Old Ottawa South Community Association

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Reflecting on Old Ottawa South’s Built Environment, Past and Present

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Reflecting on Old Ottawa South’s Built Environment, Past and Present
Mohammad al-Asad
September 2008

This essay provides both documentary information as well as reflections on the architectural and urban characteristics of Old Ottawa South. It addresses the neighborhood’s past evolution, present characteristics, as well as possible future trends. It discusses possible scenarios that allow for increased densification in Old Ottawa South while preserving, and even enhancing, the urban and architectural qualities that contribute to making the neighborhood a positive example of urban living.


Reflecting on Old Ottawa South’s Built Environment, Past and Present


My family and I moved from abroad in the summer of 2006 and settled in Old Ottawa South. When corresponding with friends and colleagues about our move and about our new home, I would point out that our neighborhood is a great example of what city living should be about. I would add that the neighborhood, with its strong sense of community, short walking distances, easily accessible public transportation, as well as proximity to a vibrant main street with various commercial establishments and community facilities, should make the legendary late urban writer and activist Jane Jacobs proud.[1]

Old Ottawa South is a mature district. About three quarters of its residences were constructed before 1946.[2] It has full-grown trees and a diversity of house designs. Its buildings nonetheless present a unified scale. Most of them range from one to three stories in height, with the occasional four-story structure found here and there. The area has avoided the fate of neighboring districts where a few modern multi-story residential and office buildings have destroyed existing continuities in scale. The urban fabric of Old Ottawa South also shows very acceptable levels of density that provide for a healthy balance between built-up and open spaces. Its houses are rather closely spaced to each other, but it still has an adequate supply of open areas, whether in the houses’ front and back yards or in the five parks located within its boundaries. Of great importance is that the area is blessed with a river and a canal partly defining its borders and creating open vistas. Both are lined with paths for the use of pedestrians and cyclists.

Old Ottawa South is pedestrian-friendly throughout. So much is within walking distance, most importantly, the approximately one-kilometer stretch of Bank Street located between the Rideau Canal and Rideau River, which functions as a “Main Street” for the area featuring a wide variety of stores, a supermarket, restaurants, cafés, as well as public buildings including a public school, public library, and two churches. Most recently, a subdued but elegant four-story building with shops on the ground floor and residential apartments above has been added to the street. The area’s community center, a converted fire station from the 1920s, is located just off Bank Street. Throughout the year, during the warm summer months as well as during Ottawa’s notoriously arctic winters, Old Ottawa South is a place where one walks rather than drives. Whether it is to take one’s children to school, visit the public library or community center, go to the bank, buy groceries, or rent a video, it remains easier and more pleasant to walk than take the car. All in all, Old Ottawa South is a positive model of what urban living should be about, and its residents seem to be fully aware and appreciative of its qualities.

Much of Old Ottawa South may be viewed as a traditional pre-World War II suburban development. Such developments in many ways combine qualities found in both urban and suburban areas, and have come to be viewed as part of their cities’ urban core. These neighborhoods primarily consist of single and semi-attached residences, rather than high-rise apartment buildings, and therefore are described as low-density developments. Still, they express a more compact arrangement of houses and a generally higher footprint of building area to open space than that found in post-World War II suburbs. Old Ottawa South may not be part of Ottawa’s central business district, and is not even adjacent to it (it was not annexed by the City of Ottawa until 1907). Still, it is situated relatively close to the central business district and is easily accessible to and from it via public transportation. Unlike central business districts, it is primarily a residential area rather than a commercial retail or office area. Nonetheless, its healthy pedestrian life, which to a large extent is a result of the proximity of its residences to a commercial main street and public facilities, provides it with an important advantage found in various vibrant downtown areas where residential units, offices, and retail spaces are closely situated to each other.[3]

There are numerous urban districts throughout North America that share many of Old Ottawa South’s qualities, but this does not minimize in any way the significance of any of them. Each of these districts has a story to tell about the physical as well as socio-economic evolution of its community, stories that go back in time to include a number of generations. Also, there simply aren’t enough such areas. They provide highly sustainable, viable alternatives to the sprawling, automobile-dominated suburban developments that have become ubiquitous not only in North American cities, but in cities throughout the world, catering for what often seems like never-ending economic and population growth. In these new developments, where the majority of Canadian city dwellers live today, the domination of the automobile has rendered pedestrian life nonexistent. Very little is within walking distance, and instead of a “Main Street” along which people promenade and interact, these new developments are dominated by strip malls defined by seemingly never-ending expansive parking lots. Architecturally, cookie-cutter low-rise residences or characterless high-rise apartment buildings are the norm. The automobile and the parking lots that necessarily come with it admittedly cannot be completely banished from our lives, but if developers and zoning officials would look more closely at areas such as Old Ottawa South for guidance in creating new developments, they can come up with more appealing pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods with higher levels of social interaction and a more pronounced sense of community.[4]

[1] I later found out that others also have made the link between Old Ottawa South and Jane Jacobs’ ideas. These include Old Ottawa South resident and member of the Old Ottawa South History Project, Leo Doyle, who organized in early May 2008 a highly engaging and informative walking tour of Old Ottawa South as part of the Jane’s Walk series. These walks cover various neighborhoods in eight Canadian cities and present aspects of those neighborhoods that in many ways are living expressions of Jacobs’ ideas about urbanism. See the Jane’s Walk section of the City Repair Ottawa web site; and Leo Doyle, “A Walk on the Sunnyside: Free Tour Celebrates Renowned Urbanist Jane Jacobs,” The OSCAR, May 2008, p. 21. For a brief overview of Jane Jacob’s life, thoughts, and writings, see the web site of the Project for Public Spaces.

[2] Statistics regarding dates of construction for dwellings in Old Ottawa South are available in the City of Ottawa web site.

[3] The characteristics that define differences between urban and suburban areas are not clear-cut and vary from one location to the other according to factors such as the size and population of a given metropolitan area, its local municipal history, and its administrative boundaries. For a discussion of the differences between urban and suburban areas within the Canadian context, see Martin Turcotte, “The City / Suburb Contrast: How can we measure it?” Statistics Canada, 2008.

[4] Although not without criticism, the New Urbanism movement does look at pre-existing pedestrian-oriented communities in devising planning solutions for new developments. See the New Urbanism web site and “Wikipedia, “New Urbanism.”

Reflecting on Old Ottawa South’s Built Environment, Past and Present (cont.)


Old Ottawa South, which sometimes is referred to as Rideauville, is home for over 8,000 residents,[5] which is the upper population limit for what planners often refer to as a “neighborhood.” The area, however, also consists of smaller sections, the borders of which generally are defined by its primary thoroughfares, including Bank Street, Riverdale Avenue, and Sunnyside Avenue. What many of its residents would define as their neighborhood often simply consist of the houses located along one or two city blocks. The area is fortunate to have two distinct geographic boundaries. The first is a natural one, the Rideau River, which provides its border from the south and also partly from the east. The second is the Rideau Canal, the heritage site on which construction was initiated in 1827, and which functions as Old Ottawa South’s northern boundary. Avenue Road provides its eastern boundary, beginning from the river at the south, up to the intersection of Echo Drive and Riverdale Avenue near the canal at the north. In contrast to the other boundaries of the neighborhood, this eastern one is a rather “fuzzy” zone that blends and brings together Old Ottawa South with the neighbouring – and very much similar – parts of the Old Ottawa East community. In fact, the Ottawa South Community Association allows residents living to the east of Avenue Road, who officially belong to Old Ottawa East, to join the association on a fee paying basis.

In contrast, the western border of Old Ottawa South leaves much to be desired. This border is defined by Bronson Avenue, a fast and high-volume thoroughfare that presents a physical rupture and barrier between Old Ottawa South and the adjacent Carleton University, thus preventing any sense of continuity from evolving between the university campus and bordering neighborhoods (fig. 1).

Satellite image showing the northern part of Old Ottawa South and the southern part of the Glebe with the Rideau Canal separating them (Google Earth, 2008)
Fig. 1: Satellite image showing the northern part of Old Ottawa South and the southern part of the Glebe with the Rideau Canal separating them (Google Earth, 2008)

[5] Statistics regarding the population of Old Ottawa South are provided in the web site of the City of Ottawa.

Reflecting on Old Ottawa South’s Built Environment, Past and Present (cont.)

Architectural Heritage

Although Old Ottawa South only houses about half a dozen of Ottawa’s municipally designated heritage structures (another approximately 300 structures of the area are included on Ottawa's heritage reference list, and thus potentially considered for legal protection), its mosaic of over 3,200 residences and the family histories they contain provide a rich register of the history and evolution of the Ottawa area, dating as far back as the first half of the nineteenth century and extending to the present. The earliest surviving house in the area is the Williams House on Southern Drive, parts of which were built in the 1820s. Its original owner, Lewis Williams, built the house on the 200-acre farm that he established at that time.

In addition to covering a relatively long chronological span, the area’s private residences also reflect considerable diversity in their stylistic characteristics and also in the socio-economic backgrounds of those who lived in them. On the one hand, Old Ottawa South includes residences such as the rather simple and modest late nineteenth-century Hunt House on Hopewell Avenue, which is an example of a working-class residence from that period. At the other end of the spectrum are stately mansions such as the 1860s Echo Bank House (formerly the Echo Bank Bed and Breakfast) on Echo Drive along the canal, built for Colonel George Hay, a prominent businessman and public figure in the city. Colonel Hay was a major hardware merchant, president of the Bank of Ottawa, and one of the city’s first aldermen.

The houses of Old Ottawa South feature different formal characteristics and materials. These include traditional structures made of wood, brick, and stone, topped with just about every imaginable roof form. The front porch is a standard feature in many of them, providing an element of social interaction between residents and neighbors walking along. Moreover, one finds in Old Ottawa South simple wood or masonry gabled houses with front porches dating back the 1920s alongside contemporary flat-roofed houses punctured by corner windows and sheathed with corrugated metal surfaces.

Although many of the area’s houses are interesting in their own right, and although each of them is a repository of a wealth of information about the architectural as well as socio-economic evolution of this part of Ottawa, much of their value also lies in how they come together collectively, making up the pieces of the mosaic that is Old Ottawa South.

Of course, a few structures do stand out as individual monuments to which considerable resources have been devoted. Some are private residences that are testimonies to personal wealth, as with the Echo Bank House. There also are the public buildings. On a certain level, these belong to the community as a whole, and they take on a role of symbols of civic pride. The area features a good number of these buildings. They include the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons along Echo Drive, completed in 1923, and which previously served as the Monastery of the Precious Blood. Along with the nearby 1931 Southminster United Church facing Bank Street, these two public buildings are the primary visual markers that greet those walking or driving into Old Ottawa South as they cross the Rideau Canal along the Bank Street Bridge. The six-arched bridge, completed in 1912, and restored in 1993, is an elegant example of public infrastructure. It replaced the latest of a series of preexisting swing bridges that had existed on the site dating back to the 1860s, and played a major role in allowing Old Ottawa South to grow into an important district of Ottawa as it provided easy and full accessibility between the city and this newly emerging area. It also is one of Ottawa’s first reinforced concrete structures.

Other public buildings include the Hopewell Public Elementary School, one of the oldest continuously functioning public schools in Ottawa, and an important source of pride for the community. The oldest part of the current school complex dates back to about 1910, and consisted of an austere symmetrically-arranged two-story brick structure. It underwent a major 14-million dollar expansion and renovation project in 1996 – 1997 that included constructing a modern extension along Bank Street.

In addition, there is the cherished Old Firehall Community Centre, built in 1921. As the name indicates, it originally functioned as a firehouse before it was converted to take on its present role as a community center in 1977. The structure is one of the very few Spanish Colonial revival structures built in Ottawa. In spite of its public function, its modest scale has allowed it to fit in very comfortably within its residential surroundings. It also provides a very good example of adaptive reuse. Interestingly enough, it housed activities for the community long before its conversion into a community center. Movies were shown in it before the Mayfair Theatre (another structure showing Spanish Colonial Revival influences) was built along Bank Street in 1932.

Reflecting on Old Ottawa South’s Built Environment, Past and Present (cont.)


Unlike its older northern neighboring district, The Glebe, and its newer southern neighboring districts, Alta Vista and Billings Bridge, Old Ottawa South has been very fortunate in its evolution, and has been spared a number of the negative developments to have affected these two districts. A sense of unity of scale has been maintained throughout the neighborhood, and Old Ottawa South has avoided the multi-story buildings that have popped up in The Glebe, Alta Vista, and Billings Bridge. Although such multi-story buildings can function well on both the architectural and urban levels if placed within the right context, this does not apply within the setting of low-rise residential structures where they are located as they have destroyed the unity in scale that previously had existed around them.

Interestingly enough, if one examines Old Ottawa South’s newest large-scale building, which occupies the southeastern corner of the intersection of Bank and Grove streets, and is referred to as the Campanile Building (fig. 2), it clearly is a good example of a high-density, multi-use structure of which more need to be inserted within the urban fabric. It is an unpretentious but elegant building that seems to always have been there, rather than being an aggressive and imposing newcomer in the neighborhood. It helps provide the street with a clear urban edge. Also, the combination of commercial space on the ground floor and residential units on the three floors above allows for introducing higher densities in the area and provides an opportunity for Bank Street to fully function as a healthy urban street that is used along a 24-hour cycle, being one where people work, shop, eat, and live. This is in contrast to single-use zoned commercial areas, which become ghost towns once the work-day ends and people working in them head off to their homes.

Campanile building from the northeast (Mohammad al-Asad, 2008)
Fig. 2: Campanile building from the northeast (Mohammad al-Asad, 2008)

When crossing the Bank Street Bridge over the Rideau Canal and approaching Old Ottawa South from The Glebe to the south, one is visually greeted by the two elegant public buildings mentioned above: Southminster United Church to the right and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons to the left (fig. 3 & 4). In contrast, if one moves in the opposite direction, and crosses the bridge heading north, i.e. leaving Old Ottawa South and entering The Glebe, one is presented with a markedly different view. Instead of the view of Lansdowne Park’s historical Aberdeen Pavilion of 1889, one instead faces the large unsightly exposed-concrete back-end of the southern grandstand added to Lansdowne Park Stadium in the 1960s. It is an imposing and aggressive structure that shows no sensitivity whatsoever to the architectural character and urban fabric of The Glebe or Old Ottawa South (fig. 5).

Southminster Church as seen from Bank Street Bridge (Mohammad al-Asad, 2008)
Fig. 3: Southminster Church as seen from Bank Street Bridge (Mohammad al-Asad, 2008)

Royal College of Surgeons as seen from Bank Street Bridge (Mohammad al-Asad, 2008)
Fig. 4: Royal College of Surgeons as seen from Bank Street Bridge (Mohammad al-Asad, 2008)

Frank Claire Stadium as seen from Bank Street Bridge (Mohammad al-Asad, 2008)
Fig. 5: Frank Clair Stadium as seen from Bank Street Bridge (Mohammad al-Asad, 2008)

Rather similar remarks may be made as one leaves Old Ottawa South along Bank Street, and crosses the Rideau River heading into Alta Vista and Billings Bridge. Here, one leaves behind the modestly-scaled buildings located along Bank Street and crosses into an environment where strip malls collide rather chaotically with multi-story residential and commercial buildings (fig. 6). The insensitive architectural and urban character of the entrances to The Glebe and Alta Vista / Billings Bridge from Old Ottawa South greatly undermines these two areas, and serves as a reminder of how fortunate Old Ottawa South has been to be spared such interventions.

View of the Billings Bridge area from Old Ottawa South along Bank Street (Mohammad al-Asad, 2008)
Fig. 6: View of the Billings Bridge area from Old Ottawa South along Bank Street (Mohammad al-Asad, 2008)

Reflecting on Old Ottawa South’s Built Environment, Past and Present (cont.)


Although there is much that is positive about Old Ottawa South, the area still faces its share of challenges. It underwent difficult times and a few negative developments even though it generally has managed to get through them in good form. Parts of Old Ottawa South had experienced a period of relative and limited decline during the period extending from the end of World War II up to the 1980s as a result of the flight of city residents to outer suburbs ranging from neighboring Alta Vista to those located outside the Ottawa Greenbelt such as Kanata and Barrhaven. An indication of this is that enrollment in the Hopewell Avenue Public School went down to 399 students for the 1979 – 1980 school year, which is only 37 students more than the number of students enrolled in the original eight-room building when it opened in 1911 (see, Hopewell Avenue Public School, 75th Anniversary Yearbook – 1984 / 85 (Ottawa: Hopewell Parents and Teachers Organization and the Hopewell Avenue School Student Council, 1985)). Old Ottawa South, however, clearly has overcome these difficult times. The decline has been reversed and many today are seeking residences in the neighborhood. In fact, demand for housing seems to outstrip supply.

The area underwent a few negative developments, but their overall effects fortunately have been of a limited effect. A level of community vigilance nonetheless needs to be maintained to ensure that similar developments do not take place again in the future. One of those was the widening of Sunnyside Avenue, between Bank and Bronson, in 1971 to accommodate increased and speedier automobile traffic along it. This resulted in tearing 21 mature trees located along the street and narrowing the sidewalk zones flanking it (see, Leo Doyle, “A Walk on the Sunnyside,” The OSCAR, May 2008, p. 21). Tearing down trees is always a most unfortunate act on both the visual and environmental levels. On the social level, this scarring of the street has negatively affected it as a space for social interaction that involved neighbors walking along the tree-lined (and shaded) sidewalk and socializing with residents sitting on their front porches. In addition, a few tragic accidents involving automobiles running over pedestrians have taken place along the street since then. In the final result, a decent example of a neighborhood street was obliterated, and a positive model of street-based social interaction was brought to an end. As Leo Doyle has stated, “Sunnyside is still recovering.”

Another unfortunate development to have taken place in the community is the tearing down of the St. Margaret Mary School on Bellwood Avenue. The school, which was constructed during the 1930s, was closed down in 2002, and subsequently sold to a developer, who razed the school building and constructed on its location a high-end residential complex.[6] The new housing development may fit well within its context on both the architectural and urban levels, and it adds new housing units to a residential neighborhood. What has taken place, however, is that a public space and building as well as a public institution that had served the community for decades has been lost forever, and a private development has taken its place.

[6] Regarding the destruction of St. Margaret Mary School, see, Joanne Currie, “Searching for common ground on 88 Bellwood,” The OSCAR, October 2004, p. 1. Leo Doyle also had produced a short documentary film on the fate of the school.

Reflecting on Old Ottawa South’s Built Environment, Past and Present (cont.)


A major issue of contention regarding Old Ottawa South’s future relates to the issue of density. As the area is becoming increasingly popular for people to live in, demand on residences in it continues to go up, and, consequently, any increase in the supply of residences would be easily absorbed by the market. Most residents seem to be very comfortable with current levels of building density, and do not wish the area to undergo any process of additional densification. This is understandable. Achieving increased densification through means such as allowing the construction of multistory structures would be detrimental to the character of the area. In fact, considering Old Ottawa South’s mature urban fabric, it generally will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to bring about any significant increases in density in many of its areas without imposing harsh and destructive interventions on the preexisting urban fabric, which would be an example of “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Of course, there remain a few pockets in Old Ottawa South where higher-density residential structures of a maximum of three stories may be inserted without negatively impacting the character of the area or the quality of life in it, while at the same time increasing its housing stock.

One part of Old Ottawa South where increased densification not only may be accommodated with relative ease, but also would be welcome is along Bank Street. The street has a pleasant feel to it; its buildings have a modest scale; and it brings together a healthy diversity of functions. Along it are located a number of public buildings including two churches, a public library, and a public school. It also includes the Mayfair movie theatre building. And it features a wide variety of commercial establishments. The street is well known for its antiques and crafts shops, but it also has a supermarket, cafés, pubs, and restaurants catering to different budgets, hair stylists and barbers, a video store, a music store, two bank branches, and even a few establishments for automotive repairs and sales. Many of these serve local residents, but a number of them, as with the antiques and crafts shops or the music store, also have made this stretch of Bank Street a destination for people from outside the neighborhood.[7]

Bank Street can accommodate considerably higher densities primarily through constructing four-story structures with shops on the street level and residential units (and possibly offices) above. Such an arrangement would allow a larger number and a wider range of shops to open along the street, and also would increase the residential building stock in Old Ottawa South. This increase in residential units admittedly will consist of apartments, rather than single-family or semi-attached structures, which currently make up most of the neighborhood’s residences. Still, these apartment units will be very much sought after by various demographic segments who would want to live in Old Ottawa South, but may not have the need or wish to live in single-family or semi-detached units. These include senior citizens, young professionals, and university students, particularly at nearby Carleton University. A feasibility study clearly would need to be carried out regarding how much retail, office, and residential space the stretch of Bank Street in Old Ottawa South can accommodate, but the results of the study most probably will be very encouraging.

Of course, the issue of increased density along Bank Street will raise a few challenges. One of them is providing additional parking spaces, for which there is only limited area. It should be kept in mind, however, that most of those who patronize the shops of Bank Street are residents of Old Ottawa South and nearby areas, and therefore usually access it by foot. The street also is very adequately served by public transportation as three bus lines linking the inner and outer parts of Ottawa pass through it. Recent zoning changes in fact have acknowledged these realities and have brought down the number of required parking spaces for new development along Bank Street.[8]

Another challenge that would result from such densification is that of scale. These new buildings ideally will be about four stories high, which will provide the street with a much needed well-defined urban edge. However, the houses located behind them, along the residential streets that branch out of Bank Street, primarily consist of two stories with a third-story loft. While not excessively large, the difference between the two heights needs to be addressed from a visual point of view. Such a transition seems to work well with the new four-storey building constructed at the corner of Bank and Grove streets, where the back façade is designed with the same level of care as the street façades.

This issue of increased density also brings up another main challenge that Old Ottawa South is beginning to face. As demand on housing in the community is increasing, so is the cost of real-estate in it. This rise in prices prevents many of the people who wish to live in the area from moving into it. Such a tendency very well may eventually result in a situation where the area becomes an exclusive upper-income enclave. This would be most unfortunate. Historically, a main strength of this area has been in the diversity of income groups it has housed (see the references to Echo Bank House and Hunt House above). Today, it continues to house people of different income levels and professional backgrounds, but what brings them together is a strong appreciation of the quality of urban life that such a neighborhood provides and a sense of pride in being a part of it. If the area is to become an enclave for a narrowly-defined upper-income group, it will loose much of what has contributed to its uniqueness and strength.

[7] Interestingly enough, initial research being carried out by John Calvert, a resident of Old Ottawa South who also is leading the Old Ottawa South History project, indicates that during the first half of the twentieth-century and into its middle part, Bank Street contained a relatively high number of automobile sales and repair establishments, as well as gas stations. This would explain the ubiquity of small box-shaped buildings surrounded by sizable parking areas along the street as this arrangement is standard for such establishments.

It should be added that since the initial writing of this essay, a number of transformations have been affecting Bank Street and primarily are connected to the rise of property values there. A new building is planned at the northeastern corner of the intersection of Bank and Sunnyside streets, on the mostly empty plot located to the south of the Mayfair Theatre. The two-storey building will include a drugstore on the ground floor and offices on the upper one. Moreover, the local supermarket closed down in July 2008 and the Mayfair Theatre is scheduled to close down by the end of the year. The closing down of these two establishments is very unfortunate as they both provide important services to the community and contribute to enhancing the quality of life in it. It is very possible that a new supermarket will replace the old one and that new investors will revive the Mayfair. Still, there is a valid concern that the stretch of Bank Street that goes through Old Ottawa South will change for the worst. One possibility is that it will be increasingly taken over by expensive shops that primarily cater to customers from outside the neighborhood. This will increase vehicular traffic and parking requirements for the Old Ottawa South part of Bank Street and will negatively affect its role as a commercial Main Street serving the residents of the neighborhood.

[8] A detailed discussion regarding the redevelopment of Bank Street is provided in the following report: Planning and Development Committee, Development Services Department, City of Ottawa, Urban Design and Zoning Study: Bank Street, Old Ottawa South, 2003. The report promotes developing Bank Street to present a clear “Main Street” environment, and consequently discusses issues such as densification, reducing parking requirements, and mixed-use zoning that incorporates retail space along the street level and office and residential space above.

Reflecting on Old Ottawa South’s Built Environment, Past and Present (cont.)


Old Ottawa South increasingly is becoming a magnet attracting new residents because of the high quality of urban life it offers. There is a need to explore strategies that will allow it to do so without sacrificing its unique character and without it becoming an exclusive sanitized neighborhood for the rich. A process of densification along Bank Street may provide one acceptable scenario for dealing with those developments.

Also, one cannot consider Old Ottawa South in isolation of its neighboring districts. Old Ottawa South blends in rather smoothly with the adjacent areas of Old Ottawa East. It also shows considerable architectural and urban continuity with The Glebe, with the Bank Street Bridge contributing to that continuity even though the Lansdowne Stadium provides a visual intrusion and eyesore located at the meeting point of the two neighborhoods, and the area would have been better served without it.

The situation along Old Ottawa South’s western and southern borders is more challenging. Along its western borders, there is a need to explore ways of establishing stronger physical links between Carleton University and Old Ottawa South. This not only includes rethinking pedestrian movement across the multi-lane high-speed Bronson Avenue, but also exploring ways of physically bringing the campus closer to the community. The heart of the Carleton University campus currently is at a considerable distance from Bronson Avenue, and is fully isolated not only from Old Ottawa South but from the city of Ottawa as a whole. This is highly unfortunate for a campus affiliated with a city. University campuses can take on a very vibrant role within the urban communities in which they are located, and having a university campus integrated with its urban surroundings almost always provides for a mutually beneficial relation for both the university and the city.

Regarding the link along Bank Street, across the Rideau River to Alta Vista and Billings Bridge, there is a need to explore ways of establishing a sense of continuity more in tune with what exists along Bank Street as it crosses the Rideau Canal and links Old Ottawa South and The Glebe. The loss of the “Main Street” character of Bank Street as it crosses into Alta Vista and Billings Bridge is unfortunate, and there is a need to look into ways of continuing the urban character that is evolving along the Bank Street stretch of Old Ottawa South across the Rideau River and developing a stronger sense of a local community in it. These, however, are involved projects that deserve separate discussion.

The issues presented in this essay are on the minds of many in the Old Ottawa South community, and they very much define where this district is and to where it is heading as a built urban environment. One important point to keep in mind, however, is that these issues cannot be treated as frozen in time, but are the result of various developments that have been taking place over decades. Any clear vision regarding possible directions for Old Ottawa South in the future needs to incorporate a full understanding of its past.

Reflecting on Old Ottawa South’s Built Environment, Past and Present (cont.)


Specific references relating to Old Ottawa South as well as a few general sources are cited in the essay. Additional information on the neighborhood may be found in the article devoted to it in the online resource Wikipedia.

Suggested additional general readings include the following:

Alexander, Christopher; et al. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Brand, Stewart. How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1993. (Originally published in 1961)

Rybczynski, Witold. City Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

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