By Brian Clarke
Yesterday, the Ottawa Citizen published an excellent piece as the first of a three part series on the future of the Byward Market.
As Joanne Chianello correctly points out, there are a lot of difficult questions facing the Byward Market right now.
There is no doubt that the Byward Market is not what it used to be – a traditional farmer’s market. At the same time, many Ottawans love what the Byward Market is now – a tourism and entertainment district. However, as pointed in the Citizen article, the traditional food vendors are dropping like flies since a tourism-entertainment district is only really busy on summer weekends. It is tough to balance tradition and history with contemporary interests.
There is no doubt that the parking garages in the middle of the Market are ugly and stick out like sore thumbs. But on the other hand, many people would not show up if they could not get parking and the foot traffic would further decrease in the area. I liked some of the ideas for underground parking lots that were played with in this article, but being realistic, something of that magnitude and cost would take forever to get to green light from City Hall (we could have a race: underground parking under York St. vs. light rail transit). It is tough to balance parking needs and interesting, fun and attractive uses for public space.
The theme of the article is that there are some difficult questions facing city planners regarding the future of the Byward Market. I completely agree with Joanne Chianello that a strong vision (and money!) is needed; I also agree that the word ‘vision’ gets thrown around too much, but I think if it’s used right, it can be very helpful.
So, I ask, what is your vision of the Byward Market in say, 2020?
I might be being optimistic and unrealistic, but my vision of the future Byward Market is a series of pedestrian roads. I haven’t decided where I stand on the issue of balancing between traditional farmer’s market and modern entertainment district, but I would love to see George Street and York Street, between Sussex and Dalhousie, become completely car-free. Admittedly, I’m biased as a long-time rickshaw runner, but the thing that bugs me the most is the traffic in the area. Make those streets pedestrian only and encourage more people to walk, cycle or take public transit into the Market.
However, this might only ever be a dream…