Bank Street Height/Character Study: City recommendations soon

By Carolyn Mackenzie

The city will present its recommendations in September for the Bank Street Height and Character Study. This work is intended to provide a vision and guide future development along Bank Street in the Glebe.

  • The city had invited feedback on preliminary ideas that included the following building heights:
  • Greater height (mid- and high-rise) at the north of Bank and along Isabella Street to the east of Bank Street;
  • Up to six storeys allowed on selected sites from Pretoria Avenue south to Glebe Avenue;
  • A maximum of four storeys from Glebe Avenue south to Holmwood; and
  • A mix of low-, mid- and high-rise buildings on the remaining section of Bank south of Holmwood.

Residents will have an opportunity to review any revisions in the draft recommendations to be tabled in September. Additional draft recommendations are likely to include requirements for:

  • new buildings to be set back a metre from front lot lines along Bank Street to make more room for pedestrians;
  • new buildings to “step back” more significantly than currently required on traditional mainstreets. A step back means upper storeys are pushed back, or sited back from the front façade, so they recede from a pedestrian’s view and allow more light on the street;
  • new buildings to be set back more significantly from Clemow Avenue (where they are sited on a corner of Bank and Clemow), given the heritage considerations related to being part of the Heritage Conservation District; and
  • retail spaces to appear to be consistent with the established scale of retail storefronts; and vehicular access to Bank Street lots to be phased out.

The Glebe Community Association (GCA) has been advocating for building heights to be capped at a maximum of four storeys for much of Bank. The key rationale is to maintain the pedestrian scale and street character as well as the heritage attributes of one of the few “mainstreets” in Ottawa that really earns its name as a traditional mainstreet. There is significant interest in seeing empty and underutilised lots along Bank Street redeveloped. From the perspective of increasing walkability, the health of small businesses and the overall vibrancy of the street, this is important. However, this should be done with sensitivity to preserve what is most valuable about Bank Street. It should also be done in a way that provides appropriate transition from buildings on Bank to adjacent residential properties.

Model of the city’s draft recommendations for Bank Street, looking north from First Avenue with St. Giles church in the foreground (Model by Richard Corbeil)
Model of what a corner “notch” could look like at Bank and Glebe (Model by Richard Corbeil)   PHOTOS: Richard Corbeil

GCA invites residents
to view 3D model
The GCA has been advocating for the use of models to illustrate and help evaluate the impacts of any recommendations brought forward. Richard Corbeil, a Glebe resident and member of the GCA Planning Committee, is a very talented (and tireless!) model maker. He stepped up in a huge way this spring by making a three-dimensional model of the city’s recommendations for the three blocks from Glebe Avenue north to Powell. These blocks were selected because of their proximity to the Heritage Conservation District that includes Clemow Avenue and because the city is proposing that six storeys be allowed on a number of the lots along that stretch. The model is very informative (there is a reason that architects still produce 3D models for their clients!) and surprised some people who have already had a chance to look at it. The GCA is very appreciative of Corbeil’s efforts – above and beyond the call of duty.

He also modelled what an “opening” or notch on the corner of new buildings at intersections would look like. The idea is that this could create additional space for pedestrians, benches, bike racks and trees. We have a number of examples already on Bank Street: the Starbucks patio corner notch and the new pizza patio notch at Bank and Fifth. Minto’s redevelopment at Bank and Fifth is also slated to create a more “public” parkette that will be another example of a corner space for use by all. The spaces do not actually have to be all that large to provide great benefits to the vibrancy of Bank Street. And they could really help to address the desire for increased pedestrian/amenity space that has recently been highlighted in various surveys and consultations.

View 3D model of the City’s
draft recommendations
The GCA, in collaboration with Councillor Shawn Menard’s office, intends to organize a public viewing of the 3D model. Written descriptions of “stepbacks” and “setbacks” are challenging to understand or picture; the model makes it easier to understand what four storeys or six storeys along Bank would look like.

As of this writing, the venue, time and location are still to be confirmed, but we are aiming for the third week of September. This will be your opportunity to see for yourself what it looks like and to tell us what you think!

Virtual Open House
The city intends to host a (virtual) Open House toward the end of September, after the public viewing of the 3D model, to present draft recommendations to the public for feedback.

You will receive an email notice of details for both these events from the GCA if you are a member and have provided us with your email. If you’d like to join the GCA, go to If you are a member but would like to confirm your email address, please email

Carolyn Mackenzie chairs the Glebe Community Association’s Planning Committee.

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