Some great new developments have been coming to Ottawa over the past few weeks. The city has embarked on installing parklets throughout the city. And despite concerns that taking up a parking spot or two here and there would cause some sort of driving armageddon, things seem to be going well.
Today in the Glebe, two parklets were opened. There’s a smaller one located on Third Avenue and a bit more elaborate on Second Avenue (although it’s not quite finished yet).
This really is a fantastic development. People have been musing on this idea for a few years (I wrote a bit about it once). It’s a great way to help animate our streets and neighbourhoods. It gives people a place to sit, chat, read a book, eat, rest or have a coffee.
Hell, I’m writing this from the parklet on Second Avenue (a lot of in-the-field reporting today, I guess). It’s an added dynamic–more than a bench or public seats. It can fit more people. There are little tables and ledges. It’s more comfortable and it gives a bit more separation from the road and the sidewalk.
It has the added benefit that it’s absolutely free to use. It’s not like a private patio (which I also I love!), where you have to buy a drink or some food.CBC’s Giacomo Panico noted recently that he asked city planners about this ten years ago (having seen it elsewhere), and the response was something to the effect of, we can’t do that sort of thing in Ottawa.
It’s a mentality that we hear a lot. Ottawa’s different. Ottawa can’t support things. Ottawa isn’t dynamic enough.
Well, guess what, Ottawa can do these things. Ottawa can take bold steps. We can undertake big and small innovations to improve the city. Fun hasn’t been forgotten. There are a lot of people who are willing to improve the livability of this city.
And this is great news. There’s so much to be cynical and pessimistic about (I can see the “mobility hub” from my seat in the parklet), but then we get things like this, it’s a reminder that there are people who work at the city, there are politicians, and there are private residents looking to make a difference.
This is being done in a partnership with Carleton University. Architecture students designed and built these parklets. Comments about unpaid labour aside, this is another great aspect of the project. We’re giving these students some hands-on experience. We’re getting people who aren’t stuck in a specific way of thinking working on this. And these students are also residents of Ottawa (even if only part of the year), and it’s great that residents get to put a bit of a mark on their city. It should also give them a bit more of a sense of ownership of their home.
I had the chance to chat with one of the students (he noted that he didn’t even think of people coming to the parklet to do work). He was pretty jazzed about the whole thing. And as I got up to leave, a father and son dropped in to enjoy ice cream cones. There’s little doubt these will be popular additions to our streets.
By the way, if you’re wondering about the title of this post, it’s for Trevor Greenway, who works for the Glebe BIA who has also been supportive of this endeavour. You can check Trevor’s Twitter feed for photos of the grand opening.
P.S. I’ve got some photos to add, but for some reason, they’re not uploading right now.