Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ottawa Stadium Dilemma: Opportunity Missed?

In the summer of 2003 on behalf of the Community Council of Overbrook, I gave a presentation to the transportation committee of the City of Ottawa. In it we detailed how we could greatly increase the value of the city owned baseball stadium located on Coventry Road by connecting it to the Transitway. Almost six years later, the stadium sits empty and forlorn, yet simultaneously the city fiercely debates counter proposals for two other stadiums that will require countless more millions of dollars of taxpayer money. It is yet one more example of a lack of long term vision. We built a $20 million stadium but failed to connect it to the transitway, even though it was less than 250 meters away. Now, we debate two more proposals, neither of which are accessible to the transitway.

What follows is a copy of the PowerPoint presentation we gave almost six years ago.

Slide 1
Good Morning.

Our community is one which, like much of Ottawa, has experienced significant growth in the past few years, particularly since the construction of the Ottawa Lynx Baseball Stadium in 1992. Such growth has put considerable pressure on our transportation infrastructure. Development has accelerated since 1999 and I would like to review these recent developments with you.

Slide 2
At 330 Coventry Road, at the corner of Lola Street, a large Canadian Tire Store.

Slide 3
At 100 Coventry Road, where it intersects with the Vanier Parkway, a Hampton Inn.

Slide 4
Last year, the Department of National Defense completed construction of a large complex at 295 Coventry Road, across the street from the Lynx stadium.

Slide 5
Also in the past year we have seen completion of a new intensive housing development at 1126 Lola Street. This fronts directly on Coventry Road, stretching from almost in front of the Hampton Inn property, to well behind the DND complex, which you can see on the far right of the screen

Slide 6
As we speak, even more development is occurring, with a 10 storey hotel complex and meeting facility being constructed at 200 Coventry Road. It is located behind the Hampton Inn, and in close proximity to the stadium, as can be seen in the photograph on the screen.
In addition, although I don’t have a photograph, considerable expansion has also occurred at the RCMP headquarters building at 1200 Vanier Parkway. Over 2000 employees are located in this one facility.

Slide 7
The question is, what is missing?
As you can see from the past few slides, very intense development has occurred, and continues to occur in a stretch of Coventry Road between Lola Street and the Vanier Parkway, a distance of less than 600 meters.
All this expansion, hundreds of new employees, lots of commercial activity, but no improvement in access to the transportation infrastructure to service this growth. It is the contention of the Community Council of Overbrook that a transportation solution exists less than 250 meters away.

Slide 8
Yes, less than 250 meters from the city-owned stadium is an under-utilized Octranspo transitway station. All it lacks is access. Improved access is one of the key components of our proposed Official Plan. As has been noted in this document, and I quote:
Shifting from an emphasis on mobility to one of accessibility means creating land use patterns that reduce the need to travel great distances across the city and encourage alternatives to car travel. More compact and mixed-use development throughout developing areas of the city and a stronger series of urban centres to anchor the transit system is essential to achieving our transportation goals.
The importance of such a link was recognized in 1991when the stadium was first developed. Once again I quote, this time from a study conducted by the Region:
From a regional perspective, the site is highly accessible being located at the intersection of the Vanier Parkway and the Queensway. However, while the site is easily accessible by automobile, there is relatively poor transit access. A pedestrian bridge linking the site to the transitway at the Train Station may be considered which would improve this situation.
The Community Council of Overbrook agrees with the goals of the proposed Official Plan and urges the city to include construction of a pedestrian overpass linking the Octranspo station at the Via Train station with Coventry Road as a priority in this document. As you can see on the map, an area of intense development is located on Coventry Road, on the north side of the Queensway. Valuable transportation infrastructure is located less than 250 meters from a potential access point, on the south side of the Queensway.

Slide 9
As you can see from this list, there are many businesses within 500 meters of a potential access point. At the top of this list is a city owned facility, the Ottawa Lynx Stadium. It would enjoy greatly improved access to our premier transportation infrastructure. As our city becomes more congested, it is vital that this link be established to maintain and enhance the viability of this excellent facility.
By reviewing this list, however, you can also see that thousands of employees and customers would benefit from improved access to mass transit on a daily basis.

Slide 10
To conclude, the key phrase here is improved accessibility.
This pedestrian overpass would connect the transitway with over two dozen large and medium sized businesses, linking thousands of employees and customers. It would greatly improve access to the Ottawa Lynx Stadium, an excellent city-owned facility. It would reduce automobile congestion and the resulting air pollution. It would increase use of the under-utilized Octranspo infrastructure at the Via Train Station. And, it is compatible with the goals of the proposed Official Plan.
The Community Council of Overbrook understands that development will happen in our community, as it will throughout the City, in the next twenty years and beyond. We feel it is imperative, however, that the necessary accessibility infrastructure be put in place to support and service this growth. This will help us ensure that we attain our ultimate goal of sustainable development. We then will truly find ourselves in a liveable, prosperous city.

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