The Escarpment Area District Plan, approved by City Council in December 2008, establishes a new benchmark for high-rise built form in the city that is more pedestrian-friendly and results in a visually appealing development in contrast to the traditional slab-style building that has characterized the downtown since the 1970s. A more slender "point tower" form will help preserve views and access to sunlight, substantially reduce shadow impacts, maintain privacy and eliminate blank walls and inanimate facades. As well, a new central park will provide needed public green space to serve the residents of this western downtown area.
The Escarpment Area District is irregularly shaped and is generally bounded by LeBreton Flats on the west, the Garden of the Provinces on the north and east, Bay Street on the east and Laurier Avenue on the south. Three public agencies own most of the lands within the area – the City of Ottawa, the National Capital Commission and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.
Central Park (also known as Uppertown Commons)
The proposed central park, which is approximately 0.9 hectares in area, is located on the western half of the block bounded by Slater and Bay Streets and Laurier and Bronson Avenues. The proposed park site presently has two owners - the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, with approximately 0.5 hectares (57%); and, the City, with approximately 0.4 hectares (43%), the latter currently composed primarily of community gardens. Strong community support for retention of the community gardens exists, and thus the District Plan includes the gardens as a part of the park's continuing activities.
The proposed park will be the focal point for community activity and will help offset any potential impacts of new development on the adjacent neighbourhood. As intensification continues in the downtown and inner city area, it is crucial that public amenities, in particular park space, correspondingly increase if intensification is to be successful. Key to the park’s success will be its ability to support both a range of existing activities (e.g., community gardens, Tech or Piece Wall, and playing field), and new activities that will complement the existing ones. Once the park space is secured, the City will engage in a community design process to determine the specific design and type of facilities and official name for the new park.
Technical High School Site North Parcel
The District Plan proposes four development options for the Technical High School site north parcel, bounded by Slater, Albert and Bay Streets. The four options are: entirely residential; residential and office towers; residential and existing Technical High School auditorium; and, residential, office and auditorium, all with ground floor commercial along the street frontage. For the existing school building, the auditorium, with a gymnasium below, appears to have the most significant heritage value, and a heritage impact assessment will be required before site redevelopment can move forward. Maximum building heights of 72 metres are proposed in the District Plan along Bay Street, with the remainder of the site proposed to have a maximum tower height up to 56 metres, with connecting podiums of three to six storeys.
The office option, with or without the auditorium, could potentially accommodate a new central library and City archives should this parcel be considered for further study as a candidate site for that purpose.
Technical High School Site South Parcel
The strategy for the south parcel (between Slater Street and Laurier Avenue) redistributes potential density to the east in order to provide the new park to the west. East of the park, four residential point towers will step up in height towards Bay Street from 56 to 72 metres, with a three- to six-storey podium. This building form will help define the streets and the new park, and will maximize views towards the park and LeBreton Flats. Ground floor retail, including such uses as a grocery store, restaurants and convenience commercial as well as street-oriented residential units, can be accommodated in this location along the street frontage.
North/South Pedestrian Mews
A mid-block pedestrian mews will run north-south from Slater Street to Laurier Avenue to provide a transition between the park and the new residential development, as well as an important front-door address for that development. It will facilitate pedestrian movement though the district and provide a link from Percy Street to the transit stops on Albert and Slater Streets. Once completed, the mews would be dedicated to the City as a public right-of-way.
Only a conceptual design has been developed in the Escarpment Area District Plan for the South LeBreton lands (south of the LeBreton Flats neighbourhood and east of Booth Street at the base of the escarpment), because of the uncertainty over the future rapid transit alignment and downtown tunnel portal location. The concept proposes to integrate the northern portion of LeBreton Flats with the historic neighbourhoods to the south by creating a more continuous form, scale and character of development across the entire area.
Key Intersection and Streetscape Improvements
The objective of the proposed streetscaping improvements is to strengthen both external and internal linkages in order to increase pedestrian safety and to create a more pleasant pedestrian experience. Streetscape improvements could be undertaken in partnership with adjacent development and co-ordinated with the development of the central park. Primary pedestrian crossing improvements would include special pavement over the entire intersection, while secondary crossing improvements would include special markings in the pedestrian crossing zone.