By Carolyn Mackenzie
ImagineGlebe is a community-visioning project initiated by the Glebe Community Association (GCA). The first phase of this project has been dubbed “Building a Vision for Bank Street: Strengthening our Community’s Traditional Mainstreet.”
Upwards of 30 per cent of properties along Bank Street are underdeveloped or in need of redevelopment, with the recent development of Lansdowne Park signalling a period of transition for the street. This project has been designed to develop recommendations and an implementation plan aimed at reinvigorating Bank Street, which includes:
- urban design considerations,
- built form (building height, setbacks, stepbacks, etc.),
- land use (new or additional businesses or services),
- public and social space, and
- streetscaping and street animation.
We actively and creatively sought input from a broad community through the initial consultation process that included residents, business owners, visitors to the Glebe, and those in the development community. Bank Street is successful when it serves not only the local community but the city as a whole. Recognizing this, the project sought to incorporate ideas and feedback from all of these constituent groups.
We knew that a broad approach to engagement was needed to develop a true community vision. We valued input from those who are already actively engaged in our community’s development. But, we also wanted to reach beyond regular contributors, to get input from youth and young professionals in our community, from families who are too busy driving kids to hockey practice to attend an evening meeting at the community centre, and from visitors spending a Saturday afternoon shopping or going to a restaurant in the Glebe. To make it easier for people to tell us what they thought, we needed to go where they were, rather than expecting them to come to us.
Project preparation got underway in May of 2015. The Glebe Business Improvement Area (BIA) jumped in and participated in the project. A BIA board member who is also a local developer agreed to be on an advisory committee. Background articles in the Glebe Report presented the ImagineGlebe project and discussed key urban design elements of Traditional Mainstreets. Then we developed a visual preference survey that was distributed online at the end of October and kept live for a month. GCA members were contacted by email, but we also promoted the project through social media and by tapping into other networks including neighbouring community associations, the Ottawa EcoDistrict and the BIA. The Glebe Community Centre’s Youth Group used their youthful charm to promote it directly to people on Bank Street itself and in local coffee shops by passing cards with the survey link and encouraging people to do the survey and add their views to the conversation.
Importantly, through the generous donation of storefront space, we expanded our community consultation at a Pop-up venue on Bank Street from November 6 to 16, 2015. Following a successful launch, and with the help of many keen volunteers, we received feedback from a cross-section of Glebites and visitors as they strolled along Bank Street. Visitors to the Pop-up consultation were invited to complete the survey on site using available tablets, and to provide comments on visual elements temporarily covering the walls of the Bank Street storefront. In total, 885 people completed the online survey. Importantly, 30 per cent of the completed surveys came from people from outside the Glebe. Roughly 1000 people visited the Pop-up venue and over 10,000 written comments were received from the survey and Pop-up consultation.
A clear vision emerged from the ratings of statements about Bank Street. Residents, business owners and employees, people from other urban and suburban areas, and respondents of all ages shared the vision. A very strong consensus emerged that in future:
- It will be a place for people to gather, not just a shopping district,
- One of the attractive things will be the variety of smaller buildings and businesses,
- Buildings will be designed to reflect its historic nature as a Traditional Mainstreet, and
- Bank Street will be a vibrant, bustling and safe place.
- The photographs accompanying this article include images from the survey that received strong support as elements of a future vision for Bank Street.
The next steps in this project will be to:
- refine the vision,
- share the results as part of a community forum,
- draft a Community Development Plan (CDP), and
- Implement the CDP.
ImagineGlebe is a project of the Glebe Community Association’s Planning Committee, chaired by Carolyn Mackenzie. The project website is at www.imagineglebe.com.
Development proposal for The Beer Store and Mr. Muffler site
By Carolyn Mackenzie
Residents came out to a public meeting on Thursday, April 12 to hear more and ask questions about an upcoming proposal for redevelopment of the site at 890 and 900 Bank Street, that is currently home to The Beer Store and Mr. Muffler.
Canderel, in partnership with Amica Retirement Homes, is proposing a mixed-use, eight-storey building to include street level retail on Bank Street, and a retirement residence with a primary entrance off Monk Street.
Additional details on the project will be available on the Glebe Community Association’s brand-new website (www.glebeca.ca) once the formal application has been filed, which is expected in mid May. A project page on the GCA’s Planning Committee page has been set up to keep residents informed and to share community views. You can visit it directly at www.glebeca.ca/index.php/planning-committee/development-at-890-900-bank-street/.
How will redevelopment fit in with the community’s vision for Bank Street?
A clear consensus of key elements of a vision for Bank Street emerged from the fall 2015 ImagineGlebe consultations (see related article). As chair of the ImagineGlebe committee, I spoke at the meeting’s outset about how the vision elements that directly relate to this proposal would form an important lens through which this proposal could be evaluated by the community.
- Lowrise (up to four storey) buildings and narrow-width storefronts in keeping with a “village” feel.
- Large building stepbacks after the lower storeys, particularly with taller buildings, and lower heights where they back onto low-rise residential.
- Heritage character and variation of building materials and elements (e.g. in façade, awnings, colour).
- More sidewalk space.
- Street trees and greenspace.
- Redevelopment of surface parking lots.
And where will I take my empties?
Given the footprint of the redevelopment, this will be a significant project for Bank Street. And not just because it raises questions about where we will take our “empties” in the future. There was a wide-ranging discussion covering a number of issues. Check out the GCA’s online project page for details of all questions, comments and clarifications raised at the meeting.
A number of residents expressed appreciation for the varied, modular, rhythmic design of the building along Bank Street rather than a single-plane, straight wall that has limited visual interest. Some raised concerns about the “sterile box architecture” that starts to look all the same. And there seemed to be support for statements such as “the architecture needs to reflect the character of the Glebe” and “make it look like the Glebe!” One resident suggested using different exterior materials within building modules to provide further variation and interest, to further break up the massing of the building.
Residents liked the idea of the proposed deeper building setbacks along Bank Street and Monk Street that would allow for wider sidewalks, café seating, and trees!
Parking is a big issue, particularly for people who live in this area of the Glebe that has been impacted by Lansdowne Park. People talked about how:
- insufficient parking for residents and staff would be a problem, given that existing street parking is at capacity and transit service is insufficient;
- assisted-care residents are likely to attract more visitors with cars, more frequently, which would impact on parking demand;
- loss of current monthly parking spaces will impact parking supply; and
- parking for construction workers is a concern.
The eight-storey building height, and potential impacts including wind funnelling, tunnelling and sun shading on Bank Street were also raised, as was the precedent this may set for future development along Bank Street. Canderel’s development team noted that:
- the zoning bylaw for Bank Street stipulates a height cap of 15 m (roughly four storeys);
- Traditional Mainstreet policy allows for up to six storeys; and
- greater heights along Traditional Mainstreets could be considered according to Official Plan policies if appropriate.
The question then was, “Do staff view the existing Lord Lansdowne and Lansdowne Park tall buildings as relevant context in support of the additional height requested by the developer?” City staff at the meeting indicated that yes, existing buildings will form part of the context, but that all relevant policies would be considered when the City conducts its planning application review. Canderel’s development team added that the proposed building intentionally steps down to four storeys along Thornton Avenue to transition to the Traditional Mainstreet 15-m height exception on Bank Street.
The meeting closed with comments from a representative of the homeowners on Monk Street, who will be immediately impacted by this development, indicating a positive meeting with the development team earlier that day to discuss their concerns. Discussions about design modifications that could mitigate impacts on these residents are expected to continue.
What do you think? Share your views and help shape Bank Street by emailing the Glebe Community Association’s Planning Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carolyn Mackenzie chairs the Glebe Community Association’s Planning Committee and the ImagineGlebe Committee.