Ottawa's Maturing Neighbourhoods
FROM CRITERIA TO REGULATION
As Ottawa transitions into walkable neighbourhoods, it is necessary to have residential zoning appropriate to the existing degree of walkablity in any given location. A neighbourhood that is not walkable and will not be walkable for 15 or 20 years must be zoned and developed differently than a neighbourhood that is walkable today.
Instead of mapping theoretical areas the for phasing-in of intensification (transects) it is necessary to map walkablity. In existing areas that are now 'enjoyably walkable' a resident can walk safely, and enjoyably, to daily destinations and to public transit. Neighbourhoods that have the potential to become walkable in the near future can often be identified by overlaying the existing transit map and transit expansion maps.
By mapping “Urban Walkable”, “Walkable”, and “soon-to-be-walkable” areas, zoning can be crafted to be appropriate in these 3 conditions. As neighbourhoods become more walkable this map would be updated, and zoning standards would adjust accordingly.
In order to transition to walkability, all features that lend themselves to walkability, must be mapped and assessed, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. The missing elements of walkability must be identified. Once mapped, City Planners, professionals and community members, must work together to set in place programs to repair the missing pieces, and a timeline for doing so.
For example, in Ottawa, most of our maturing neighbourhoods lack small format commercial located throughout the area, allowing all residents to walk and pick up fruit, bread or a cup of coffee. It is important to look at this challenge from the perspective of an entrepreneur wanting to open a small shop -- there are a lot of barriers. First an for most, not enough customers on foot, which of course underlines the importance of the interdependence of the growth criteria. There are host of other challenges: zoning must be changed to allow for these small shops, Site Plan Control processes must be changed to allow projects to move quickly and affordably, taxes and development charges must be adjusted to provide incentives for these investments. Perhaps most importantly, zoning must be changed to prevent new large format stores that undermine the business plans of smaller ones.
If we are serious about making neighbourhoods walkable, we need to work together, take the details of walkability very seriously, role up our sleeves and get to work. There's a lot to be done!