Urban Design Guidelines for Development along Arterial Mainstreets

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Appendix 1

Rapid Transit Network and Urban Land Uses

Rapid Transit Network and Urban Land Uses
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Amenity: something that contributes to an area's needs, whether social, environmental, or cultural

Articulation: architectural detail that gives a building interest and added richness

Boulevard: area between the curb and the sidewalk for: street trees, newspaper boxes, parking meters, light poles, bike rings etc. so that sidewalks are kept free and clear for pedestrians

Built form: buildings and structures

Compatible / Compatibility: when the density, form, bulk, height, setbacks, and/or materials of buildings are able to co-exist with their surroundings.

Curb cut: a break in the curb for car access from the street onto a property

Driveway: a private way across land used for vehicular access from a public street - includes a private right-of-way

Glazing: clear or lightly tinted glass windows

Façade: the principal face of a building (also referred to as the front wall)

Fascia: a plain horizontal band along the façade, often where the building’s sign is placed

Frontage Zone: the area in the right-of-way between the building and the sidewalk can include planting, outdoor patios etc.

Gateway: a main point of entrance into a district or a neighbourhood and a good location for intensification.

Hard landscape: landscape features other than plant materials e.g. decorative pavers, planter boxes, walks, fences, retaining walls, etc.

Impervious surface: surface of land where water cannot infiltrate back into the ground (e.g. roofs, driveways, streets and parking lots)

Intensification: higher, bigger and more compact, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development

Lane: a narrow street at the back of buildings, generally used for service and parking

Light pollution: light created from excessive illumination, by unshielded or misaligned light fixtures, and by inefficient lamp sources, with health implications to humans and wildlife

Mews: small pedestrian passageway to link parking to public sidewalks, parks to sidewalks etc.

Nodes: occur at gateways, intersections, as key locations to highlight, feature or intensify

Parking lot: a lot or other place used for the temporary parking of four or more passenger vehicles

Pedestrian scale: a size of building, space that a pedestrian perceives as not dominating or overpowering

Pedestrian travel route: the unobstructed portion of the sidewalk

Pedestrian walkway: sidewalk on private property

Permeable surface: a surface formed of material that allows infiltration of water to the sub-base

Property line: the legal boundary of a property

Public realm: the streets, lanes, parks and open spaces that are free and available to anyone to use

Right-of-way: a public or private area that allows for passage of people or goods, including, but not limited to, freeways, streets, bicycle paths, alleys, trails and pedestrian walkways.

Scale: the size of a building or an architectural feature in relation to its surroundings and to the size of a person

Screening: vegetation, landforms, or structures that serve to reduce the impact of development on nearby properties

Setback: the required distance from a road, property line, or another structure, within which no building can be located

Sidewalk: unobstructed concrete or paved area for pedestrian travel in the public right-of-way

Soft landscape: planting such as trees, shrub, vines, perennials and annuals

Stacking lane: an on-site queuing lane for motorized vehicles, which is separated from other vehicular traffic and pedestrian circulation by barriers, markings or signs

Streetscape: the overall character and appearance of a street formed by buildings and landscape features that frame the public street. Includes building façades, street trees and plants, lighting, street furniture, paving, etc.

Street frontage: the front of the property facing the street

Street Section: a street cross-section, which includes the horizontal line of the street plus the vertical edges of the buildings, on either side, that face it

Streetwall: street edge, along which a line of buildings can occur and defines the limits of the right-of-way.

Urban design: the analysis and design of the city's physical form

Urban form: the pattern of development in an urban area

Figure Credits

Figures Description
Figure 1: Regional Road Corridor Design Guidelines. Region of Ottawa-Carleton
Figure 3, 15, 17: Ottawa, Ontario. City of Ottawa
Figure 4: Toronto, Ontario.
Figure 5, 16: Vancouver, B.C.
Figure 8: From the St. Joseph Boulevard Corridor Study, March 2003: The Planning Partnership, Sterling Finlayson Architects, D.J. Halpenny & Associates, Royal LePage Advisors
Figure 9: California, USA. Bousfields Inc.
Figure 10: Illinois, USA. Bousfields Inc.
Figure 12: USA. Bousfields Inc.
Figure 13: Mississauga, Ontario
Figure 14: Toronto, Ontario. City of Ottawa
Figures 21, 22, 24, 25, 26: Ottawa, Ontario. City of Ottawa

Urban Design Guidelines for Development along Arterial Mainstreets

Approved by City Council on May 24, 2006
Publication #21-04

Urban Design Guidelines for Development along Arterial Mainstreets [PDF 1.83 MB]

Mainstreets are defined in the Official Plan as "streets that offer some of the most significant opportunities in the City for intensification through more compact forms of development, a lively mix of uses and a pedestrian-friendly environment.” Arterial Mainstreets, in contrast to Traditional Mainstreets, are identified as those Mainstreets developed after 1945 that generally "present an urban fabric of larger lots, larger buildings, varied setbacks, lower densities and a more automobile-oriented environment.” These streets usually do not provide on-street parking. The predominant land use is often single purpose commercial, many with parking lots located between the building and the street.

Purpose and Application

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide urban design guidance at the planning application stage in order to assess, promote and achieve appropriate development along Arterial Mainstreets. Specific site context and conditions will also be reviewed in conjunction with these guidelines.

These guidelines are to be applied throughout the City for all streets identified as an Arterial Mainstreet within the Official Plan. Where a Community Design Plan or relevant planning study exists, these guidelines will augment those documents. They will also be used to help inform the preparation of new Community Design Plans.


  • To foster compatible development that will contribute to the recognized or planned character of the streets
  • To promote a comfortable pedestrian environment and create attractive streetscapes
  • To achieve high-quality built form and establish a strong street edge along Arterial Mainstreets
  • To facilitate a gradual transition to more intensive forms of development on Arterial Mainstreets
  • To accommodate a broad range of uses including retail, services, commercial , office , institutional and higher density residential
  • To enhance connections that link development sites  to public transit, roads and pedestrian walkways

Official Plan and By-Law Direction

For Arterial Mainstreets, the Official Plan supports compatible development that respects the character of the street and adjacent areas so that a gradual transformation to a more compact, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented pattern of development with building heights up to eight storeys, can be achieved. This transformation can occur through a combination of higher density employment and residential uses, mixed-use buildings and the redevelopment of parking lots (Official Plan Amendment No. 28, Section 3.6.3).

Annex 1 of the Official Plan identifies the protected rights-of-way sufficient to provide enough area for the streetscape elements and meet the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.

Annex 3 of the Official Plan contains a number of design considerations that provide suggestions for how to meet the Design Objectives and Principles in Section 2.5.1 of the Official Plan. All other policies of the Official Plan, applicable regulations, Private Approach By-law, Signs By-law and Zoning By-laws must be met.

Context and Challenges

Development along Arterial Mainstreets is traditionally low in profile, set back from the street, and separated from other buildings by large areas of asphalt. This type of development has created large gaps in the urban fabric and has generally produced unpleasant walking environments and incomplete streetscapes. Arterial Mainstreets are prime locations that present significant opportunities to: intensify and enhance development in a manner that creates attractive pedestrian environments; contribute to vibrant new neighbourhoods; and create transit-friendly places.  The challenge is to facilitate the evolution of these Arterial Mainstreets over time to a more balanced vehicular and pedestrian environment with the streetscape defined and supported by buildings and landscape.