Urban Design Review Panel

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Introduction to the Urban Design Review Panel

The Urban Design Review Panel (UDRP) is an independent panel of volunteer design professionals who provide an objective peer review of projects within the City’s Design Priority Areas (DPAs). The Panel plays an important role in promoting design excellence in Ottawa, a key priority of the City’s Official Plan. As Section 4.6.1(2) of the Official Plan states, the City is required to retain the UDRP as an “independent advisory panel who provide objective peer review of both development applications and capital projects”.

UDRP in the Planning approval process

The UDRP is part of the City of Ottawa’s planning approval process. It is the role of City staff to work with applicants and ensure that UDRP reviews are embedded within the pre-consultation application process whenever possible. As such, pre-consultation application proposals which meet the criteria set out in Section 3 of the UDRP Terms of Reference will be subject to UDRP review(s) before a formal application is deemed complete. Thus, the applicant’s Urban Design Brief submission to the UDRP, the recommendations from the UDRP meeting, and the applicant’s corresponding responses to the recommendations will all be part of the formal application package in accordance with the UDRP Report Terms of Reference. However, in the case of an Official Plan Amendment and/or a Plan of Subdivision, the UDRP review may be held after a formal application is submitted and deemed complete, at the discretion of the File Lead.

Applications subject to the UDRP process

Applications located within the Design Priority Areas designated in Schedule C7-A (Urban) and C7-B (Villages) of the Official Plan, and which meet the General Criteria below, shall be subject to UDRP review (as outlined in Section 3 of the UDRP’s Terms of Reference).

A Secondary Plan or other Council-approved statutory policy may establish directions and criteria that deviate from the UDRP Terms of Reference. Should such circumstances arise, the Secondary Plan or other Council-approved statutory policy shall prevail.

  1. Schedule C7A - Design Priority Areas – Urban [ PDF 1.121 MB ]
  2. Schedule C7B - Design Priority Areas – Villages [ PDF 1.160 MB ]
  3. Schedule A – Transect Policy Areas

General criteria

  1. Applications including Official Plan Amendments (OPA) and/or Zoning By-law Amendments (ZBA) requesting an increase in height or density, and Site Plan Control (SPC) applications which would result in a building—or an addition to a building—that is:
    1. Seven (7) storeys or greater in the Downtown Core and Inner Urban transects (as identified in Schedule A of the Official Plan)
    2. Five (5) storeys or greater in the Outer Urban and Suburban transects (as identified in Schedule A of the Official Plan)
    3. Three (3) storeys or greater within Village Design Priority Areas (as identified in Schedule C7-B of the Official Plan)
  1. Applications which do not meet the criteria outlined above in 3.2.1 but are associated with large-scale institutions and facilities such as hospitals, universities, and cultural facilities.
  1. Applications which do not meet the criteria outline in 3.2.1 but are of a complex nature as outlined by the following circumstances. The decision to bring these files to the Panel will be at the discretion of the File Lead and the Urban Designer on file, in consultation with the Panel Coordinator:
    1. Within Village Cores,
    2. Within Heritage Conservation Districts and/or in proximity (30m) to built and cultural heritage resources,
    3. Within proximity to Natural Heritage Features (as identified in Schedule C11-A, C11-B, and C11-C of the Official Plan),
    4. City-led policy initiatives and capital investments, such as a Secondary Plan, a Community Design Plan, a public realm study, and a street reconstruction project.
  2. Applications for Plan of Subdivision which include multiple development blocks planned for mid- or high-rise development and a mix of land uses may be subject to UDRP review at the discretion of the File Lead, Urban Designer and Panel Coordinator.


  1. Revisions to plans that have received staff and/or Council approval where the change maintains the overall design response associated with the initial approval.
  2. Municipal parks development, including developer-built municipal parks.
  3. Development within the Kanata North Business Park Special District.
  4. A Site Plan Control application for low-rise or mid-rise development that is generally in conformity with the zoning, and that has implemented staff’s initial pre-consultation application directions satisfactory to the File Lead, the Urban Designer on file and the Panel Coordinator.
  5. Applications for conversions where there are no significant alterations to the site or exterior of the building and the conversion is primarily inside the existing building may be considered for exemption at the discretion of the File Lead, the Urban Designer on file and the Panel Coordinator.

Projects requiring a Heritage Permit

  1. In the event where an application is subject to UDRP review and requires a Heritage Permit, the UDRP review shall take place before the appropriate Heritage Permit is issued.
  2. For applications subject to UDRP review and requiring a Heritage Permit, submissions materials must be detailed to the level commensurate with a Site Plan Control application regardless of the application type.
  3. At the discretion of Heritage Planning in consultation with the File Lead, Urban Designer, and Panel Coordinator, applications which have previously attended UDRP and received a subsequent Heritage Permit may be exempt from a second review with the UDRP during the Site Plan Control application process.

Applications outside of Design Priority Areas

  1. Applications outside of Design Priority Areas are generally not subject to UDRP review. However, at the recommendation of the Program Manager, Public Realm and Urban Design, and in coordination with the applicant(s), complex applications which trigger the need for an Official Plan Amendment associated with an increase in massing and/or height may be brought to the UDRP for review.
  2. Applications within the Central and East Downtown Core Secondary Plan area defined in Schedule A – Character Areas of the Secondary Plan but not within the Design Priority Areas, and which meet the criteria set out in Section 3 of the UDRP Terms of Reference will be subject to UDRP review.

Submission requirements

The applicant is required to provide detailed submission materials two weeks prior to the Panel meeting (see Panel Meeting Schedule). If the UDRP submission materials are complete and submitted on time, the applicant will be notified of the time and location for their scheduled meeting with the Panel approximately a week ahead of the meeting.

Please be aware that there is a possibility that the number of submission packages received exceeds the capacity of the agenda. In such cases, applications may be carried over to the following UDRP meeting.

For an applicant to be scheduled on an UDRP meeting agenda, the applicant(s) must:

  • Complete their phase 1 pre-consultation meeting with City staff before the submission deadline
  • Receive written comments and initial design direction from City staff before the submission deadline
  • Notify the Panel Coordinator (udrp@ottawa.ca) 2 weeks before the submission deadline of their intention to submit for UDRP review
  • Submit all required materials by the posted submission deadline

Granted completion of the above, all eligible projects will be added to the UDRP agenda. Submission materials shall be professionally prepared, legible, drawn to scale, and accurately represent all the design aspects of the project in question.

For a UDRP submission package to be complete it must include the following required materials:

  • Applicant project summary sheet  (Please submit the summary as a separate document)
  • Urban Design Brief: A customized Terms of Reference for each application will be provided by the Urban Designer following the first pre-consultation application meeting. Elements to be included in the Urban Design Brief submitted for UDRP review shall be confirmed by the Panel Coordinator.

The Urban Design Brief is required to be signed by a member holding a professional membership with the OAA, OALA, OPPI, and/or CIP, or equivalent professional organization; and should include materials prepared by urban designer(s), licensed architect(s), licensed landscape architect(s), and registered planner(s). The Urban Design Brief should highlight the key urban design features of the proposal, and should provide an explanation as to why the proposed development represents the most appropriate design solution for the site.

Panel Meetings and Submission Workback Schedule

Meeting schedule 2024

Location: All UDRP meetings will be held virtually on Zoom unless notified otherwise. Meeting Schedule (subject to change)
Pre-submission email notice Submission deadline Meeting date
Friday, December 8, 2023 Thursday, December 14, 2023 Friday, January 5, 2024
Friday, January 5, 2024 Thursday, January 18, 2024 Friday, February 2, 2024
Friday, February 2, 2024 Thursday, February 15, 2024 Friday, March 1, 2024
Friday, March 8, 2024 Thursday, March 21, 2024 Friday, April 5, 2024
Friday, April 5, 2024 Thursday, April 18, 2024 Friday, May 3, 2024
Friday, May 10, 2024 Thursday, May 23, 2024 Friday, June 7, 2024
Friday, June 7, 2024 Thursday, June 20, 2024 Friday, July 5, 2024
Friday, July 5, 2024 Thursday, July 18, 2024 Friday, August 2, 2024
Friday, August 9, 2024 Thursday, August 22, 2024 Friday, September 6, 2024
Friday, September 6, 2024 Thursday, September 19, 2024 Friday, October 4, 2024
Friday, October 4, 2024 Thursday, October 17, 2024 Friday, November 1, 2024
Friday, November 8, 2024 Thursday, November 21, 2024 Friday, December 6, 2024

Panel meeting format

Presentation and Design Review Format

UDRP proceedings are not permitted to be recorded by any electronic devices.

UDRP proceedings will be led by the Chair and will follow the general sequence described below for both informal pre-consultations (at the pre-consultation phase) and formal reviews (during the post-approval process). As a rule, the UDRP does not discuss applications without at least one representative of the proponent’s design team present (an architect, landscape architect, urban designer, or planner).

Meetings are approximately one hour in length, and applicants are expected to arrive at least five minutes prior to their scheduled meeting time. Additional meeting time may be allocated to accommodate complex applications.

Applicants are expected to make a 5– to 10-minute presentation to the Panel that focuses on the proposal’s built-form, architecture, site design, and sustainable initiatives. If additional presentation time is required, please consult with the Panel Coordinator about the need for additional time by the submission deadline.

Time allotted Course of action
5 minutes
  • The Chair of the UDRP welcomes the applicant(s) and introduces the rules of the proceeding.
  • In some cases, the Chair of the UDRP may request the File Lead present one or more of the following:
      1. An overview of the key design considerations for the project set out in city planning/design documents
      2. An overview of the design directions previously provided to the applicant
      3. The design matters that staff are seeking advice on from the UDRP.
10 minutes 
  • The presenter for the applicant(s) introduces their project team.
  • The presenter provides a concise overview of the project, focusing on the project’s built-form, architecture, site design, and sustainable initiatives.
  • A PowerPoint or PDF presentation of the Urban Design Brief is required.
  • The presentation must be made by an architect, landscape architect, urban designer, or a planner.
15 minutes
  • The Chair of the UDRP calls on the File Lead to present their key questions to the Panel.
  • Each Panel member may ask clarification questions to the applicant(s), with the applicant(s) providing responses to each question asked by the Panel.
20 minutes
  • The Panel provides comments and recommendations on the project in a manner intended to provide objective and constructive feedback to the applicant(s).
  • The applicant(s) may take notes of the Panel’s comments and recommendations, but are asked to withhold their responses at this time.
5 minutes
  • The Chair of the UDRP provides a summary of the Panel’s comments and recommendations.
2 minutes
  • The applicant(s) may respond to the Panel’s comments and recommendations.

Panel members

The Panel is comprised of seven expert design professionals. All members are senior professionals able to evaluate projects of varying complexities and contexts related to their profession.

Current Panel Members

David Leinster, OALA, CSLA

David Leinster is a landscape architect and partner at The Planning Partnership in Toronto. With expertise in public realm planning and design, and having extensive experience as a design critic and juror, David is a former member of the City of Ottawa’s Design Review Panel for the Downtown Design Review Pilot Project and a former juror for the Ottawa Urban Design Awards.

James Parakh, OAA

James Parakh is a Licensed Architect and the Manager of Urban Design for Toronto and East York District, City of Toronto Planning Division. During the last decade, James has led the urban design studio that has helped guide the review of all development in Downtown Toronto and surrounding urban areas. James also has experience working in the private sector as an urban designer, project designer and project architect for both national and international projects. He is the recipient of numerous awards and has received an Ontario Association of Architects Award in 2008 for introducing the 1:50 program and has recently led the initiative to launch Toronto's Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) branding. In 2014, James was appointed to the Advisory Group of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, an international body in the field of tall buildings and sustainable urban design. He holds graduate degrees in architecture and urban design from the University of Houston and Columbia University, respectively.

Heather Rolleston,

Heather Rolleston, B.Arch.
Principal and Design Director, Quadrangle

Heather is an architectural designer and is a principal and design director at Quadrangle. She has over 20 years of experience designing, leading and managing a wide range of projects from the residential, mixed-use, master plan and commercial sectors. A graduate of the University of Toronto Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, she continues to be involved in academia as a guest critic at her alma mater as well as at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture.

Heather’s work has been recognized with a number of awards including the RAIC Governor General’s Medal in Architecture and the RIBA International Award for the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research.

As a member of the Urban Land Institute’s Women’s Leadership Initiative Championship Team and through her involvement with Building Equality in Architecture Toronto, Heather lends her voice to advocate for gender equality in the architectural profession.

Heather is also sitting member of the City of Toronto’s Design Review Panel.

John J. Stewart, BLA, OALA, CSLA, CAHP

John J. Stewart, a principal of Commonwealth, is a landscape architect and a heritage specialist. Over 40 years, he has focused on the planning and design of cultural resources, building and landscape conservation, and urban revitalization. A graduate of the University of Guelph, he received additional training at Cornell University (USA) and Oxford University (UK) and holds a diploma in the Conservation of Monuments from Parks Canada. Before Commonwealth's formation, Stewart was the first director of Heritage Canada's Main Street Program. The name Commonwealth derives from the Old English term 'commonweal' - a community or group working together for the common good. In this spirit, Stewart has advocated a collaborative approach in undertaking and participating in consulting and development projects. John is a founding member of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals; he sits on the Algonquin College Heritage Carpentry Advisory Board, and is a past-chair of the Perth Heritage Advisory Committee. Stewart co-authored with Larry Turner Perth: Tradition and Style in Eastern Ontario.

Alex Taranu, FCIP, MCIP, RPP, OAA
Manager of Architectural Design, City of Brampton

Alex Taranu is a Licensed Architect in the Province of Ontario and Registered Professional Planner with over 30 years of professional experience in planning, urban design, and architecture. During the 1990s he was involved in a number of urban design and architectural projects in many Ontario cities, in particular in Toronto as a consultant on projects such as the “Railway Lands (City Place)”, and the “Waterfront Design Schemes and Charrettes”. Since 2001, he has been heavily involved in the re-urbanization of suburban areas through projects such as “Downtown Brampton Revitalization and Central Area Intensification”. He also has extensive professional work experience as an advocate for urban design in the planning process as the founder and past chair of the Ontario Professional Planner Institute Urban Design Working Group and other professional advocacy organizations.

Emmanuelle van Rutten, B.Arch., OAA, OAQ, MRAIC, LEED AP BD+C

Emmanuelle is a Licensed Architect in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec and Director at the Moriyama & Teshima Architects' Ottawa office. Her professional focus has been on large-scale institutional buildings in Ottawa. These projects are exemplified by their exceptional designs and staunch project delivery.

Over the years, she has earned a reputation as a remarkable communicator (in both official languages), a meticulous project manager and an excellent designer. Her most notable projects include the Canadian War Museum and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat on Sussex drive.

Emmanuelle is actively involved in Ottawa's design community. She maintains a close relationship with her alma mater - the Azrieli School of Architecture at Carleton University where she is frequently invited as a Guest Lecturer and Guest Critic.

More information

For more information about the establishment of the UDRP, its evolution, and its current operations, please contact the UDRP Coordinator at UDRP@ottawa.ca who would be pleased to discuss.