Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ash to ashes...

The Emerald Ash Borer beetle is continuing its destruction of a significant portion of Ottawa's urban canopy, and Centretown isn't escaping it either.

On Percy Street, at the CCOC's housing development at the former Percy Street School, a row of ash trees are marked for removal. Someone has added cloth signs to the tree trunks, including this one that says "That ash is boring me to death!"

From the ground, these mature Ash trees don't look too bad. Lots of leaves left...

But from across the street it's clear that the trees' days are numbered.

The City has some useful information about the EAB on its website at ottawa.ca/eab

Thursday, May 22, 2014

3D Thursday: Lewis blossoms

Spring is finally here, and with it the trees are blossoming. Across from Minto Park* on Lewis Street, this tree makes for quite the 3D experience:

Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

Also within the Golden Triangle, a couple blocks east on Lewis, at MacDonald, is another blooming bush whose lotus-like flowers look like they're floating in the air when you look at them with 3D glasses on:

Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

Let's hope the nice weather lasts!

*On the topic of Minto Park, the CCCA is hosting its annual BBQ, plant sale, and e-waste drop-off at the annual Minto Park Sale, on Saturday, June 14, 2014. These fundraisers will be important for the CCCA as we will need funds for expert assistance as we prepare for our OMB appeal of the Centretown Community Design Plan this fall. If you'd like to volunteer for the CCCA's Minto Park Sale activities or for the OMB appeal effort, please contact the CCCA (ccca@centretowncitizens.ca).

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tulips & tower cranes sprouting up

In the first weekend of May, the tower crane for Broccolini's hotel/condo at 199 Slater went up. This is right across the street from the BMO building at 280 Laurier, at the Slater Street "Bank" Transitway station. The BMO building had some nice flowers by its windows to go along with the view.

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

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Peds on Weds: Condo access fail

Suppose you're going to spend $18.5 million on a 12-storey (later 16-storey) condo building. You might build it with exclusively one-bedroom apartments that cater to young, single individuals. Such apartments aren't big enough to raise children, so you wouldn't need to worry about your residents getting in with a stroller. And your target market is decades away from using a wheelchair.

So despite legislation that gradually encourages more and more compliance to provide equal access to people with disabilities, you install a step at the front door:

If a resident loses a limb or is paid a visit by a wheelchair-using relative, there's a second-class entrance at the side of the building. When they're dropped off at the front of the building (as is customary), someone who is unable to walk up a step would of course have no difficulty walking 60 feet or so out of their way on a snowy sidewalk:

To add insult to (hopefully no) injury, the entrance was initially built with a direct ramp from the sidewalk. The step was added after the fact:

According to the Condo project website, a new development in "contemporary Canadian cities" has the following requirements: "a sharp and creative Development Team with a solid track record of success ... design innovation, marketing savvy, systematic project management, financial prowess and political acumen." (I won't go into the "partnership with...neighbours" bit where the first the community association heard of this development was the day before it went to the Committee of Adjustment)

But as the CCCA's Seniors Committee regularly writes in their column in the Centretown Buzz, our ageing population means that we also need to ensure that new buildings are built with accessibility and visitability in mind. These qualities are essential in ensuring that ageing individuals can continue to live in their homes, ensuring a healthy diversity of the community.

There's only so much you can do for older buildings that were constructed before universal accessibility was a consideration, but for new buildings there's no excuse a person with a mobility restriction can't enter the building with as much dignity as an able-bodied person from the first time they visit.

[Tune in on Wednesdays at noon for a new pedestrian-themed blog post. View the Pedestrians label for previous Peds on Weds posts]

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jane's Walk Ottawa 2014 this weekend

This weekend (May 3-4, 2014) is the annual Jane's Walk Ottawa series of free urbanist walking tours, and as with last year, I'm publishing a list of walks in Somerset Ward.

I mentioned two of the walks I went on last year in my blog posts The Lonely Elm (Dennis van Staalduinen's walk on Wellington Street, who this year is giving a walk in Champlain Park) and The stones don't fall far from the hill (Quentin Gall's talk on Ottawa's Building and Monument Stones), both of which seem to have been one-offs.

Here's the rundown of Jane's Walks in Centretown for this year:

Monday, April 28, 2014

Onramp houses on O'Connor

Christopher Ryan had a timely post on Ottawa Start about Connor Court, describing one of the low-rise apartment buildings built in the first half of the 20th Century. As he mentions, O'Connor Street is little more than an onramp to the 417 freeway all the way from the office buildings at the north end through the apartment/commercial district through Centretown.

South of a certain point, O'Connor is mostly mid-rise residential or low-rise commercial, there are a couple of exceptions. I noticed this house for the first time just earlier this month. It's 231 O'Connor, between Cooper and Somerset on the east side:

231 O'Connor is on the 1958 aerials on GeoOttawa, but it isn't on the 1902 (1912 revision) fire insurance maps (unsurprisingly, given the architecture). (Er, on closer look, it appears to also be commercial)

The same day I noticed the house above for the first time, I also took an appreciation for these two houses at numbers 312 and 314, on the west side of O'Connor just north of Frank Street:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Peds on Weds: Delivery door design

Is this delivery truck at the Delta Ottawa City Centre too big, or is the delivery entrance too small?

Either way, it results in the truck blocking the sidewalk completely, and even this short truck diverts pedestrians not just into the roadway, but into the travel lane, to get past. Not the only pedestrian issue at this '60s-built hotel and conference centre.

[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]

Thursday, April 3, 2014

3D Thursday: Super Men's barbershop

On March 12, 2014, I learned via Twitter that 504 Gladstone was on fire. I didn't get there until around 10pm, after it had been successfully defeated. The fire damage appeared relatively contained to the end unit, and the street had reopened to traffic. I took a 3D photo, which is actually a bit chilling because you can see right into the damaged unit through the window opening:

Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

I learned about the fire shortly after a neighbour across the street tweeted a couple photos around 6:30 p.m.:

By the next day, the units on the west end of the row had been boarded up. The fire appeared to have been most severe in the commercial ground-floor unit at the west end, which contained an antique store, and previously a "Teleologist" (which a few years ago sparked a discussion, of which I can't find any record any more):

This wasn't the first close call for this building. In January 2007, a rather nasty (though, I understand, non-fatal) collision at this corner tore a traffic signal pole right off its footing and just missed smashing the windows of the art classes.

At the east end of the row are an art class place and the Super Men's Hair Stylist & Barber Shop. I started going there a few years ago after my previous barber on Bank Street kept jacking his prices up with decreasing customer service. These talented Iraqi men do it for much less, seven days a week (though the price has increased slightly since this photo was taken in November 2011):

Due to the smoke damage, the barbershop decided to move across the street, next to Fil's Furniture. It's a much larger space which will allow one of the barbers to move his art studio into the back:

His website is www.FirebySaba.com; an unfortunate name given the circumstances, but arising from his technique. His thickly-covered canvasses are a "controlled riot of colour" (according to the website description), and I'd say some of them are even astral. The first time I met Sabah, he had been in Canada for just two months and had never experienced a real winter. He's easily one of the most interesting and passionate people I've met.

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

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Peds on Weds: Back turned on the public realm

[Note: at 2pm today, the pedestrian advocacy group Walk Ottawa will be holding a ceremony to place a pedestrian memorial marker at Rideau and Waller, where a pedestrian lost her life to a tractor-trailer in February. Details can be found here, here, and here]

This is a topic I wanted to post about months ago but never got around to, around when Urbsite thoroughly covered the 1970's guidelines for a second-floor enclosed pedestrian system. These guidelines implemented ideas envisioned by such documents as the 1965 Hammer Report (discussed in this post of mine) for a completely segregated pedestrian system, which would allow motorists dominion over the street-level public right-of-way downtown:

Urbsite is almost finished its nine-part series on the planning and (more planning, and) development of the Rideau Centre. In the most recent post, instalment 8 of 9, the author used a bunch of photos I'd taken which I shared with him. (I figured letting him post my best Rideau Centre pics would help me focus on Centretown... I'm not sure that worked!)

I took this photo this past Boxing Week, showing the wider of the two pedestrian overpasses/skywalks/pedways between the Rideau Centre and the Bay. The Bay has made use of this space for additional merchandising. It's perhaps not the best use of such a space, but at least it's being used. This was envisioned in the plans for the Rideau Centre skywalks, and for Ottawa's skywalks in general:

In this photo, one of the ones used on Urbsite, we can see how this affects the outside though. As hinted by the phrase "inward-facing merchandise" in Urbsite's caption for this photo, the merchandise is entirely focused on the shoppers inside the skywalk. As if the skywalk doesn't close in the streetscape enough on its own, the Bay's merchandise literally turns its back on the thousands of potential customers outside.

It doesn't need to. The little drawings of skywalks envisioned in the '70s showed lots of space around the shopping racks, where shoppers could peruse, peer out, and peer in. The skywalk was an extension of the public realm, but instead it has become part of the closed-off public space. They could have at least hung some display merchandise on the backs of the cabinets to serve as long-distance window-shopping!

I highly recommend reading Urbsite's series on the development of the Rideau Centre. It's a fascinating story with many twists and turns (and period images!) Start with part 1 here.

[Tune in on Wednesdays at noon for a new pedestrian-themed blog post. View the Pedestrians label for previous Peds on Weds posts]

Monday, March 17, 2014

How the Corktown Footbridge got its name

I know I just posted a blog post about the Corktown Footbridge, and I've previously covered the opening, but in honour of St. Patrick's Day—and my just-over-one-eighth Irish heritage—I'm reprinting the article I wrote in this month's issue of the Centretown Buzz, telling the story of my time on the naming committee for what is now the Corktown Footbridge.

Monday, March 10, 2014

An urban gas station in Centretown

The Petro Canada at Bronson and Somerset quietly reopened this past Friday after about six months of construction, which started shortly after the reopening of newly reconstructed Bronson Avenue. It comes complete with a convenience store at the corner, seen best at night in HDR.

Even though about three-quarters of Centretown residents walk, bus and bike as part of their regular commute to work and school, the car ownership rate in Centretown is about 1.3 cars per household. So when residents of Centretown, Chinatown and Dalhousie eventually have to fill their tanks, they have to go somewhere. After the closure of the Shell station at Gloucester, this station just on the far side of Centretown's Bronson border is one of the closest to downtown. (I'm not saying I regret the closure of the gas stations that used to pepper Centretown much more heavily!)

But just because a gas station is a car-oriented business, it doesn't mean it can't also fit into the fabric of a walkable urban neighbourhood. Before the construction photos, let's look at how the station used to look:

Monday, February 24, 2014

8 Love Locks' Flat

Both the Ottawa Citizen and the Centretown Buzz did stories about the love locks on the Corktown Footbridge in advance of Valentine's Day. Come to think of it, so did I.

What I didn't post was this photo from the same day, showing a chain of "love locks" (I suspect this set is just regular locks...), with the canal-side pavilion "8 Locks' Flat" in the background:

I have a lot of photos of the canal and of the footbridge, as you can imagine considering the Pedbridge blog I used to document the bridge's construction in great detail, and considering I was on the naming committee for the bridge!

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

Thursday, February 13, 2014

3D Thursday: Bicycles and icicles

This past weekend, Citizens for Safe Cycling's third annual Family Winter Bike Parade ended at 8 Locks' Flat, where a number of bike racks were laid out for us on the patio, which we diligently filled. A number of cyclists had already left by the time I took this photo:

Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

Mike from the Ottawa Bicycle Lanes Project posted a Vimeo video of the ride.

As I left 8 Locks' Flat, I noticed some people had hung some posters from the Corktown Footbridge. If you zoom in, you can make out the words "Marry Me Tia". Awww... (I didn't get a 3D photo of it)

I then headed to the Winterlude festivities in Confederation Park to check out the ice sculptures. As with previous years, there were plenty of military themes, in particular commemoration the start of World War I. This life-sized sculpture depicts women waving off their soldier husbands or boyfriends heading off to war by train.

Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

Another angle:

Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

Here's the official description of the sculpture, entitled "100 Years Later – The Beginning of the First World War"

This sculpture is presented by Veterans Affairs Canada, and Winterlude is for the first year being presented by the department of Canadian Heritage, as indicated by the banner at the bottom of the placard. (The NCC still maintains the Rideau Canal Skateway.)

The 36th edition of the three-weekend-long Winterlude festival continues in its final weekend this Saturday through Monday (Family Day) along the Rideau Canal, in Jacques Cartier Park, and at various venues elsewhere.

The skateway will remain open after Winterlude for as long as conditions permit. See current conditions on the official NCC Ice Conditions website or on this unofficial website which is more mobile-friendly.

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

Monday, February 10, 2014

Snow removal on Bank Street (video)

On the left, the snow accumulation on Bank Street's west sidewalk from the previous snowfall. On the right, the mostly-bare road and sidewalk minutes after the City took the same snowbanks away from the east side of Bank Street last night:

I described the process in more detail in my 2012 post, "Snow removal on Kent." In summary, some very deft sidewalk plow operators push the snow from around various obstacles on the sidewalk into the road. Then graders like this one go by to arrange this snow into a straight row on the roadway:

Then, of course, the big snow blower machine comes by to whisk the snow (and ice!) all away with ease, while a lineup of trucks follow in wait of their turn to collect the snow from the blower:

I took a video of the blower going by. Watch it in stunning HD:

As described at a briefing last week at the City's Transportation Committee, snow removal (that is, physically removing it from the road and taking it someplace else, as opposed to snow clearing, which is just pushing it aside) makes up the biggest part of the City's winter maintenance budget. Of the $11.8M spent to clean up after the December 20 storm, most ($7.2M) was spent on snow removal. By contrast, $873,000 was spent on sidewalk clearing during and after that storm, which amounts to about a dollar per person for that one storm.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Peds on Weds: Part 4: A history of sidewalk design in Ottawa

Today for the fourth and final entry of the sidewalk-design series, I'm going to give a history of sidewalk design, starting at the establishment of the original City of Ottawa, in 1855 (and earlier!). In part 2 of this series, I already gave a "little history" of the Toronto-style sidewalk design, relating specifically to how they became standard back to the establishment of the current amalgamated City of Ottawa in 2001. This followed part 1, in which I described "Toronto-style" sidewalks and the problems they're meant to address, and part 3, in which I discussed some of the issues the Toronto-style sidewalk itself has faced.

Today's entry starts with the West Ward Market, built in 1848 by Nicholas Sparks. This was used as Ottawa's first City Hall, roughly where the NAC is today.


The first municipally-built sidewalks in Ottawa actually predate the City of Ottawa's 1855 incorporation: by-law number 37 of the Town of Bytown, approved the 23rd of September, 1850, was "To authorize the expenditure of £75 in making a Plank Sidewalk, S. side York Street":

Monday, February 3, 2014

Flashy bike

Near the end of December as the Rideau Canal skateway was agonizingly close to opening, I went on a Bike Ride along the canal one night to take some photos of the canal. With my bike resting on one side of the Bank Street bridge, I took a picture of it. Realizing I'd accidentally got it when the flashing purple lights were off, I took another. At the suggestion of a friend, I made it into an animated gif, and it works pretty well!

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Peds on Weds: Toronto-style sidewalks part 3 - the downsides

There has been a fair amount of criticism of the Toronto-style sidewalk design since it was made the standard in the City of Ottawa in 2006, just as there have been various challenges implementing it. As with any standard, you can't please all of the people all of the time, especially in a constrained physical environment like Delaware Avenue, below:

In the first part of this series, I described what "Toronto-style" sidewalks are and how they're supposed to work. In the second part, I detailed the rather technical history of how this sidewalk design, also known as "ramp-style vehicle access crossing", became standard, following through minutes from post-amalgamation City of Ottawa through to 2006.

Feedback about the design started as soon as the sidewalks on Delaware (pictured above) and Holland Avenue were installed for the pilot project. Since then, the design has also received its share of criticism from various sources. Today I'll be discussing these criticisms, and other issues the standard has encountered. I'll finish the series next week with a review of alternatives, starting with how Ottawa's sidewalks have been designed through the ages.

Monday, January 27, 2014

179 Waverley update (2012 fire)

Two years ago to the month, the house at 179 Waverley Street in the Golden Triangle suffered a two-alarm fire. The following week I posted a couple of photos I took when I arrived shortly after it was extinguished. Here's another from the same photoset, of a pumper truck being emptied of water after use:

The windows were quickly boarded up. It looks from the outside like most of the fire damage was restricted to the upper floors.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

3D Thursdays: Lotta Hitschmanova

After picking up my mail from the Sparks Street post office last week, I noticed a plaque on the entrance to 56 Sparks which I hadn't before, with a relief profile of the subject, Lotta Hitschmanova.

Source photos for the 3D image: Left (adjusted), Right (adjusted)

(I had to make some significant adjustments to the images with Photoshop's "lens distort" feature to get both of the images roughly square, and as a result the effect is much more crisp when you viewi the image full screen. I've included the adjusted versions of the source images above to save you some trouble if you wanted to have a go at it yourself.)

Not having noticed the plaque before, I also hadn't heard of her before either. Hitschmanova's Wikipedia Entry isn't too short, and longer than the entry for the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, which she founded in 1945 and remains operating at 56 Sparks Street, suite 705 as USC Canada.

The USC Canada website has a trove of information about Dr. Lotta, including historic audio and video clips of USC public service announcements narrated by her.

[Tune in on Thursdays at noon for a new 3D image. View the 3D label for other posts with 3D images. 3D FAQ]
[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]