City of Ottawa, Rideau Street Retail Action Plan, Ottawa, Ontario.
In 1993 Talbot Consultants International Inc. were asked by an Ottawa developer to put together a seminar for the public and private sector in Ottawa based on our experience with revitalising downtown shopping streets throughout the world. The motivation for such a request came from the problems that both sectors had experienced with the deterioration of Ottawa’s main shopping street from its high profile as the street on which Canada’s Parliament Buildings are located to a tertiary retail area plagued by vacancies and petty crime. In 1994 the City of Ottawa formed the joint public and private sector “Rideau Street Retail Action Committee” consisting of the City of Ottawa, the Regional Municipality, the Transportation Authority and, two private sector groups, the Rideau Area Business Improvement Association and the Rideau Street Property Owners Association.
The committee’s first task was to issue a proposal call for a market consulting firm that had a solid track record with similar projects both within Canada and internationally. Seven such firms were contacted and bid. The Talbot Consultants International team (including an architectural firm and a consumer research firm) was selected. Phase I has recently been concluded and involved detailed consumer research, retail inventories, market potential analysis, architectural and traffic evaluation and the contacting of local, national and international retailers. Phase I concluded with two key deliverables.
Firstly a viable "Retail Action Plan" for the street that can be implemented by the public and private sectors detailing our recommended retail, architectural and traffic changes for the five blocks in the study area. Secondly a detailed listing of the qualified retail prospects identified for each of the blocks by “banner” and contact name. Our recommendations are currently in the implementation phase.
The heated storefront bus shelters have been removed, the heritage facades are being restored, transit and truck traffic has been reduced, on-street car parking is being reintroduced, restrictive vehicle turns are being eliminated and the streetscape beautification programme is being implemented. The results are already impressive, pedestrian traffic has increased and retail sales are up. More importantly, our "Retail Action Plan for Rideau Street" identified three key redevelopment sites and suggested specific redevelopment uses. Within six months of our final report being issued all three sites had been sold. The first (the demolished Robinson's site) was purchased as the site of a proposed Hotel/Convention Centre/Entertainment Focused Centre, the second (99 Rideau) has been transformed from a 90% vacant drug pushers' haven into a 100% leased restaurant and retail building and the third (the vacant Woolworth's building) has been re-developed into Ottawa's "flagship" Chapters bookstore. In 1999 it was announced that the various municipalities in the Ottawa area would be amalgamated into a single city. As a result, in early 2000, the Mayor of Ottawa set up a series of weekend long charrettes to determine the optimum planning "vision" for the downtown core. Given the success of our study Richard Talbot was invited to participate in the charrettes as the only non-Ottawa attendee.