REMINDER: Community Meeting #2 – TONIGHT!

Don’t forget the second Community Meeting for the Mid-Centretown Community Plan is being held tonight at Knox Presbyterian Church (120 Lisgar Street). The team will be on hand from 5:30pm, with a formal presentation at 6:30pm. Tonight’s Open House is about sharing with you with some of our emerging directions for the Community Design Plan on what the future of Mid-Centretown could look and feel like. We want to know your views on the vision, with a particular focus around such issues as mobility, community amenities, parks and public realm and intensification zones.

See you soon!

November 30, 2010 at 11:34 am 2 comments

Join us for our next Community Open House

Our second community event is coming up on Tuesday, November 30th. The team will be at Knox Presbyterian Church at 120 Lisgar Street to present the emerging directions for what the future of Mid-Centretown could look, feel and be like. The night will include a presentation, a question & answer session and a series of themed activity stations (open space, amenities, transit, buildings) where you can talk one-on-one with team members about the ideas presented for the Plan.

We will be asking for your views on the vision, so please join us on November 30th to share your opinions and help bring to life the Community Plan.

Additional details about the event can be found here.

November 12, 2010 at 12:19 pm 2 comments

Midcentretown Tomorrow is Going Multimedia!

Update: Our first batch of reader-submitted photos have been uploaded! See below or the sidebar at the right for links to “Photos: The Good” and “Photos: The Not So Good.”

As important as words are, this blog seems to have an awful lot of them… So in an attempt to mix-it-up a bit and make the site (and the study) a bit more interesting for those of you who relate better to pictures or for those those don’t feel like writing a mini-novel as their contribution, we are creating opportunities for photographs and videos to be posted on the site as blog content.

After all, a picture says a thousand words, right?

Before the snow hits the ground, we are asking you to help generate blog content with your own photos or videos of Centrertown. Show us with your pictures what local issues are important to you, what places are important to you and should be protected or improved and what is the quality of character that Centretown should be striving for in the future.

To do this we have set up three image banks for you to share your pictures:

Centretown The Good: Send us your pictures of your favourite things in Centretown (buildings, businesses, streets, parks, people). Things that make you love living where you do.

Centretown The Not So Good: Send us your pictures of those aspects of Centretown that you think need the most help. Things that give you some cause for concern.

Centretown Tomorrow: Send us pictures of other places that you think Centretown should be like in the future – think of these as your inspiration for what Centretown could and should be. They can be photos you’ve taken on vacation from other great cities, or they can be photos you’ve seen online or in magazines that you think capture a great ‘urban vibe’ that Centretown should be striving towards. Think of these are the visionary photos.

Video: What is Your Centretown? For the video-savy, we are asking for you to show us in under 2 minutes what is important to you in Centretown. This can be filmed on your phone, on your digital camera or with a video camera. We want to hear you tell us why you think what you are filming is important (as part of your neighbourhood) and should be a priority in the study.

You can view these banks in three ways:

1) Click on the blue page titles in this post
2) Click on the “Multimedia’ tab at the top of the page and then click on the section titles within the text on that page
3) Click on the page titles in the sidebar to the right under the “Multimedia” section

We will be using a selection of your photos on the blog, for display in public forums and potentially as part of the CIP report.

You can send us your photos and videos via email by clicking here.

Let’s see where this takes us – hopefully it will bring interesting ideas and interesting images to the blog!

October 13, 2010 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

Can you improve Centretown without changing its streets?

Over the next few weeks, we will be posting a new discussion topic, ranging from Community facilities to defining the Character of Centretown, to generate dialogue about the future of Mid Centretown. We look forward to hearing your ideas in the comments.

Streets are the veins of our cities, moving people from one place to another using many different modes of transportation – cars, buses, bikes, skateboards, on foot, rollerblades, streetcars. Streets also help shape the physical form the city, giving it its structure and creating the addresses for different types of development.

Downtown streets are very different to suburban or rural streets. Unlike rural and suburban streets, which are focused mainly on moving traffic, a downtown street must perform multiple functions – it acts as a public meeting place, it creates an address for businesses, it beautifies the city and provides an it with an identity, all while moving many different types of users across the downtown (not just those in cars!).

Due to Centretown’s location at the gateway to downtown and its support of long feeder roads for the 417, the community has easy access to major transportation facilities, such as proximity to Highway 417 (The Queensway), the Transitway, major arterial roads, local transit and City / NCC multi-use pathways. However, this easy access comes at a price.

A major traffic issue is caused by the location of the community between the downtown and the Queensway. This proximity creates significant vehicular travel demand during the weekday peak periods on the north-south arterial roadways running right through the neighbourhood (Kent, O’Connor, Metcalfe, Bronson). The level of traffic on these streets at peak times generally contributes to a negative urban environment with respect to the volume, speed of traffic, use of road space, landscaping and viability of commercial retail along the one-way arterial roadways.

Delcan are currently exploring options for how we can improve the quality of streets across Centretown and begin to repair some of the damage done through ‘highway’ infrastructure. Click here to read their (593 KB) draft Mobility Position Paper which includes considerations around traffic, parking, cycling and public transit. The paper offers:

• a summary of the transportation context within the framework of the City of Ottawa’s Official Plan and other strategic planning documents;
• a qualitative overview of existing land use and transportation conditions;
• an overview of current and emerging transportation trends;
• an overview of transportation issues within the study area to be addressed by the CDP, and;
• an outline of future directions and next steps to be undertaken in further developing a transportation vision and framework as part of the CDP study.

Also provided is a Municipal Infrastructure Position Paper (2.5 MB), also by Delcan, that discusses some of the challenges of Centretown’s century old infrastructure – much of which is hidden underground and out of site (sewers, waste water, electrical, etc.).

October 7, 2010 at 9:16 am Leave a comment

Is Centretown Being Shaped by the Ontario Municipal Board?

Over the next few weeks, we will be posting a new discussion topic, ranging from Community facilities to defining the Character of Centretown, to generate dialogue about the future of Mid Centretown. We look forward to hearing your ideas in the comments.

People don’t always agree on how their communities should evolve. Disputes arise where certain types of uses should be located or what form of building is appropriate. When people can’t resolve their differences, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) provides the forum for resolving disagreements. The OMB is an independent tribunal that resolves land use and development disputes between different parties. The Board deals with a variety of issues including: official plans, zoning by-laws, subdivision plans, consents to sever land, minor variances from local by-laws and development charges, amongst others.

In Centretown, there have been many cases brought before OMB for resolution. This is not an uncommon for mature urban communities where land is at a premium and disagreements as to what constitutes good planning are a regular occurrence. What is unusual for Centretown is the number of times that the OMB supports the proposals brought before it and allows the development to occur – even if the development doesn’t ‘fit’ with the planning framework. From our review, less than 10% of cases brought before the Board were refused.

It should be noted that this low refusal rate does not mean that the City of Ottawa has lost 90% of cases, as not all cases were brought against the City. In many cases, the City did not appear, appeared under subpoena by the developer, or, were in some cases in agreement with the developer (subject to modifications of proposals). Nevertheless, this low level of refusal does indicate that the existing regulatory framework provides an inconsistent message and is open to interpretation by many interests. Part of the Mid-Centretown Study is to help create a consistent and realistic vision for what the future of the community will be and update the planning framework accordingly.

The Centretown OMB Review Memo (80 KB PDF) summarizes 25 decision documents (see the 140 KB OMB Decisions Summary for an overview). Appeals taken to the Board cover a wide range of issues, including rezoning (height and density) and minor variances (setbacks, parking, lot width, projections, amongst others). A detailed summary of each case was prepared and are attached to this memo. Please have a look at the OMB Review Memo to see our take on why the Board allows so many proposals and refuses so few applications across Centretown. Do you think we have interpreted the Board’s decisions accurately? Click here to let us know your thoughts.

September 24, 2010 at 2:06 pm 5 comments

What Community Facilities Does Centretown Need?

Over the next few weeks, we will be posting a new discussion topic, ranging from Community facilities to defining the Character of Centretown, to generate dialogue about the future of Mid Centretown. We look forward to hearing your ideas in the comments.

The Centretown Ward is quickly becoming one of Ottawa’s most desirable destinations for downtown living and it is expected that more people will want to live and work in Centretown over the coming years.

To gain a better understanding of the different types of community amenities and facilities serving the Centretown Ward, a Community Amenities Audit was undertaken as part of the Mid-Centretown Community Plan.  By “community amenities”, we mean typically mean not-for-profit facilities that and are open to the public, such as community centres, playgrounds, sports fields or sports arenas.

The Centretown Community Amenities Audit (329 KB PDF) is in draft form at the moment and we need your help to finish it. (Click here for a 44 KB summary spreadsheet). Once finalized, an important output of this research will be to identify what types of additional community amenities may be required to complement existing amenities and facilitate future growth in the area.

You can help us by that ensuring the Audit provides an accurate representation of facilities and amenities that you use within your neighbourhood.  A full list of community facilities that we have already included is provided at the end of the Amenities Audit.  Please tell us (by clicking here) if we are missing any important community facilities that you regularly use in Centretown. At the moment, youth facilities are looking particularly thin on the ground! What else are we missing?

An accurate understanding of current community facilities will help us to identify where gaps exist in provision and what new facilities may be required in the future.

We would like to acknowledge the huge help provided by the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study team, based out of the Institute for Population Health at the University of Ottawa.  They provided the foundation for much of this work. The very useful and important work this team is currently undertaking can be viewed here.

September 17, 2010 at 10:29 am 4 comments

Does Mid-Centretown Exist??

The Market is the Market. Sandy Hill is Sandy Hill. The Glebe is the Glebe. Centretown is Centretown…or is it??

A question that we are working our way through is whether Centretown is one single definable neighbourhood – like the Market – or a more diverse area that needs to be understood as a series of pieces that fit together – perhaps more like the Central Area (comprised of several sub-areas). When one reviews the planning work completed in the past by the City, it would appear that Centretown is in fact one definable neighbourhood sharing a common look, feel and fabric. But when you hit the streets and look around, it is pretty obvious that this is not the experience ‘on the ground’. When we look at Centretown, it becomes apparent to us that this is not one definable neighbourhood sharing a common character – it is a much more complicated and diverse neighbourhood than that.

So, in an early effort to better understand the complexities of Centretown, the City invented the term “Mid-Centretown” and drew its boxy boundary between Kent and Elgin, south of Gloucester to the 417. We think that this is a good start, but it is only a start.  We believe that Mid-Centretown does exist as a place and has for some time now, but it has just never been labeled as such. We believe that this part of Centretown is different in its form and function to the Golden Triangle as well as to the single family area west of Kent.  Its boundary?? Well… probably not quite as neat and clean as the box that the City drew for us. That would be too easy. We think that Mid-Centretown is about here (2 MB PDF).

We think that Mid Centretown bleeds easy across Elgin and down Cartier. To the north it stretches along Cooper and perhaps even touches the canal. In these locations, the streets are crowded with big, tall buildings that look like they would be more at home on O’Connor than they are within the Golden Triangle! In contrast, to the west, we think that the boundary box is too close to the low rise residential area west of Kent and believe that in some locations the boundary should be pulled back closer to Bank – big and tall have no place along these leafy residential streets. Bigger and taller (i.e. the Mid-Centretown apartment building typology) could, however, possibly be accommodated along the 417 corridor or in the transition area between the Business District and the stable low rise neighbourhood north of Cooper (or so).

We believe that Mid Centretown exists, just not necessarily in the same location as what the City has told us. We don’t yet have the aswer as to exactly where it is, so we would you like to hear you think.

Tell us if you think that Mid-Centretown is a real place and distinct from other parts of Centretown. If you think it is a real place, tell us where you think its boundaries should be.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and thanks for your help. Click here to let us know your thoughts.

June 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm 15 comments

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Welcome!

Welcome to Mid-Centretown Tomorrow, the official project blog for the Mid-Centretown Community Design Plan, commissioned by the City of Ottawa! This is the place to learn about and participate in discussions regarding the future of Mid-Centretown.

Bienvenue sur Mi-centreville de demain, le blogue officiel du projet de Plan de conception communautaire pour le secteur médian du Centre-ville, commandé par la Ville d’Ottawa!

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