Ottawa's Maturing Neighbourhoods


Our City is growing and our new Official Plan will limit expansion and instead require intensification of existing built areas of Ottawa -- at transit nodes (in the form of high density high-rise development),  and along corridors (low and mid-rise apartments).  


Our existing neighbourhood fabric deserves equal attention.  Our residential streets and low density areas are in danger of loosing their most cherished characteristic elements, their vitality and their sense of community.  Many have already lost significant population density as household demographics have changed, leaving corner stores and schools empty.  Others have increased in density but without proportionate increases in city services and natural features. 


Intensification of our neighbourhood fabric is not a threat but a opportunity.    


Our maturing neighbourhoods have been evolving since they were first established and they will continue to evolve. Over the next 2 decades they must transition into walkable, diverse, socially engaging, affordable and environmentally responsible communities. The opportunity to make this change cannot be squandered by inaction. Significant regulatory changes are required to make this critical shift a win for all.


The good news: the necessary changes benefit us all. Existing neighbours will have more walkable neighbourhoods and have the opportunity to live more healthy lives. Neighbourhood character will not be lost, it will be enhanced. Developers will have a wider variety of housing typologies to build, allowing them to meet market demand. There will be more abundant housing of various sizes and price points in neighbourhoods that are lively, safe and well serviced.


The zoning regulations I propose, could replace zoning in all R1 to R4 zones serviced by public transit, and would be vastly more simple and concise. They must be coupled with regulations to prohibit large format commercial and promote walkable retail and places of employment within neighbourhoods. They include provisions for temporary parking (set to phase out once neighbourhoods are fully walkable). In addition, this proposoal includes zoning to allow for development opportunities attractive to right-sizing boomers, and zoning to promote development of parking lots that can become community parking lots once temporary parking is eliminated.


This is a critical moment in City building. In the recent history of city planning there have been lots of great ideas to make our cities liveable. Ideas that are bold and beautiful and poster-worthy, almost exclusively focused on nodes, corridors and special project areas. But there has been little or no effort to understand and to modify the mechanisms that determine housing typologies in maturing neighbourhoods.


Our City is responsible to shape housing typologies through regulation. We are doing it now, though badly, and to the disadvantage of all. If we do it well, we can thoughtfully infuse maturing neighbourhoods with new diverse and appropriate forms of housing. It is time for our idea of home and neighbourhood to grow into the 21st century.

"Urbanism is our single most potent weapon against climate change, rising energy costs, and environmental degradation."

Peter Calthrope, Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.

Affordable housing is a cornerstone of inclusive communities.”

The building Blocks for a Healthy Ottawa, March 2019

“A sense of belonging is linked to positive mental and physical health, while social isolation is linked to poor health... There is a need to look at the many features that create the conditions for positive mental health and community resilience, including in our neighbourhoods...”

The building Blocks for a Healthy Ottawa, March 2019


"Streets can function both as places to be and linger, and places to move through.  Designing streets that encourage people to connect with others has physical and mental health benefits, and increases the likelihood of active transportation being chosen."

Peter Kageyama, For the Love of Cities

“Prioritizing affordable housing options through diverse housing forms and tenure types helps ensure that we are building communities for everyone.”

The building Blocks for a Healthy Ottawa, March 2019

“The places you go on vacation are places you can walk. Why not make it everywhere?”  Peter Calthorpe