Councillors Nussbaum and McKenney comment on new library location

Circulating ideas for a library location

Central libraryBy Councillors Catherine McKenney (Somerset Ward) and Tobi Nussbaum (Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward)

Working towards a new library

The prospect of a new central public library in our city is an exciting one. No longer mere repositories of books, libraries are vibrant public hubs providing meeting places, access to technology, reading rooms, maker spaces, concert venues, cafes, social service kiosks and more.

Successful central libraries offer citizens a one-stop shop of diverse civic life while contributing to the cityscape with iconic architecture and design. Across the country, new libraries have breathed additional life into downtown cores, from Vancouver to Halifax.

Here in Ottawa, there are still hoops to jump through before the concrete can be poured. Potential partners need to be secured, a site needs to be selected and funding needs to be authorized. The interest expressed by Library and Archives Canada to partner with the City is rich with potential. In order to capitalize on the huge and positive opportunities this project presents, we must ensure there is a robust and data-driven approach to selecting the location of the new central library.

To date, location has not been a topic open for public feedback. The review of a select number of City-owned sites in early 2015 did not include potential federal or privately-owned sites, which we now know is a possibility. In its report to the Ottawa Library Board earlier this month, staff concluded, based on conversations with developers and others who participated in the Request for Expressions of Interest process, that “A site in the vicinity of LeBreton Flats, near the Pimisi LRT station, would be a good location for the Central Library.” In the absence of any evidence offered, comparison data, or identified criteria on which the conclusion was based, the statement seems premature. Before such conclusions are drawn, we should expect a meticulous review of all potential locations and a robust public consultation process.

Since library staff has acknowledged that the new central library will serve three purposes – a community branch for local residents, a library for all Ottawa residents and a magnet for visitors – criteria need to be established to evaluate how potential sites will cater to each of these three user groups. Below are some specific considerations:

Local Residents

A survey commissioned by the Ottawa Public Library Board revealed some important data regarding how people travel to the current central library. Sixty-eight per cent people who use the central library as their main branch travel directly from their homes and almost all of them (81 per cent) get there by foot. The Centretown neighbourhood is among the densest in all of Ottawa; more than 23,000 people live within a kilometre of the current site at Laurier and Metcalfe. How that population can be served by a new location within walking distance will therefore be an important criterion.

A central library serves an important public function as a place where resources – from internet use to information on social services – can be accessed by all, especially those who otherwise lack such access. Close access to light rail transit is critical, but may not in itself be sufficient to ensure accessibility to the new library for those local residents for which a return transit fare is not an insignificant outlay.

All Residents of Ottawa

For many residents who live outside the core of the City, the easiest way to access the central library is before or after work or during lunch. According to Statistics Canada data, there are more than 100,000 people who work in the area bounded by the Ottawa River to the north, Bronson Avenue to the west, King Edward Avenue to the east and Somerset Street to the south.  In fact, 24 per cent of users of the main branch who were surveyed said they travel there from their workplace.

For other residents who neither live nor work close to downtown, convenient transportation links are needed. Proximity to an LRT station as well as bus routes, active transportation corridors and arterial roads will all need to be factored in.

It will be important to consider the broader City population given that all residents will be supporting the new library through the tax base.

Visitors and Tourists

The siting of a new central library needs to take into account the relationship to cultural, administrative and commercial nodes that attract visitors to our City on the premise that the synergy among these sites is enhanced by proximity to each other. That said, whether we choose to strengthen a tighter geography of our key civic and cultural sites or diffuse it is something that needs to be discussed and debated.

Our cultural sites include many museums, the National Arts Centre, National Gallery and the soon–to-be expanded Arts Court. Our administrative sites of interest are the Parliament Buildings and other federal buildings along Confederation Boulevard along with City Hall (of course!). It surprises people to learn that the most visited building in Ottawa is not the Parliament Buildings but rather the Rideau Centre (by a significant margin). Last year, more than 20 million people passed through its doors, and with renovations and Rideau Street improvements underway, that number is expected to go up significantly.

One of the important economic benefits of new central libraries in other Canadian cities has been the draw from people visiting from outside the host city. Halifax expects to see a significant jump in tourism from its new central library, which opened in late 2014. If characterized by unique architecture, attractive design and desirable public spaces, libraries have proven to be significant draws. Besides the economic benefit, this also has a positive effect on civic pride and momentum.

How do we get there?

We’ve offered examples of demographic criteria we believe are particularly important in determining the right location of our new central public library. There are of course other factors that need to be considered from size requirements to profile. In the end, a decision on site selection should not be made without ensuring that all potential locations are thoroughly vetted and researched to ensure they fulfill rigorous criteria.  We also need to initiate a robust public conversation to give residents a chance to provide their views.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a major civic building that that will shape our city for the better for the benefit of existing and future residents .  We owe it to all of them to make sure we get it right.

(Image – North American main libraries, clockwise from top left: Vancouver, Halifax, Seattle, Calgary)


Everyone invited to the Donald/Somerset pedestrian bridge opening!

The following invitation has been issued by Councillor Tobi Nussbaum to all Overbrook residents:

I am writing to share with you the big news we have all been waiting for – the Donald/Somerset pedestrian bridge will open as of Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, at 1 p.m.!

I invite you to come walk, bike or wheel across the bridge with us at the opening event.
Date: December 4, 2015
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: At the foot of the bridge, by the Rideau Tennis Club

I am also happy to announce that the name of the bridge is… Adàwe crossing (passerelle Adàwe).

Adàwe is an Algonquin word which means “to trade” and is symbolic of the history along this river, the indigenous heritage of the area and the opportunity the bridge will provide for pedestrians and cyclists to live, work and shop between the two neighbourhoods.

The name for this new crossing was approved this morning at Council following a six month, three stage naming process.  This process included an open call for naming ideas, a community event and a selection committee comprised of me, Rideau-Vanier Councillor Mathieu Fleury, representatives from the Overbrook Community Association, Action Sandy Hill and Heritage Ottawa, community members for Overbrook and Sandy Hill, City staff and a representative from the Mayor’s office.

NCC/CCN Capital Urbanism Lab tomorrow

National Capital Commission logo

Capital Urbanism Lab
Lecture Series 2015–2016

Labo d’urbanisme de la capitale
Série de conférences 2015-2016

Ecodesign for Cities

Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs

With Larry Beasley and Jonathan Barnett

The authors of the book Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs, will explain how it is possible to make suburbs into viable economic centres, and how this can be applied to Canada’s Capital Region. The public will have the opportunity to address their comments and questions to the two authors. More information.

Register before noon on September 30

Capital Urbanism Lab
NCC Headquarters
40 Elgin Street, 5th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario

L’écoconception des villes et des banlieues,

avec Larry Beasley et Jonathan Barnett

Les auteurs du livre Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs, expliqueront comment il est possible de faire des banlieues des pôles économiques viables et comment cela pourrait s’appliquer à la région de la capitale du Canada. Le public aura l’occasion d’adresser ses commentaires et ses questions aux conférenciers. Plus d’information.

Réservez avant midi le 30 septembre

Labo d’urbanisme de la capitale
Siège social de la CCN
40, rue Elgin, 5e étage
Ottawa (Ontario)

Questions or Comments?
613-239-5000 or 1-800-465-1867 (toll-free)
TTY: 613-239-5090 or 1-866-661-3530 (toll-free)
Fax: 613-239-5063

Des questions ou des commentaires?
613-239-5000 ou 1-800-465-1867 (sans frais)
ATS : 613-239-5090 ou 1-866-661-3530 (sans frais)
Télécopieur : 613-239-5063

Infill Development that Fits

At our Overbrook Community Association meeting last Thursday, residents demonstrated how much they care about the future of our community. Attended by over 35 people, it was a dynamic and lively meeting.

“Is Overbrook a mature community?” was the question facing attendees. But why ask this question?

The short answer is that the City has implemented two sets of bylaws that govern infill development in Ottawa. One set, Infill II, applies to all communities within the Greenbelt (except Rockcliffe Park). The other set, Infill I, does not currently apply to Overbrook. The Infill I bylaws (or Mature Neighbourhood Bylaws) could apply to Overbrook, if the Community Association requests and is granted “mature neighbourhood status.”

City Planner Alain Miguelez (Program Manager for Zoning, Intensification and Neighbourhoods) explained that Infill I bylaws regulate the character of an area. Any new infill development project must match the character of the existing streetscape, determined by an analysis of the neighbouring front yards, parking arrangement and location of front doors.

The Infill II bylaws address the height and size of the building, plus the size of the back and side yards.

After many questions and comments from residents about these complicated infill rules, some participants expressed the desire to pursue “mature neighbourhood” status.

OCA President Rawlson King outlined the process to accomplish this, asking that anyone with an interest or comment on the subject either:

– attend the next OCA Planning & Development Committee meeting to be held on Tuesday, 13 October at 7:30 pm at the Overbrook Community Centre, and/or

– email their comments or questions to with “Mature Neighbourhood” in the subject line. All emails will be forwarded to the OCA’s Planning & Development Committee.

The Planning & Development Committee will then present their findings to the Board for discussion and action.

Important meeting tonight on future development in Overbrook





If you are interested in the future of our neighbourhood, tonight’s meeting is for you. Alain Miguelez will clarify the intent of the City’s planning bylaws Infill I and II and their implications for our community.

Look forward to seeing you there at 6:30 pm at the Community Centre. We’ll have refreshments to keep you going!