Lebreton Flats Development Comments

Submitted to landowner of the Flats, the National Capital Commission:

February 8, 2016

I am a 71-year-old resident of Ottawa since 1969, living mostly in the greater central area (now in Sandy Hill).  My wife and I were married in the chapel at the Dominican College on the escarpment at the end of Empress, and my first and second job in Ottawa were located in an NCC-owned row-house on Primrose.  I was a public consultation specialist with the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton for 22 years, worked in three positions in the automobile industry, and have been involved in community issues (mostly housing and transportation) for many years.  BTW, I attended the recent NCC “Lab” on the benefits and techniques of third-party blogging on urban issues.

Essentially, I find the process flawed.  You ask now for input on the submissions, even though I don’t remember being asked for input on the terms of reference that invited the corporate participants.  Also, there is no information on the reasons that two of the four consortia you selected did not follow through with a submission.  That leaves the variety for choosing a bit thin.  Finally, the public is being shown the physical elements of the submissions, but not the full submission, including the business case for their respective elements.  As land and transportation planning is a municipal/provincial responsibility, you are, here, acting more as a land-owner than as a public agency, one that is in the process of selling land to a private concern.

Lebreton Flats represents that last chance to add to the city/regional core elements that are missing, either because they were lost at a previous time (I remember the O’Keefe Brewery, one of the few buildings left in Lebreton Flats when I arrived in early 1969) or because their necessity has arisen only recently.

One of the things I have noted over the years is that Ottawa, like most cities, has lost many city-centre unique businesses and land-uses to the suburbs.  A very important one is active-care hospitals (I am aware of the presence of the General and Protestant hospitals in the eastern section of downtown in the early part of the twentieth century, gained through research for my Jane’s Walk, “Uptown Rideau: Main Street Interrupted).  The location of the hockey arena to Kanata, which partially replaces the older rink on O’Connor, is another example (which ironically occurred just as the suburbanizing trend in American cities was going into reverse).

In the RFP document, you should be commended for thorough consideration of seasonal variations, movement by foot (walking and cycling), and animation of public areas, indoor and outdoor.

Transportation in this document is too brief and the points to be earned too small.  And parking is not even mentioned, or at least its diminution in light of criterion: “maximizing leverage of the public transit investment.”

Urban Fabric: The Flats still are a bit of an island, cut off from Centretown by the escarpment, Gatineau by the parkway and river, Hintonburg by the rail line, and even Dalhousie to the south by Albert, which blogger Eric Darwin correctly refers to as nothing more than a “transportation sewer.”  Since the strongest elements are the radiating of traffic from the city centre, east-west, some thought should be given to reconnecting Wellington over the rail line through the flats. (The old Regional government tore down a viaduct that existed before).  Albert Street is not slated for rehabilitation: with active street-facing uses flanking both sides.

The residential component, I feel, is better handled by the Devcore proposal.  They put all the major attractions to the north, leaving the residential and local commercial development to by together – although this would further isolate Zibi from the Ontario side.

Ottawa Public Library: I don’t like LF as a site for this; rather something close to its current location.

Hospital: Ottawa’s hospitals are now spread out into suburbia.  I worked for several years with the Council on Aging Transportation Committee and its Hospital Parking subcommittee. Except for the Riverside – which has no patients staying over nights and weekends (and thus no demand for parking at those times) – the other hospitals have little transit service (1.5 routes to the TOH’s General campus and CHEO, 1.5 routes to the Montfort, 3 routes to the TOH’s Civic campus, and
2 to the Queensway-Carleton) – and coincidentally shamelessly charge city-centre parking rates, while neighbouring residential areas lobby for highly restrictive parking.  Having an active-care hospital, presumably a relocated Civic Campus, on the O-Train, would be ideal.  And it would provide parking demand that would complement the demand of the “attractions” (which are more oriented to evenings and weekends).

Parking: Another project our COA committee developed was to have a park’n’ride at Hurdman for non-commuters: tourists and others visiting the city centre and seniors needed parking to hospitals to avoid the parking charges.  The proposal called for parking charges to include a 4-5-hour transit pass, as a package.  This could also work in planned parking structures in Lebreton Flats.

Automobile Museum: This is almost amusing, it is so strange.  As a person who has lived without a car for 21 years and who co-founded Vrtucar, I tend to consider cars are being devices that belong only in museums.  But seriously, I was contacted by a man this summer who curated an auto museum in the Toronto area for “microcars” until the collection was sold to someone who moved it to North Carolina.  I still have his contact info.


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