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Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy

Urban Design Strategy Banner

City Council approved the Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy 20/20 - Phase 1 on March 10, 2004. This study, under the direction of the Planning and Development Department, establishes a broad urban design framework that will help create an attractive and lively downtown that for residents and visitors alike.

Within the design framework, the document provides both area-wide strategies (e.g. streetscape infrastructure, open space, public art) and more specific design guidance, including built form guidelines by precinct area and 41 targeted projects. To turn the vision into reality, an implementation strategy establishes priorities for Phase 2 of the study, along with tools and methods for incorporating the recommendations into the way the City evaluates development and undertakes its infrastructure programs.

An Official Plan Amendment is currently being prepared to incorporate the strategic directions and targeted strategies of the Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy into the City of Ottawa Official Plan. Included in the amendment are policies addressing:

  • The 41 targeted strategies shown on the Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy map;
  • Public and private partnerships to help realize the Strategy's objectives;
  • Streetscape improvements, tree planting, public open space and public art as part of the capital budget for all road and infrastructure renewal and transit improvement programs;
  • Design and/or public realm performance standards as part of the criteria for the sale of City lands
  • A public open space acquisition program (including privately-owned but publicly-accessible open spaces).

CDs of the complete strategy document are available from Client Service Centres for $5.00.

A Vision for Downtown Ottawa ...

Over the next 20 years, the Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy 20/20 will help set the stage for a renewed physical environment for the downtown that is beautiful, inspiring and gracious. It will celebrate Ottawa's rich local history, integrating it with the City's unique role as Canada's National Capital. The downtown will become an enhanced focal point for the city and an even more distinctive destination for residents and visitors alike. It will be a sought after location for residential re-urbanization. Downtown Ottawa will enjoy a strong civic identity that is vibrant, liveable and engaging. The impressive urban qualities of the downtown core will be seamlessly integrated across its local, city-wide and national functions.

The Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy 20/20 BUILDS on existing initiatives and stakeholder and community input; ANALYZES the urban structure of the city to define key building blocks for the Strategy; IDENTIFIES an approach for enhancing the quality of Ottawa's urban experience through a programme of downtown-wide initiatives, big moves and targeted actions; RECOMMENDS a way forward to best realize the potential for Ottawa's Downtown as a vibrant, functional and beautiful destination for both residents and visitors.

What is the Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy 20/20?

The Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy 20/20 is a strategic document that can be used by the City of Ottawa, the National Capital Commission (NCC), the University of Ottawa, the Downtown BIA's and local business and residential communities as a tool to help develop, guide and implement future development projects and public realm improvements within Ottawa's Downtown area. This Urban Design Strategy builds on recent and on-going initiatives, helps to move forward the City's community design-oriented development process and provides a strategic approach to implementation.

The overarching aim of the Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy is to improve the urban experience of the downtown through a series of actions that enhance the quality of the public realm and urban environment. Within this document, the public realm includes such areas as streets, parks and open spaces, waterways and areas of special character. These areas are included because they strongly affect one's perception of a city and significantly contribute towards nurturing a positive or a negative 'feeling' of how vibrant, successful and desirable a city is as a place to live, work or play. Due to the importance of the downtown area in defining the image of a city, partnered with the vast amount of civic infrastructure in the downtown, it is important to prepare a strategy that sets the proper priorities on improvements for realization over the 20-year time frame.

The Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy 20/20 was commissioned by the City of Ottawa, in partnership with the NCC, in the autumn of 2002. Although not a statutory document, it is the intention of the City to use the recommendations of this Strategy, in parallel with the new Official Plan, to guide future development within Ottawa's Downtown. In addition, the Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy 20/20 performs three other essential roles:

  • Creates a shared vision of 'the Downtown' between the City of Ottawa, the National Capital Commission, adjacent neighbourhoods, business communities and potential development partners.
  • Establishes urban design guidelines for area-wide and site-specific cases that will aid the City in setting an urban quality threshold to inform site development applications, public realm improvement plans, transportation and development initiatives.
  • Provides an agreed strategy and priorities for longer term civic investment.

Urban Strategies Inc. completed the study between October 2002 and February 2004. This document outlines the result of the extensive consultation, key findings and project recommendations.

The Process: Hosting a dialogue to ensure ideas are brought forward for consideration

Key Events in the Making of the Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy

Phase 1 - Defining the Opportunities and Potential Phase 2 - Creating the Urban Design Framework Phase 3 - Developing Draft Guidelines and Strategies Phase 4 - Refining and Promoting the Urban Design Strategy
December 2002 to
February 2003
March 2003 to
April 2003
April 2003 to
October 2003
October 2003 to
February 2004
Stakeholder Interviews Interviews with key stakeholders, city staff and focus groups provide an important local transfer of knowledge to the study team. Community Workshop on the Urban Design Framework Engaging the public in an ideas workshop to develop aspects of the urban design framework. Ideas Charrette A targeted projects and precincts ideas charrette involving a diverse group of local Ottawa designers. Presentation of Final Urban Design Strategy Presentation to Staff Review Team, Planning and Environment Committee, NCC and many other organizations.
Mayor's Downtown Task Force Meetings "Downtown Potential" Presentation to inspire new ways of looking at, and thinking about, downtown. Open House and Forum Presenting workshop findings to Ottawa residents and collecting feedback on ideas. Focus Group and Round Table Discussions Intensive discussion and review of workshop results and further development of materials. Public Presentation of Final Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy 20/20 The Big Event. Launching the Strategy in the community.
Staff Workshops and Review Sessions Meeting with the City staff review team for presentation and working session to begin to develop ideas. Mayor's Downtown Task Force & NCC Meetings Meeting with the Mayor's Task Force, NCC and City staff. Staff Workshops and Review Sessions Meeting with the City staff to review draft Urban Design Strategy. Implementation of the Downtown Ottawa Urban Design Strategy
  On-going project website: Creating an interactive consultation tool for the Urban Design Strategy. Mayor's Downtown Task Force & NCC Meetings Meeting with the Mayor's Task Force, NCC and City staff.  
    Community Open House A public event to inform the community of how the process has yielded a strategy and solicit feedback from the community.  

Appendix A - Streetscape Matrix

This Matrix provides the City with an inventory of all of its downtown streets, categorizing each street and setting a possible target for their longer-term redevelopment to a street form that fully supports an attractive and healthy mixed-use urban environment.

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We thank all of those who contributed to create a collective vision for Downtown Ottawa towards the year 2020. Names of participants are listed in alphabetical order: Mouktar Abdilahid, John Abel, Councillor Elisabeth Arnold, Mark Baechler, Dave Ballinger, Lin Baxter, Larry Beasley, George Bedard, Marnie Bennett, Jean Guy Bisson, John Blatherwick, Catherine Boucher, Marie Boulet, Steven Boyle, Janet Bradley, Mark Brandt, Doug Bridgewater, Robert Brocklebank, Claudio Brun del Re, Anthony Bruni, Dewar Burnett, Gillian Burnett, Ross Burnett, Craig Callen-Jones, Alan Cameron, Archie Campbell, Dennis Carr, Doug Casey, Alf Chaiton, Nancy Chao, Ludwig Chelkowski, Carol Christensen, Jim Colizza, Sally Coutts, Derek Crain, Lena Creedy, James Critchley, George Dark, Joanna Dean, Beth Desmarais, Jeff Doll, John Doran, Shawn Doyle, Pierre Dube, Peggy Ducharme, Bob Edmunds, Nelson Edwards, Franc Falbo, Amy Falkner, Jack Ferguson, Bruce Finlay, Judy Flavin, David Flemming, Jonathan Freedman, Sam Fulton, Andrea Gabor, David Gladstone, Paula Giles, Franceska Gnarowski, Hugh Gorman, Lynn Graham, Dennis Gratton, Sylvie Grenier, Nan Griffiths, Peter Harris, Gordon Harrison, Bob Hasler, Selma Hassan, Marina Haufschild, Anna Hercz, Linda Hoad, Jacquelin Holzman, John Honshorst, Cecilia Humphreys, Deb Ironside, Janet Irwin, Dennis Jacobs, David Jeanes, Francoise Jessop, Joan Katz, Marguarite Keeley, Anthony Keith, Amy Kempster, Richard Kilstrom, Dan Kuzell, Pierre Lacroix, Rod Lahey, Gerry Lajeunesse, Sylvie Lalonde, Charles Lanktree, Ryan Lanyon, Martin Laplante, Francois Lapointe, Stuart Lazear, Anthony Leaning, Gerry Lepage, Frances Lepine, Jim Libbey, Catherine Lindquist, Gail Logan, Sue Lott, Craig Lueck, Sandra Lueck, Nathan Lueck, Rob Mackay, Myles R Mahon, Houri Mahshayekh, Scott Manning, Nick Mascianto, Diane Matichuk, Peter McCourt, Barb McMullen, Councillor Meilleur, Lori Mellor, Nancy Meloshe, Alain Miguelez, Ed Mitchell, Wolf Mohaupt, Mark Monteiro, Donald Morse, Marilyn Muleski, Karen Nesbitt, Catherine O'Grady, Robert Orchin, Rickson Outhet, Barry Padolsky, Lesley Paterson, Anthony Pearson, Tara Peel, Bob Perkins, Rhys Phillips, Marie Poirier, Dave Powers, Mark Reid, Mark Rosen, John Rossiter, Marc Ryan, Arturo Samper, John Schioler, Emira Sheha, Gail Shilingford, Victoria Smallman, Sandy Smallwood, John Smit, Julian Smith, Robert Smythe, Joan Spice, Bob Spicer, Staff of the Transportation/Infrastructure Policy Division, Karen Stuart, Corush Sunderland Wright, Mary Taylor, Elisio Temprano, Syd Thakar, Lori Thornton, Rowena Tolson, Christine Tremblay, Eric Turcotte, Gwen Twoop, Michel Valee, Jantine Van Kregten, Emmanuelle van Rutten, Robert Walters, Randolph Wang, Phil Waserman, Bob Webster, Drina Wethey, Jerold Wheeler, Chris Wicke, Ralph Wiesbrock, Stan Wilder, Irene Wong, John Wright and Ken Yip. If any participant has been missed, you have our apology and appreciation.