BUSTING THE PARIS MYTH
|Paris streetscape. Source.|
There has been an on-going debate about how high buildings should be in Ottawa, and there’s no end in sight to this discussion. Lately, some have been advocating for a Paris-style height limit at six stories. The argument is that Paris is a dense urban city that has been able to grow without having buildings above six stories; it’s working great there, and everyone loves it...therefore, we should be able to achieve the same thing here in Ottawa by imposing a six-storey height limit and preventing high-rise development.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? No high-rise condos, trendy six-storey buildings with ground floor retail, and all this in a very attractive human scale with great architecture. Why, this is absolutely wonderful!
THE DIFFERENCE WITH OTTAWA.
|Paris at night. Source.|
Why is there a difference? I’ve only been to Paris twice—both times I stayed within 5 km of the heart of the downtown—and I can’t think of any neighbourhood that was dominated by single-family homes on single lots with abundant parking. That is the key difference.
We strive to protect the core of our residential neighbourhoods, which in many cases are comprised of single-family homes; so just imagine the outrage if the City proposed allowing six-storey buildings along, say, Monkland Avenue in the Glebe.
|Single-family homes. Source.|
But as an example, take the proximity of Monkland Avenue or Alta Vista Drive to the centre of the City, and then look at the same relative proximity in Paris: you won’t find one single-family home there. There are lots of six-storey buildings, most certainly, but no single-family homes on large lots.
So until we are prepared to allow our low-density neighbourhood to transition to six-storey developments, comparing Ottawa to Paris is akin to comparing apples to oranges.
As long as we continue to protect our single-family homes on single lots, we are going to have to find other locations that allow higher heights and higher density.
Being like Paris is appealing, but in reality it is not achievable. We need to focus our efforts on determining the most appropriate places in our City for higher heights and higher density. This is exactly what the City is going to do in the upcoming Official Plan.