Comment 120526

By Haveacow (registered) | Posted December 15, 2016 at 12:11:32

These are always contentious issues, now sometimes a good saved façade can save a newer building from not only showing off its sometimes "underdeveloped" modern frontal architecture. But preserving the whole structure including those spaces in the back can ultimately be a big revenue generating win for everybody. In Ottawa of the 1960's, the long row of pre and post confederation 19th century commercial buildings that ran along the east side of Sussex Drive running north from Rideau Street were looking old and quite run down. It was decided that they would be saved as a Centennial Project instead of being torn down and redeveloped.

But it was the area in back behind the rows of buildings that was of particular interest to then, a young crop of architects and designers. It had been a series of unusually wide laneways who's main purpose was allowing enough space for commercial garbage collection and coal deliveries not to sully the front of these fine commercial buildings. Buildings that could be seen from Parliament and many of the finer newer (early 20th century as newer) buildings of the government and a few foreign Embassies. The fact that it was also along the route that the PM and Governor General would take foreign leaders and royalty from Parliament Hill to places like 24 Sussex and Rideau Hall also probably played a role in those rear facing lanes being wider than normal.

The City of Ottawa was convinced by these young designers and architects that these lanes could be repurposed because they were quite wide at points and were architecturally, very interesting. These lanes were redeveloped by just being literally, cleaned up and had a few of the 19th century cobblestones replaced as well as benches and decorative street lights added. Later public art was also added.

The results were stunning, these back entrances became more popular than most of the businesses on the front of the property. Not only is it a very interesting place to stroll through but business owners realized small restaurants and cafes could be added with most of the seating outside in the lanes themselves, during warmer weather anyways. Stores now prefer to front here in the courtyards then on Sussex because during the winter especially, it is actually shielded against most of the frigid cold wind that screams down the very wide Sussex Drive. 50 Years after, as we approach 2017 and Canada's 150th birthday, which is a big deal here in Ottawa, most of the properties here have 2 separate fronts. The stores and businesses that face Sussex and the restaurants and stores that face the courtyards.

These are the storefronts that face Sussex Drive, from a 2013 photo.


These are photos of the courtyards with their restaurants, cafes and the various walking tours that go through the area.

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