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Ottawa's Maturing Neighbourhoods


As Ottawa grows and intensifies, each neighbourhood should retain it's unique character, a character that is nurtured and continues to mature. The singularity and living history of our neighbourhoods is important.

We orient ourselves within our human experience by entering into the stories we tell. In our neighbourhoods we become part of the living story of our neighbourhood's community. And the story of Westboro is not the same as the Story of Hintonburg, Sandyhill, or Vanier. Our degree of success in rooting ourselves in our neighbourhood's narrative is significant in our daily lives, impacting our self identified measure of happiness, our physical health, our propensity for social interaction, and our mental health. We must therefore work together to define the characteristic and valued elements of each of Ottawa's maturing neighbourhoods. Then we must encourage and enhance these elements as communities evolve, change, and welcome new attributes.

Westboro, for example, is characteristically small-town-like in feel; many of the key views along major streets end at the river with a backdrop of green hillsides. Streets have no sidewalks; there is a small town rhythm of homes spaced within well kept gardens. Large trees line most streets and shade many rear yards. There is a delightfully eclectic variety of homes. Houses are generally of complicated massing, not just square or box shaped. Front setbacks and road allowances vary and are very generous. Building heights are generally below 8m with only some streets having typical building heights of about 11m. Driveways and streets contain countless parked cars. Rear yards are green and private.

In contrast, much of Hintonburg is characterized by narrow, intimate, streets with porches close to sidewalks. Front yard setbacks are very small or non existent, and ground floors are almost at grade -- homes are built in shallow bedrock. Building heights range from 6m to 11m, and facades have relatively simple massing with many quite flat front facades. Streets are not tree lined. There are only occasional trees. Many streets are lined in hydro poles and wires. Small parks are pockets of green with large trees. Hintonburg has an urban feel and is very socially interactive. There are lots of pedestrians. Rear yards are busy, active and urban.

Landscape features and trees are a primary elements of any neighbourhood's character, and deserve special attention due to their significant impact on quality of life. Some of our maturing neighourhoods have characteristic patterns of tree planting that should be enhanced. Others require new tree planting strategies, or an infusion of new tree species. As neighbourhoods evolve they tend to lose bird habitat and undergrowth. We must integrate these characteristics into our neighbourhoods as well.

Neighbourhood characteristics can and should be preserved through zoning, and can be enhanced simultaneously with intensification. Landscaping, trees and permeable surfaces must be infused into all neighbourhoods, with priority on trees that are in locations that offer visual impact – seen from windows, porches, terraces, walking and biking paths.

"...treasure our cities... we will treasure them only when we come to love them as places – as vessels of our cultural identities, stages for our social interaction, and landscapes for our personal narratives."  

Peter Calthrope, Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.

"When you look at the body of research on effects of nature, it can actually work at every scale. What is crucial for healthy living... is not quantity, but regular exposure, daily doses of nature. So the trick is in finding ways to infuse nature, and nature complexity, into denser places."

Charles Montgomery, Happy City.

“...biological complexity ... work suggests that sterile lawns and token trees might be hollow calories for the nature-craving brain. They are better than nothing, but they are not good enough. It would certainly make sense for diverse, complex ecosystems and views to pack a bigger psychological punch than, say, a manicured patch of grass, because they are more likely to draw us into the levels of involuntary attention that are so soothing.”

Charles Montgomery, Happy City.

"A tree can be a natural air conditioner. The evaporation from a single tree can produce the cooling effect of 10 room size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day...

Trees in natural environments and greenspaces help capture and/or filter air pollution through their leaves. Trees remove ozone, fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Urban trees can also remove micro pollutants such as cadmium, chromium, nickle and lead from the air."

Ottawa OP Preliminary Policy Directions, 2019

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