‘No such thing as perfect’

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Not everyone smiling in wake of hugely successful CityFolk

Aedan Helmer, Ottawa Sun

It appears CityFolk still has some hurdles to clear if organizers want to return to Lansdowne Park.

While executive director Mark Monahan called it “the perfect spot” for his five-day festival — which attracted an estimated 70,000 fans to the heart of the Glebe — Capital Coun. David Chernushenko says “the jury is still out.”

Chernushenko butted heads with organizers last year when Glebe residents lodged dozens of daily noise complaints after sound from the main stages wafted into the neighbourhood from the old site at Hog’s Back Park.

Before moving to Lansdowne this year, Chernushenko said organizers “originally presented me with a plan that had all outdoor events end at 9 p.m. This morphed into ‘by about 10 p.m.’ I decided to let that go, as long as the noise bylaw was being respected.”

CityFolk organizers turned down the volume and pulled the plug at 10 p.m. sharp, and according to Bylaw and Protection Services, the city fielded only 15 noise complaints — coming from nine Glebe residents — over the five days.

“Some complaints came in well after 10 p.m. (even 11 p.m.), but it is likely this was sound and bass coming from indoor venues,” said Chernushenko.

Ottawa CityFolk offers sneak peek of TD Place setup

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By Aedan Helmer, Ottawa Sun

Lansdowne Park is home to three sports teams, features a farmer’s market, trendy restaurants and a chic shopping district, and plays host to open-air rock concerts, but the newly rebranded and relocated CityFolk will provide the site’s first true test as a “cultural hub.”

“It’s sort of the first test of the site, and I think the City has communicated that they want this to be a cultural hub,” said CityFolk executive director Mark Monahan, who staged his Ottawa Folk Festival at the picturesque Hog’s Back Park for the previous four editions.

“Obviously there’s lots of sports going on (at Lansdowne), but I think this is a great test for the site to see if people will come here for music, and to enjoy the site as that cultural hub,” said Monahan.

“This is really important that we establish the site and the event here.”

After taking over the festival in 2011, Monahan first moved the site from Britannia Park to the more centrally-located Hog’s Back.

But a complete lack of infrastructure at the park forced the festival to move to the decidedly more urban backdrop of Lansdowne.

But not everyone is on board with the move.

The city fielded dozens of noise complaints related to last year’s festival, as the sound drifted several kilometres along the Rideau Canal and into Old Ottawa South and The Glebe, where the bulk of the noise complaints originated.

Glebe resident John Smart was one of those who complained last year, and said he’s “apprehensive” over the idea of having the festival relocate to his back yard.

Glebe BIA asks permission to keep stores open on statutory holidays

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Alison Sandor, CFRA

Businesses in the Glebe and Lansdowne Park want to open their doors on statutory holidays.

The Glebe BIA has put together a application asking city council to give the area special permission to keep businesses open on holidays. Right now only businesses in tourist areas like the ByWard Market are allowed to remain open.

Capital Ward Councillor David Chernushenko told CFRA the idea is to give businesses there the choice to open on holidays.

"On statutory holidays, we've seen large numbers of people out and about and there are certain businesses that cannot open and they end up suffering when they're in competition with those that can," said Chernushenko. "It doesn't mean that everyone has to (open) that as a whole street, you know, like certain malls, you've got to be open at this time, it just means that on certain statutory holidays those businesses would now have that right to be open."

The Glebe BIA said that they will be submitting their completed application next week but they don't expect it to be reviewed by council until the fall.

The argument is that since Lansdowne is a tourist destination, the area should be exempted from the law forcing them to remain closed.

Ottawa's Glebe BIA wants option for stores to remain open on stat holidays

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By Haley Ritchie, Metro

The Glebe BIA is submitting a request to city council next week requesting an exception to an Ontario law that requires retail businesses to close on statutory holidays.

"Let's let the businesses make a choice for what works for them, what works for their customers and their staff," said Andrew Peck, executive director of the BIA.

"We spent quite a bit of time talking about it, we talked to our board, did a survey with our members and went door-to-door to talk to merchants," he said.

Peck said the proposal is not asking for any kind of special designation. Instead, he's appealing to a part of the Retail Business Holidays Act that says exceptions apply to areas "located within two kilometres of a tourist attraction."

The proposal would apply to the Bank Street BIA's official district, including Bank Street and Lansdowne.

'Stay off': Warning signs, guards loom over Lansdowne water park

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Children play in a water park near an art installation at Lansdowne Park Tuesday August 04, 2015. The city has recently put up signs setting out the boundaries where people can and cannot play . (Darren Brown/Ottawa Citizen)

Don Butler, Ottawa Citizen

First, people were unclear about where they could park their cars at Lansdowne Park. Now, it’s unclear where their kids can splash around.

Barely a week after a new water plaza opened in the urban park, signs posted by the City of Ottawa last Friday appear to place part of the plaza off-limits for play.

The four signs seem unambiguous. Using directional arrows for emphasis, they admonish visitors to steer clear of the portions of the water plaza near Uplift, artist Jill Anholt’s granite and brushed stainless steel sculpture.

“Jill Anholt artwork,” they read. “Please stay off.”

They also use words and arrows to indicate the area of the water plaza where play is permitted.

Based on the signs’ placement, that would seem to exclude eight of 55 water jets designed to encourage play by children and adults as well as a lower pool where “visitors can sit and cool their feet,” as the city stated in a July 25 press release announcing the new water plaza.

But according to a city spokesperson, the signs have more to do with “way-finding” than prohibiting anything.

“They’re just advising people to not play directly on that central art piece,” said a city media relations officer, who said her statements should be attributed to Léo Morissette, the city’s assistant general manager of parks, recreation and cultural services.

“They’re not demarking any kind of forbidden area where people aren’t allowed to go,” she said. “That area of the water plaza is still open to anyone who cares to go and enjoy it.”

Lansdowne letdown, a triumph of lowered expectations

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Susan Sherring, Ottawa Sun

At first blush, a first visit to Lansdowne Park can't be described in any way but disappointing.

The word ugly might actually cross your mind.

At second blush, the feeling is much the same.

There's a huge Sporting Life at the entrance and big signs on the Bank St. side advertising the bargains inside.

There's a Winner's. There's a Structube, which recently relocated from the ByWard Market.

The store, with lovely modern furniture, also has two other locations in Ottawa.

There's a Source, if for some reason your own neighbourhood doesn't have one close by.

And there's a whole bunch of restaurants.

But if you're searching for a store with fun and unique finds you can't get anywhere else, a boutique — as first suggested by the powers that be when the vision for transforming Lansdowne Park was just on paper — nary a one.

No Fun Allowed: Ottawa's new water feature a microcosm for bigger issues

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Jonathan McLeod, Ottawa Citizen

The Lansdowne water plaza opened to mixed reviews. The development seemed scaled down. The decision to move the orchard costs the space much-needed shade. Not everyone knew what to make of the centrepiece artwork Uplift. But that was all secondary. It still provided something very important, enjoyment. At the official opening, Bay Ward councillor Mark Taylor declared that the water plaza would make Lansdowne Park “as warm and inviting as possible.”

Apparently, part of it was a little too inviting.

Maybe there is a concern about dangerous hard edges. Maybe there is a concern that children will damage the granite and steel sculpture. Maybe there is a desire for decorum. Whatever the motivation, a week after opening, four signs have been placed around the water plaza, instructing kids that they may play near the sculpture, but not on it.

Make no mistake, there is no segregation between the official play area with its sprinklers and the rest of the water plaza. The two are a part of the same whole. The only means of separating them are by makeshift signs and a security guard or two.

(Yes, security guards.)

The signs at the Lansdowne water feature, reading in part: “Artwork, please stay off.” DAVID REEVELY

There’s a very good reason there is no segregation between the play area and the sculpture. The piece is intended to be interactive. The artist, Jill Anholt, stated that Uplift is designed so that people can “engage and touch and interact with water directly. So it’s not an artwork you just look at, but it’s one that you move onto, sit on, interact with directly.”

This form of public art offers a tactile, engaging experience. You can touch it, feel it, use it and be a part of it. It strikes at the notion that art is something to be stored in galleries or kept under glass. It shows that art and beauty should be a part of our daily lives, that art belongs to the people. Installing such a prominent piece of public art in a children’s water plaza further demonstrates that art is not merely the domain of adults. Children, too, deserve beauty and culture, even when they’re splashing through puddles.

So the signs and security guards instructing people how they may enjoy Uplift are not only an imposition on visitors to Lansdowne; they are an affront to the art, itself.

Disappointment is nothing new at Lansdowne. Trees have died. The Pavilion is regularly empty. The lovely pedestrian stonework has been sullied with white and yellow traffic lines, compromising the safety and enjoyment. OSEG and the city had a vision for an urban village, but so far they have been either unwilling or unable to implement that vision.

The water plaza is, sadly, a fitting microcosm for the entire development. The original design was lovely. The implementation was…not. The community was provided with an underwhelming splash pad that, in scale, is ill-suited for the water plaza installation. And yet, the public — the children — made the most of it. The community took this severely flawed public space and used it to its fullest extent.

They enjoyed the water. They enjoyed the benches. They enjoyed Uplift. And, apparently, this could not be tolerated. The sculpture will be protected from the children. This prominent piece of public art will be sullied by the hasty erection of signs and a circling security guard, defeating the very purpose of installing art in the first place.

Communities have a tendency of reclaiming their habitats, and we are already seeing that at Lansdowne. Children will play and Uplift will be enjoyed as intended, signs be damned. Sometimes, little bits of civil disobedience and guerrilla urbanism can make our public spaces so much better.

Jonathan McLeod is a general fellow with the Canadian Council for Democracy. He writes about local matters at stepsfromthecanal.wordpress.com.

Re: How the city cheaped out on Lansdowne’s ‘Water Plaza’, July 28.

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Letter to the Editor, Ottawa Citizen

I enjoyed David Reevely’s column about the Lansdowne Park water plaza and other shortcomings.

I have tried really hard to like Lansdowne. Restaurants like Joey and Local Public Eatery have good food, but the music is too loud for normal conversation, even out on the patios. The new cinema has opened, although there is no water fountain on the premises.

The trees along the main entrance have been cut down because the underground water system didn’t work properly. Now there are just stumps.

I was amused when the city installed yellow lines and metal poles to distinguish the sidewalks from the road. Pedestrians know where to walk.

Drivers aren’t used to European-style plazas. A fountain in front of the Aberdeen Pavilion might have helped to slow down the cars going too quickly around the corner.

What concerns me most about Lansdowne is the total contempt of city officials like Alain Gonthier, the city’s acting general manager of infrastructure. When asked about temporary shade at the playground for children, Gonthier said people could go inside the Aberdeen Pavilion, which isn’t close to the playground. Could the city not provide temporary structures for children to provide shade until something more permanent is created?

I have just returned from Spain, where water fountains, flower baskets, benches and shade trees are found everywhere in parks and on busy streets.

I know Lansdowne needs time to develop. However, what does an urban village mean to Gonthier?

Good infrastructure, if I am correct, is to benefit the people in a community.

Sandy Stone, Ottawa

How the city cheaped out on Lansdowne's 'Water Plaza'

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David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

Lansdowne Park’s water plaza has been awaited by visiting families for weeks. We’re regulars, and we’ve watched the tall sculpture in the middle grow, the pavers go in, the fences come down. My boys have never seen a wading pool or a splash pad they’ve disliked.

Till now. “There’s not enough water,” my six-year-old says.

Lansdowne has a lot to like: Its patios are full, its teams are doing pretty well, it hosts the closest thing Ottawa has to a downtown mainstream movie theatre. I am, right now, wearing underwear I bought at its Winners. The disappointing thing is that most of its successes are elements brought by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, the city’s private partners.

As for us citizens, we’ve cheaped out on a lot.

The Rideau Canal footbridge and canal access that were part of the original park concept never made it beyond the blue-sky stage. The “heritage orchard” is in a traffic island, the grove honouring Algonquin history is tucked away by a fence. The Aberdeen Pavilion and Horticulture Building are sporadically used. Drivers got confused by the pedestrians-first design, so we painted yellow and white lines all over the cobbles and paving stones.

You can trace the decline of the water feature in the renderings the city and its private partners produced. Early on, it was to be a big boomerang-shaped pool, shimmering in imaginary sunlight in a video “flythrough.” Waist-deep waders cavorted in a still image in which the whole place was the pale blue that says “this is a swimming pool.”

Detail from a rendering of Lansdowne Park’s redevelopment, before plans were finalized.

A slightly later rendering shrank the pool but added fountains shooting water way up over grown-ups’ heads. That was in 2012.

In 2013, as construction was set to begin, they dialed the renderings back again, to something much more closely resembling what they actually built. The pool’s mostly been filled in, the sprays of water reduced to overpowered drinking fountains — though still with some oomph, and dozens of them. There’s the impression of concavity; not a pool, exactly, but enough water to splash in.

Alain Gonthier, the city’s acting general manager of infrastructure, said in emailed responses to questions on Monday that renderings aren’t promises. “A rendering is a depiction of the general essence of the space, and is developed before the actual design process. Details are confirmed through the design process,” he wrote.

Gonthier didn’t design or oversee Lansdowne and this isn’t his doing. But the unfortunate implication here is that when we see renderings, we mustn’t trust them.

Lansdowne’s ‘Water Plaza’ on the day it opened. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

As built, the little spurters produce not much more than a steady trickle, which runs down into a stone trough near the central sculpture. It’s OK if you’re two, though lots of parents will fret about kids that small tripping in the trough part. If you’re a grown-up, you can rinse your feet. Some kids literally seem to have more fun with the actual drinking fountain nearby: it has one of those straight-down nozzles for filling water bottles, and if you put your hand in the flow it goes everywhere.

The benches around the “water plaza” were never modified to match the shrunken water feature: they’re as expansive as they were supposed to be when they surrounded a much bigger pool. By themselves, they’re pretty nifty — slats of wood arranged in wavy up-and-down patterns that turn them into playground equipment all by themselves, great for all kinds of groups to sit or climb around on. It’s just that most of them now face not water but a big expanse of sun-blasted pavers.

This is a problem throughout the kids’ area: there’s no shade. The playground is small but its funny tubular climber isn’t like anything else in Ottawa, as far as I know, offering different challenges for kids of different ages. That’s good, and on cooler days it’s crawling with kids. It’s built on a rubber mat, which is state-of-the-art for outdoor playgrounds, but in the sun it’s like a heating pad. Other dark surfaces — purple plastic benches, a black rubber slide thing — get too hot for bare skin. The saplings the city’s planted will offer respite — in 10 or 15 years.

Gonthier said Monday there are no plans for temporary shade at the playground. If people want shade, they can go inside the Aberdeen Pavilion, he said.

The crowds are at Sylvia Holden Park next door, with a deep wading pool, a playground on sand, and tall trees shading it all. The locals fought to keep the park carved out of the Lansdowne redevelopment; the city had promised to preserve all its elements, just rebuilt and mixed in with the rest of the urban park, but they weren’t buying it. I thought this was just obstructionism until I took kids to each place.

Hot parks with small trees are a first-world problem, of course, except that Lansdowne is supposed to be a showpiece, the best of what this first-world city can do. We know how to do this better: Toronto’s adding playgrounds to its lakefront redevelopments loaded with water features. Boston’s downtown greenway — where a now-buried highway used to be — is full of them. Even in regular suburbs, where we build most new parks, you’d get a better splash pad.

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If you don’t find the information you need on these pages, please visit ottawa.ca/newlansdowne, or to contact the City directly by email at newlansdowne@ottawa.caor by calling 3-1-1 (press 1 for English, then 5 for the Lansdowne line). If necessary, you may also contact the project manager, Marco Manconi, at 613-580-2424 ext. 43229, or by email.