Ottawa: Rebuilding and revitalizing a city, street by street

Ottawans are one step closer to living the new North American dream.
“This new form of the North American dream is replacing the dream of the last two generations,” world-renowned urban design consultant Ken Greenberg told approximately 70 attentive Ottawa-area residents recently at Ottawa City Hall.
“After World War II, what began to be referred to as the North American dream was for people to have a single-family house and cars for every adult and a backyard,” Greenberg explained at the third and final Downtown Moves – Transforming Ottawa Streets public open house. “Everything you did you could easily access by car and that’s what people aspired to.
“There’s a whole generation going on with returning soldiers after the war which is really when it started. You have the interstate highway program in the U.S., you had preferential loans, you had the insurance industry behind it. . . . That became a template and was sold around the world and it was tied to drive-ins, drive-in banks and drive-in movies.”
The game is changing for the city
That model’s rule is now being pushed aside. “Now there’s a real shift as Generation X, Generation Y, the Millenials are all opting for something different.” Greenberg said, “and that’s why you’re seeing in city centres across North America this huge infusion of people coming into the city and it starts with empty-nesters and young singles, but then it broadens out and people decide to raise their families in the city.
“So it’s a whole resurgence of urban life; now it’s all about the neighbourhood, and it’s about access to transit, it’s about cycling . . . and people have bragging rights if they can buy groceries on foot, so it’s a very different way of looking at the world and it’s coming upon us very rapidly.”
Enter the Downtown Moves study team, which has been busy since last June analyzing public feedback in a downtown that has been plagued by a dearth of shoppers and faces a climbing office vacancy rate, largely due to the federal government relocating to suburbia.

Vibrant, safe and accessible streets
The Downtown Moves squad has been tasked with identifying ways to create vibrant, safe and accessible streets for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders by seeking a balance among street users and by improving the streetscape environment.
Downtown Moves’ raison d’etre has been largely spurred by a major investment in Confederation Line, Phase 1 of Ottawa’s Light Rail Transit System. It is set to open in 2018 at a cost of approximately $2.1 billion.
“(The study is) really about how to reinvigorate the quality of our downtown streets. It’s not just about mobility, so it’s not just about walking and biking and transit use of the road,’’ said Ron Clarke, a senior partner at Ottawa’s
Delcan Corp.
“It’s how it all comes together into the quality of how we get around. One of the unique things here in Ottawa is that we are constrained with very narrow right-of-ways. We have right-of-ways that are in the range of 18 metres – 60 feet – that’s very narrow and we’re trying to fit so much in them.
Encourage walking, cycling and public transit
“Everyone we’ve talked to, the trend has been reaffirmed over and over again that the quality of our downtown streets and how they work today is lacking and this is what our major focus is: finding a balance and (figuring how) how to put the streets back together and encourage walking and cycling and leverage that transit investment.”
To that end, the team has identified 13 “Vital Moves” for the revitalization of downtown Ottawa:
*         Secure wider sidewalks near transit station entrances;
*         Transform Queen Street into a transit showcase street;
*         Revitalize Albert and Slater Streets;
*         Connect Downtown to Lowertown;
*         Enliven Sparks Street;
*         Complete an inter-provincial bike loop;
*         Integrate Town and Crown across Wellington Street;
*         Embellish Metcalfe Street;
*         Connect Downtown to LeBreton Flats;
*         Enable mid-block connections serving the transit stations;
*         Repurpose MacKenzie King Bridge;
*         Confirm Rideau Street as a main street;
*         Improve the MacKenzie King/Nicholas/Waller intersection.
The study’s “Plan of Streets” also places downtown streets into one of six categories:
1. plaza (typically streets without cars such as Sparks Street and a piece of William Street);
2. ceremonial (such as Confederation Boulevard and linkages to it such as Metcalfe, Elgin and Kent Streets);
3. business (mixed office, commercial streets such as O’Connor, Metcalfe, Albert, Laurier and Slater);
4. downtown neighbourhood (such as segments of Albert and Bay Streets);
5. main street (Bank and Rideau); 6. showcase (exclusively Queen Street)  – based on their planned function.
“It’s a very contact-sensitive approach looking at creating different streets for different priorities, recognizing that not every street can be the perfect street for cycling or the perfect street for transit,” said Amanda O'Rourke, director of policy and planning for the Canadian non-profit organization 8-80 Cities.
“Instead, it looks at how to prioritize one street over another.”
Part 2 of Barry's report explores how the project is being received.



Ann launched RENX in 2001 as a part-time venture and has grown the publication to become a primary source of online news for the Canadian real estate industry. Prior to…

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Ann launched RENX in 2001 as a part-time venture and has grown the publication to become a primary source of online news for the Canadian real estate industry. Prior to…

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