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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

A second chance to walk it right

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Double decker arrives at Westboro Station: convenient - if you can get to the platform. (Photo credit Mike Gifford)

If you ride the transitway along Scott Street you will pass through Westboro Station. It looks pretty ordinary. But if you go up the stairs to the Scott Street level you will find a most interesting urban picture.

Ignore, for the moment, the slow intensification process occurring to the south, along Scott itself. Instead turn north. There are two red brick mid-rise apartments, and a bunch of stacked townhouses, developed by the City back in the 80’s. Even though they abut the Westboro Station, they were designed   with access to Churchill Avenue to the West. No doubt some planner thought it wonderfully convenient that the inhabitants of these buildings could walk out their front doors, pat their car hood, glimpse fondly at the Westboro Station immediately adjacent, and then walk a few hundred metres to Churchill, a further few hundred metres south to Scott (crossing the transitway en route), then a few hundred metres east again, to the to the wonderfully convenient Westboro Station. If they were headed westbound, they could then cross the transitway again. A veritable model of how to enforce active transportation, provided of course, that the resident didn’t simply decide to take their car parked so conveniently right at their front door.

Above: view from upper level of Westboro Station towards city-developed housing

This City Living and co-op complex was later modified a bit, by the addition of a steep concrete staircase that actually connects the grounds of the apartments to a transitway ramp, which permits a much more direct link to Westboro Station. City planners were still mindful of residents getting exercise: now some poor parent could carry a baby, lift a stroller, and drag a shopping bag up a two storey flight of concrete stairs while simultaneously keeping the older kids from throttling each other or pushing someone near and dear over the railing. The concrete wall (to the left in the picture) is the exterior of the parking garage under the apartments. I wonder if the motorists using it have elevator access to the garage, or if they have to negotiate stairwells like this one:

Such planning fiascos typify the early transitway experiments with “transit oriented development”. There is good reason to rejoice, because right next door to that “so close but so far” City development, the Feds managed to one-up the City staff. The CBC studios and office building on Lanark Avenue is directly north of the Westboro Station. Between the TV station and the transit station was the CBC Parking Lot. And between the parking lot and the transit station was … a six foot chain link fence.

Going to the west of the Station, one can take a pleasant hike along the transitway ramp, to find this unnamed scenic path through the trees:

In the distance, the path approaches Lanark Avenue, where at the pedestrian can stroll right across the front of the CBC complex to the main gate, and then finally over the bounteous front lawn to the front doors, just a few dozen metres from the Westboro Station itself. A pleasant circuitous walk no doubt enjoyed by hundreds of dozens of the occasional CBC staffer at 5am on January mornings.

Now we should not rejoice because the Feds managed to make their employment centre tenants more cut from the transit station than the City could cut off its low and modest income tenants. No, the reason to rejoice is this:

The CBC is tearing down the old broadcast centre. Does anyone know if the Graham Spry office building behind it also coming down? Post demolition, there will be a large, empty lot. Right beside a transitway station. Ripe for intensification. For condos. Maybe even for offices too. And maybe, just maybe, we can get it right this time, by making it a transit-oriented development first. Keep the parking spaces minimal, which will also minimize traffic on Lanark, thus keeping the neighbours happy. The lot lacks direct access to Scott, which means vehicular traffic must cut through the neighborhood, so the less it caters to private motorists the better.

The site is identified right now with a 7 floor height limit. NIMBY’s can often be hear crying that intensified development “doesn’t fit in” or is “out of context”. But in this case, the adjacent context is high rise. Does anyone favour a 35 storey height limit, like the Metropole immediately to the east? How about 18-22 stories, like Island Park Towers immediately north? Do you want one tall tower or two?

Surely the City won’t let this site get away again; a high density, pedestrian and transit focus is essential. And while they are at it, maybe, just maybe, a convenient pedestrian access to the adjacent housing clusters could be provided.



  1. They are keeping the Graham Spry Building as federal office space, though it’s pretty clear it’s an interim thing. There are some images here:

    The city also seems keen to intensify the site and improve links to the Transitway, though the idea is just theoretical for now, in the local community design plan:

    F’rinstance: “The pedestrian walkway to the Transitway station from 250 Lanark should be enhanced to help promote transit use.

    Adjacent to the Westboro Transitway Station a public plaza should be built over the Transitway, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment including streetscaping elements. On the plaza, a one- or two-storey building could provide convenience retail and other services to Transitway passengers.”

  2. Only the City of Ottawa could come up with a neighborhood plan that identifies available space directly adjacent to a transit station for intensification of only four stories. Do I see yet another NIP that is so contrary to the OP and provincial directives that it is destined straight for the garbage can?

  3. Never, ever, underestimate the ability of Ottawa to completly upfrig the concept of Transit-Oriented Development, and build Development Somewhere In the General Vicinity Of That Bus Thingie instead.

  4. If anything is built here taller than the low-rise studio it replaces, ALL of Westboro will have to live in perpetual shadows! It’s a village, after all!

    If only Eric was in charge of planning in this city. We’ll get a crappy design that will be argued down to half its height by retirees living eight blocks away.

  5. I walk that path through the trees every day to get to the transit station, and it does see a fair amount of traffic.

    Call me a NIMBY if you will but I’m not keen on a high rise residential development going on site where the building is being torn down, at least not until other areas along Richmond road are developed first. I’d much prefer the park land in the current proposal, and I’d prefer if it was available to all, not just the gov’t employees.