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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Needed: feet on the street


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This week on Ottawa Morning the CBC’s Julie Ireton is taking an in-depth look at Ottawa’s dysfunctional Sparks Street mall, the national tourist attraction that doubles as an echo chamber from October through April.

In this segment she hears ideas on how to revitalize the street; the concepts include a dedicated vintage trolley system, on-street parking, and dropping in an “anchor store”, or maybe even two.

With ideas to share¬† like Kate Wetherow’s on how to make vacant buildings come to life — combined with some pot-shots at the federal bureaucracy — Spacing’s Evan Thornton also weighed in on “putting the spark back into Sparks Street”.

photo by Pierre Tourigny



  1. Would have been nice if CBC’s public entrance were on Sparks instead of Queen, for a start…

  2. You are right Charles, and that fact is not lost on the CBC people I was talking to. Was a corporate (Toronto HQ) decision by the sounds of things.

  3. Anchor stores would be a big help. Stores like Pottery Barn and H&M will not place their flagship stores in the Rideau Centre because of a lack of floor space. Options are available on Sparks street. No disrespect to Zeller’s but it is not the type of store to lure people to the area. All large cities in Canada have stores like Winners and Future Shop along with major fashion stores in their downtown cores. It’s time Ottawa woke up. Sparks is a great place to start.

  4. I think too often people get caught up in grand plans (perhaps as a way of getting through red tape), but I’m much more interested in seeing people experiment and make smaller changes. As people begin to see what works that should build more confidence in direction and in the process.
    Temporary art exhibits (community driven) could be nice. Artscape (based in Toronto) could run/rent artist studios at cost recovery rates. And try not to look at the question of cars vs pedestrians on Sparks St. as all one or the other (in fact Sparks is not car free 100% of the time- early ie: morning delivery vehicles, maintenance trucks, Brinks trucks etc). During the time the mall is dead quiet why not lift the ban on vehicles (at least start with taxis after 6pm from Nov. to April dropping off or picking up a fare). Who knows, maybe on the weekends those heritage looking trolly buses could scoot down Sparks (as long as it’s not busy). The historic pedestrian areas in Europe do this too (pedestrian only during the day, then limited vehicle access the rest of the time) even on some of their narrowest of streets.

  5. how about stores that are open on sunday…at very least.