Prospectus: Ottawa’s golden age of city-building

Ncc
An aerial view of LeBreton Flats. Via the NCC.

In each issue of the OBJ newsmagazine, publisher Michael Curran shares his prospectus for the Ottawa business community. Read the July edition of the newsmagazine here.

In the very appropriate venue of Ottawa’s Horticulture Building, first erected a century ago to house the central exhibition, a hodgepodge of business leaders, government officials, developers and politicians gathered in mid-June to ponder the awesome task of city-building.

Just as it was at that exhibition 105 years ago, the city’s future was laid bare.

Tobi Nussbaum of the National Capital Commission was first to the podium. He told an interested crowd that LeBreton Flats would, in fact, have an overarching design vision, even if the vacant land was developed in parcels. Furthermore, he said, this segmented approach could prove beneficial as it draws on various influences and trends. And, yes, if you really need to know, LeBreton can still accommodate a major entertainment complex, aka an NHL hockey arena suitable for the Ottawa Senators.

Next came Steve MacKinnon, the Gatineau MP who is heavily implicated in federal government service and procurement. Outlining a veritable laundry list of federal investments in the National Capital Region, MacKinnon checked several boxes ranging from multibillion-dollar investments in the parliamentary district to greener central heating plants. Perhaps more significant, MacKinnon touched on a critical local issue raised in the last federal budget – a commitment to examine a new interprovincial bridge. He pointed out the obvious. The region has not added even a single lane of traffic across the Ottawa River since the 1970s, despite the population doubling. The situation is completely untenable, he said as heads nodded.

Closer to home – and perhaps closer to the hearts of attendees – the uncertain future of the ByWard Market was next on the agenda. An informed panel reported on possible better days for the beleaguered neighbourhood, tapping into the appetite for more authentic tourism experiences. Longtime resident and architect Barry Padolsky issued an impassioned plea to bring actual farmers back to the market through various incentives. (Please tell us brighter days for ByWard include a re-imagined Market Building with something more compelling than fast-food stands. A mix between the cavernous Horticulture Building, ready for special events, and more temporary stalls might be a good starting point.)

So what then of city-building?

All in all, with comments from Mayor Jim Watson and city planning boss Steve Willis, attendees surely left the event with a more informed and optimistic sense. The time is right, the money is allocated, the leadership in place for Ottawa-Gatineau to dream bigger and solve lingering planning issues. The successful delivery of projects such as LeBreton, LRT and Zibi will forever change the city, priming the pump for a wave of businesses and workers who will crave energized urban centres, effortless transportation and elevated quality of life. Decades from now, we could look back and call this the golden age of planning for our city.

Building a new image

In this month's edition, we spotlight construction in the capital, exploring how the industry is stepping up its game to attract a new generation of highly skilled workers.

In addition, Caroline Phillips sits down with one of the city's best-known beer barons, Kichesippi's Paul Meek, for her Up Close profile, while David Sali takes a closer look at a new wave of local entrepreneurs who are offering customized tourism experiences you won't get on your typical bus tour.

And in this month's Techopia feature, Craig Lord has the story of an Ottawa startup that claims its tech can charge an electric vehicle's battery in the same time it takes to fill up a tank of gas.