Posted: May 23, 2008, 4:03 PM
Join Date: May 2007
Tall order to protect
Shovel, Shovel, Shovel....
We want to densify but build taller.....
Tall order to protect
Highrises threaten architect's vision for Centretown
By BETH JOHNSTON, SUN MEDIA
Downtown Ottawa is reaching new heights but that's not the vision architect John Leaning had when the city paid him to look into its future more than 30 years ago.
Leaning, a city-commissioned architect, drew up a plan for Centretown in 1974 that is being threatened today by the construction of more highrise buildings.
His vision included residential pockets criss-crossed by major roads and a boundary that would keep buildings taller than 12 stories north of Gloucester St.
He says lofty new developments south of that boundary, such as the 17- and 19-storey twin towers under construction at Kent and Lisgar streets, will ruin the streetscape.
Major developers concerned with making a quick buck don't design buildings "sensitively," he said, calling the Centretown situation "urgent."
"I am not suggesting everyone has to live in a house but the buildings need to be sensitive to designs so the area is liveable, which it isn't when you get a massive building with the wind blowing around it at high speeds.
"Buildings need to be designed so they relate to people as they walk around on the ground in the human scale. They need to be scaled down."
Centretown residents have fought new highrises on Gilmour St., at Bank St. and Gladstone Ave. and at Lisgar and Metcalfe streets.
Leaning is worrying that city planners won't heed his words since amalgamation in 2001 the council is made up of mostly suburban councillors with little concern for downtown.
"The downtown core is under-represented. Downtown issues will get forgotten," he said. "These buildings are out of scale with the people who wander around and have to use them."
City planner Alain Miguelez said years ago heritage buildings were being demolished to build parking lots for commuters from the 'burbs.
"A taller building that replaces a parking lot is good. It brings more people in instead of cars and it populates the area, which supports more retail and services," he said.
Ottawa is trying to deal with its urban sprawl issue by bringing people back downtown to live. The city has set targets for how many residents it wants in each part of town.
"Centretown has a role to play in that," he said.
"The importance of design in architecture is obviously very critical. We don't want new buildings to destroy communities, we want them to improve communities."
The Centretown Community Association has to get its act together because it has a fight on its hands, Leaning said.
"They have to be quite forceful about what should be done in the Centretown area, otherwise it won't get done," he said.
"They are going to have to deal with things because they're not going to be dealt with adequately by council," he said.
HOW HOUSING STACKS UP
Household and population estimates for the central area of Ottawa in 2006:
- Single family homes: 44
- Semi: 26
- Row: 79
- Apartment: 5,385
- Total households: 5,534
- Population: 9,376
The central area, which includes the office district south of Parliament Hill, has the lowest number of single-family homes in the city and has the third-lowest number of households in the city.
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Facts about the riding of Ottawa Centre, according to Statistics Canada:
- Population in 2001: 114,032
- Population 2008: 109,336
- Change: -4.1%
- Singles: 45,030
- Number of census families in private households: 26,110
- Married couples w/o children at home: 7,695
- Common law couples w/o children: 4,230
Number of occupied private dwellings by structural type:
- Rowhouse: 3,995
- Apartment, duplex: 2,520
- Apartment building that has more than five storeys: 18,485
- Fewer than five storeys: 11,705
Intensification in the city has been a hot topic of discussion in the Beyond Ottawa 2020 review of the Official Plan. The discussion continues with expert panellists at the Intensification Forum's three public sessions.
The following sessions deal with intensification.
- Tuesday: How do we reconcile community aspirations for intensification with the principles of the Official Plan?
Speaker: Dimitri Roussopoulos, founder and CEO of Urban Ecology, Montreal, 7-9 p.m., city hall.
- Thursday: The Economics of Intensification.
Speakers: Pamela Blais, Metropole Consultants, Toronto; Doug Pollard, senior researcher, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; Rick Morris, Domicile Developments Inc.; Ray Simpson, Hemson Consultants, 7-9 p.m., Ben Franklin Place.
- Tuesday, June 3: Intensification that Fits: Supporting Intensification through Design, Compatibility & Collaboration.
Speakers: Peter Clewes, Architects Alliance, Toronto; Dennis Eberhard & Tom Smith Smart Centres; Michael Geller, Simon Fraser University; Basil Cavis, Canada Lands Company, Montreal, 7- 9 p.m., Ben Franklin Place.
To register for the sessions, visit ottawa.ca/beyondottawa2020 or call 3-1-1.