By Jonathan McLeod
It was Saturday evening, May 7, and I was sitting on the round purple “benches” by the Lansdowne play structure. I was to lead a Jane’s Walk of Lansdowne Park the next day, and I hadn’t really thought out what I was going to say, so as my daughter played, I planned.
For those unfamiliar with Jane’s Walks, they’re basically tours of different parts of neighbourhoods and the cities. They’re done both as an honour to Jane Jacobs, a pioneer of modern urban planning, and to continue her work.
Last year, I led a Walk of Lansdowne that merely focused on the history and the new development. It was, mostly, apolitical and introductory. This year would be different. I had billed the walk as the Failures and Opportunities of Lansdowne Park.
So there I sat, thinking of the failures and opportunities of Lansdowne. It was as illuminating as it was depressing.
The failures came in droves. Cars everywhere, insufficient public space, dead or removed trees, segregation of uses, and a hollowness, a lack of community. Opportunities…well, there are some, but they’re hard to see and harder to realize.
The more I thought, the more the issue became clear. All the problems are well-known and well-publicized, but rarely do we hear the real issue. By planning, design and implementation, the new Lansdowne Park is openly hostile to people.
Cars are the most obvious manifestation of this. They’re fast. They’re everywhere. And they’re dangerous. But it also comes in the form of the buildings. It’s more than the lack of scale, the bland design or the incessant noise they pump into Aberdeen Plaza. Of all the people who live at Lansdowne or who will when all the residences are full, no one lives in Lansdowne. Not one residence empties into the main public spaces. They empty onto Holmwood, Bank or a desolate alley at the west end zone.
Jacobs wrote of the city street as a ballet, and each person had their part. A lively street needs people, and it needs people doing different things. Jacobs wrote of her Hudson Street neighbourhood and described the people going off to work, others coming there to work, kids off to school, mothers and babies out for walks, office workers taking to the street at lunch, and then everyone making return trips in the evening.
Lansdowne doesn’t have that. The developers understood what the components of mix-use development are, but there is nothing that demonstrates they fully understood the purpose of mix-use development in the creation of the ballet of the street.
And it is because for all the talk of building an “urban village”, the developers didn’t understand what city living is all about. Rather than build an urban village, they built an urban theme park. There are urban components, but the place is as true to urban life as a chain of corporate Irish pubs is to the streets of Dublin.
It’s a suburban mentality that caters to a suburban lifestyle.
The urban-suburban disconnect is most obvious in the lack of integration of all uses of the Park and the lack of integration with the surrounding neighbourhood.
There’s a saying, “good fences make good neighbours.” This is an eminently suburban mindset. Jacobs, in her own way, wrote about this, too. Typical North American suburbs do not foster community the same way that urban areas do, though suburban communities may thrive…in spite of the neighbourhood development. Suburban areas can’t offer community and privacy the way urban areas can, so fences between neighbours are necessary.
There are two ways to look at being neighbours, and, remember, OSEG has always stated a desire to be good neighbours. First, there are the good fences-sort of neighbours. This is the act of living beside people. This is Lansdowne. It seeks to live beside the Glebe, but that’s it. Along Holmwood, Lansdowne is basically a fortress keeping the barbarian Glebites at bay.
Or, your neighbour can be someone with whom you live in community. They’re not a person living beside you. They’re a person with whom you share your neighbourhood. This is the nature of a thriving urban neighbourhood. This is the type of neighbourhood Jacobs wrote about. This is the nature of the Glebe.
But it’s not Lansdowne. And without a monumental shift by management, it will never be Lansdowne.
And so, in a nutshell, that’s what we talked about on the Jane’s Walk, the fake plastic urbanism of Lansdowne.
Jonathan McLeod is a neighbourhood freelance writer, focusing mostly on urban development and local politics.
The trees at Lansdowne
Editor’s note: originally prepared for Councillor David Chernushenko.
This note is an advisory that Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) is about to begin the process of replacing all the trees that died at Lansdowne in the winter of 2015. It will be a multi-step process that will deliver the vision of a tree-lined streetscape at Lansdowne with a solution that takes into account the unique design requirements and our local winter weather conditions.
Why the trees died
We hired a certified arborist to conduct a forensic examination of the trees and the tree pits that housed them. The report concluded there were several contributing factors, including tree pit design, winter maintenance practices and extraordinarily cold temperatures.
Tree pits are being modified. This involves the installation of raised grates, tree guards and a planting technique that’s more conducive to air and water circulation. OSEG will also wrap the lower portions of the trees in the fall and modify its winter maintenance processes. The trees we are planting are the Valley Forge Elm and the Shademaster Honey Locust.
We will plant the first 12 trees along Exhibition Way and Marché Boulevard starting May 24 and study their growth and longevity over the next 12 months to ensure the long-term success of the tree program at Lansdowne. Phase two will expand the planting program next spring to replace all other trees, once we are completely satisfied that the trees will survive for the long term.
Thanks for your leadership and guidance on this project, Councillor Chernushenko.
Bernie Ashe is Chief Executive Officer at Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which operates the retail and sports components of Lansdowne.
Lansdowne Summer Arts series
By Leonore Evans
Hurray! Summer is here. Come and celebrate our long summer evenings at the 2016 Lansdowne Summer Arts series. Every Sunday evening between June 26 and August 21 there will be live, free, family-friendly entertainment at Lansdowne Park. All events are between 5:30 and 7 p.m. The schedule of performances will be made public in early June. Check out Lansdowne’s website at www.ottawa.ca/2/en/lansdowne-park to find out who will be performing and when.
One of the performances I am excited to tell you about is the Family Dance on Sunday, August 14 in and around the Great Lawn or in the Horticulture Building if it rains. A Family Dance is a community dance specifically geared towards kids and the adults that they bring. It’s about parents/adults dancing with kids in a fun, lively and guided atmosphere. There will be fantastic live celtic music and a caller who teaches all the dances.
Family Dances are geared towards children aged 3 and up, and little ones can participate in backpacks and slings. No experience is necessary as the dances are supported by a caller and are easy to follow. It is a great way to get your body moving to fantastic rhythms. Ottawa Contra Dance hosts four Family Dances a year, so we are very excited to have an opportunity to host a dance at Lansdowne this summer. For more information, go to www.ottawacontra.ca.
We hope to see you at the Family Dance on August 14 and at other Summer Arts Series events.
Leonore Evans has been a member of Ottawa Contra Dance and a resident of the Glebe for over ten years.