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City reveals its vision to rekindle Sparks Street

“Old and New” on Sparks Street. (Photo by Marcel Regimbald via the OttawaStart Flickr pool)

Mayor Jim Watson, Tobi Nussbaum, CEO, National Capital Commission, and Councillor Catherine McKenney today joined City staff for an update on the Sparks Street Public Realm Plan. Staff presented a refined vision and strategic design directions to guide future improvements on the pedestrian mall.

In 2018, the City opened a storefront at 79 Sparks Street to collaborate with partners and the public to create a cohesive plan for the future of Sparks Street’s public realm. Over the past several months, staff have been hard at work on that plan, using this space to engage with pedestrian mall users, offer project information to the public and work with key stakeholders.

Based on the study so far, including streetscape analysis, pilot projects and public feedback, the City has established the following strategic design directions to guide future improvements to Sparks Street:

  • Mobility and access: Based on overwhelming public feedback, Sparks Street will remain pedestrian only from Elgin Street to Lyon Street.
  • Greenscape: The pedestrian mall will be a downtown oasis with the addition of around 50 new trees, planters, greenspaces and perennial gardens, to create comfortable public spaces that encourage people to relax and linger.
  • Programming and activation: A carefully curated calendar of special events, artistic installations and public activations will bring the street to life and celebrate the diversity of cultures across Canada and Ottawa as its capital.
  • Adjacent property alignments: Improvements will be coordinated and integrated with ongoing planned renewals of properties along the pedestrian mall.
  • Ground Floor Business Alignments: Businesses will be encouraged to coordinate and refine their ground floor contributions to support the street’s role and vision as a pedestrian oasis and cultural celebration street.
  • Interpretation: The public experience of Sparks Street will be enhanced by integrating elements that highlight its rich history and cultural context.

Some of the options being considered as streetscape elements include: approximately 50 new canopy trees, aerial installation systems, digital kiosks, programmable water features, new public lounge spaces, Wi-Fi, flexible performance spaces, pockets of weather protection, heated surfaces and many new opportunities for art and interactive installations.

Public feedback has played an important part in developing the plan so far, and the City is once again seeking input from residents, business owners and key project stakeholders to help develop detailing parameters and guidelines for all aspects of the streetscape. The public can visit the storefront at 79 Sparks Street to review at the following times:

  • Thursday, March 21 from 3 to 7 pm
  • Friday, March 22 from 10 am to 3 pm

Feedback can be emailed to mysparksstreet@ottawa.ca before May 1, 2019. Please visit ottawa.ca/sparksstreetplan to learn more about the plan.

City Council, the NCC, and the Sparks Street Mall Authority will all consider the public realm plan for approval this fall. Once approved, staff will launch a detailed design and engineering phase, when there will be more opportunities for feedback on streetscape details.