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The Skinny on Infill

Thu Jan 28, 2010 Miss Vicky 

A reader pointed me to a fascinating discussion over at the Citizen's Designing Ottawa blog. The story's about a new build on a vacant lot on Armstrong - tall and skinny, the building uses up as much of the lot's footprint as possible for a multi-level, modern dwelling, possibly with a second unit in the basement. Miss Vicky is amused at the notion that a skinny building won't work - she lived in an 80-year-old flat in Toronto about that width, plenty of apartments and condos are that small... most of the rooms in the Finishing school are less than 12 feet wide. And heck, have you ever been to Amsterdam?

Many lots in Hintonburg and Mechanicsville are quirky - what city planners would call "non-standard". So anyone who builds on them will have to be creative, and would probably need some kind of variance to get permission to build. But if we are going to increase density in the core - the smart way for Ottawa to grow - then we're going to have to accept some creative solutions to the space that is available in our neighbourhood. And while the modernist aesthetic may not be to everyone's taste, we already have a quirky mix of buildings in the area. Why not add to it with some interesting new builds?

I'm not entirely sure Phil Castro makes the best case for himself in the comments section, though. There are 70 comments now... and counting! Definitely worth checking out

Some people were moved to reply

amckay Jan 29, 2010 09:12 AM said:

The thing is, that is not a lot, it is a driveway. Looking at Google Maps Streetview, it appears to be about the same width as the driveway immediately north of your house. You're telling me you honestly would not mind someone sticking one of these there?

The one on my street was bad enough but at least it was on a proper lot.

maraobj Jan 29, 2010 12:16 PM said:

It's interesting to note though that the adjacent neighbours are all in favour of the development and see this as a boon to their street/neighbourhood.

What is one person's version of a driveway is another's vision of home sweet home.

I personally think this kind of infill is great for intensification and only makes the neighbourhood more interesting and environmentally sustainable.

Miss Vicky Jan 29, 2010 01:02 PM said:

Given the driveway north of my home is half mine, I'd better be happy with whatever was put there! ;)

amckay Jan 29, 2010 01:07 PM said:

Oh Miss Vicky, you didn't answer my question :-)

Miss Vicky Jan 29, 2010 01:19 PM said:

I think it would be less disruptive than the parking garage behind us. Plus, I don't mind the modernist look

amckay Jan 29, 2010 03:39 PM said:

OK, I went to have a good look at it in person, and I'm warming up to the idea. Hey, if I support stuff like this, it makes for a good retirement plan for me since our house is on a lot 3x to 4x that size, and is almost as skinny. We could easily build one like the one at the end of our street, without tearing down the one we're in.

As for this being "environmentally sustainable", that is pretty dubious at best. Cities are inherently unsustainable, for starters. But that is a different discussion for a different time. We need some greenspace, and the trees and grass on people's property count in that category. Sure, we cannot keep paving farmland at the outskirts the way we are, but we also cannot remove all urban greenspace and pave it like this, either. There has to be a happy medium.

I suspect you'd find the suburbs far less densely populated than downtown, so they should be the ones intensifying first. We're already doing our part down here. I'd argue that "being green" would be for me to put something on my deed specifying that the house has to be kept small like it is, and that the yard has to be kept nice and big and green like it is. 50 x 80 feet is already pretty small. That's my lot. Theirs is probably less than 1/3 that. What size are lots in the burbs? Intensification should take place first in the least densely populated areas.

[Edited By amckay Jan 29, 2010 04:54 PM]

maraobj Jan 29, 2010 10:48 PM said:

I love that house on Grant St! Living in a modern house wouldn't be my choice, I guess I just like the flavour these houses add to the neighbourhood. I think what I mean is that what I really, really appreciate about Hintonburg and neighbourhoods like it, is that each house looks random. And these houses, and the lots they're on, make that random-ness more pronounced.

Finola Jan 31, 2010 09:44 PM said:

I saw the plans and pics in The Citizen this weekend. It really is interesting. My semi-detached home is only about 15 feet wide and we all fit comfortably.
I do hope they have an open house or publish the final pictures when it's done though.

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