowplows edging past.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A few small changes to the blog...

"Read More" links

I discovered Blogger has an easy-to-use way of putting a "Read More>>" link in a post to break it up, so I've decided to use it. (If you're wondering, just put "<!--more-->", without the quotes, in the html at the desired point)

This should make it easier to skim the main page and search results. I found on other blogs, really long posts with lots of photos made it hard to find what I was looking for because it was hard to tell posts apart.

I get to choose whether and where to put the break, so I'm only breaking up posts with four or more photos, with some exceptions (so, for example, all of the Single photo posts are unbroken). So far I've edited old posts back to the beginning of 2011.

The main goal here is to make the blog easier to read and use, not to drive up page views. I could also have the RSS feed only show content that comes before the break, but I've left to show the full post (so the full post will still show at

Feel free to leave feedback on whether you like/dislike how I've implemented this.

Redirect to

Blogger now automatically redirects from to I didn't do this, I don't like it, and I can't disable it.

The best you can do is add /ncr (no country redirect) after the ".com" when typing the address to prevent it for the current session. Searching for the "Singles" label would thus be "". More info on this change is on this blogger support page.

I don't plan to go back and edit every single link in every post to add the "/ncr", much as I wish to.

More frequent posts?

Now that I've started posting weekly pedestrian-themed posts with my Peds on Weds posts, and with the 15-part series on the reconstruction of Somerset Street West (technically outside Centretown!), I'm considering adding another regular posting day, though I'm not sure which.

The Monday-Wednesday-Friday thing started with the similar nine-part series on the reconstruction of the T&L building and stuck, even if it means many posts are fluffy Singles posts. Stay tuned, maybe I will!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Somerset Street Reconstruction Part 5: Under Chinatown (Booth to Preston)

Last time, in part 4 of the series will take a short walk down the sidewalks of Rochester and Spruce. Previously, in part 3 of the 15-part series on the reconstruction of Somerset Street West, I showed the reconstruction of the sidewalks between Booth and Preston. This time, we stay on the east side of Preston Street for the reconstruction of the roadway itself.

The intersection of Somerset Street West and Booth Street is a heavy pedestrian area, and for historical reasons is very skewed. For both of these reasons, the crosswalks are painted with well-defined zebra stripes. As of June 2011, the work was just getting started on this phase of the work, which continues down the hill past Rochester to Preston Street.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Somerset Street Reconstruction Part 4: Contemporary sidewalk design, not on Rochester

I swapped parts 4 and 5 of this series so I could put this one in as a Peds On Weds Wednesday post.

The previous post of this 15-part series on the reconstruction of Somerset Street West showed the reconstruction of the sidewalks between Booth and Preston. Rochester is the street in between these two, and I figured we could take a little detour to talk about some sidewalk work in the area, and sidewalks in general.

While the roads, sidewalks and utilities underneath them were being dug up along Somerset Street West this past summer, the sidewalks were being replaced on Rochester Street and Spruce.

Not too far north of Somerset, the old sidewalks were dug up in early September, after the rest of the block was already prepared for concrete to be poured.

At the north end of the block, looking toward Somerset from Spruce, we can see the shape of the concrete forms creating the bulbouts (which are not new to this corner).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Somerset Street Reconstruction Part 3: Wider sidewalks

Here in the third part of the 15-part series on the 2011 reconstruction of Somerset Street West, we'll follow up on the Previous post about sidewalks by marching up the hill in Chinatown. On foot, of course.

In December, the curbs at Booth Street were being laid for the new sidewalks outside Nasa Food Centre. Behind them, the old sidewalks were still in place. You can see how much more room pedestrians have been afforded on the sidewalks.

In September, the work at Rochester Street was still only a few weeks in. The sidewalks were dug up pretty badly.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Somerset Street Reconstruction Part 2: West of Preston

This is the second in a 15-part series on the 2011 reconstruction of Somerset Street West. The previous entry included an overview and part 1 of the series.

In this part, we'll look at the section of Somerset Street west of Preston Street, before the hill up to the bridge over the O-Train tracks.

In this early rendering, superimposed over an aerial view of the existing intersectionyou can see that the design has been modified to bring Somerset down to two lanes, with a short left turn lane at the intersection of Preston. By removing a lane, pedestrians have more space to wait at the corners, and are exposed to less traffic thanks to a shorter crossing distance between the curbs. Preston Street was also reduced from four lanes to three in its reconstruction in the last two years, though the aerial view predates it.

Here's the view on the ground, looking west in June 2010. The intersection is paved with nice smooth asphalt from the recent reconstruction of Preston Street that ran through it. May's Chinese restaurant is at the northwest corner, on the right. Despite that, this section isn't in Chinatown but instead is part of the Preston Street (Little Italy) Business Improvement Area (BIA), whose offices are above the Chinese restaurant. In the design process, a "Marco Polo"/"East meets West" feature was considered for this intersection of the two BIAs, but this idea never took hold.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Peds on Weds: Ice away!

Even when no snow has fallen in a while, the City's road crews are still hard at work. This is something I've noticed a lot of this year that I don't recall seeing in previous years. The sidewalk plows are out in full force to clear built up snow and ice from the sidewalks and lay down salt on icy parts of sidewalks, especially at the corners. Not just the main streets, but side streets like Florence Street here have gotten this treatment—important when half of Centretown residents walk to work.

This is good news for pedestrians. There are plenty of things for pedestrians to complain about, but it's equally important to point out when good things happen to pedestrians. Please send me your ideas for positive pedestrian stories to include in my weekly Peds on Weds posts!

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

Monday, March 5, 2012

Somerset Street Reconstruction Part 1: Introduction/Overview

Last year, Somerset Street West was dug up between Booth Street and the far side of the bridge over the O-Train tracks (Just as Bronson will be this year north of the Queensway. There's an open house tonight at McNabb Community Centre at 6:30pm to talk about the construction phasing for Bronson). This is the first in a 15-post series detailing the reconstruction, from someone who was involved in the reconstruction from the very first committee meeting of a long, involved process. Shown here is one of the public open houses at the Plant Bath:

After sorting through hundreds of my photos from this construction project, I'm proud to present this saga in rich detail. I'll be posting one or two entries per week. Here's the roadmap:

Show/hide list of posts in this series

  • Part 1 (below): Introduction and overview
  • Part 2: West of Preston
  • Part 3: Wider sidewalks with unit pavers
  • Part 4: Under Chinatown (Booth to Preston)
  • Part 5: Aside — Rochester/Spruce sidewalk
  • Part 6: Poles & signals
  • Part 7: Trees & bike racks
  • Part 8: Bridge sidewalks A
  • Part 9: Bridge sidewalks B
  • Part 10: City Centre
  • Part 11: O-Train pathway — planning
  • Part 12: O-Train pathway — tunnel construction
  • Part 13: O-Train pathway — cantilevered boardwalk
  • Part 14: Bridge railings
  • Part 15: Finale - decorations and art

There were many other great photos and topics that didn't fit into the series that I intend to draw from subsequently. I did a similar series on the Bank Street reconstruction in 2009, though I wasn't involved in the planning part of that project. Other multi-part series can be found under the label Tours.

Now let's get this series started!

Part 1: Overview

Officially, this total reconstruction of Somerset Street consisted of phases 3 and 4 of the Wellington Street West reconstruction, which involved the reconstruction of Hintonburg's main street in the previous few years. Since Chinatown east of Booth was done a decade or so ago, these were the final sections in the reconstruction of the century-old water mains and sewers along Somerset and Wellington all the way from Elgin to Westboro.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Burgers on Main (on Somerset)

Last night I had dinner at Burgers on Main, a new restaurant at 343 Somerset Street West, just east of Bank Street in the Somerset Village BIA. The name derives from the original location in Manotick, in that village's Main Street. If you crossed a diner with a fine restaurant, you'd get Burgers on Main, which has the best of both. But first, a brief recent history of the location...

The building was briefly occupied by Friday's Roast Beef House following that restaurant's departure from Grant House on Elgin Street. I included this photo on the blog post about Grant House in late 2010:

According to Google Street View, it was previously a mediterranean restaurant called "Bocado". Street View took its photos in mid-Spring 2009, but I don't know how long Bocado was there.

I'm by no means a professional food critic, but I thought it worthwhile to share my impressions.