Renewed hope: The Byward Market plan forges ahead

The ByWard Market is one of the most well-known destinations in Ottawa. This iconic precinct’s cultural and heritage assets attract residents and visitors from across Canada and the world. The heritage public market building is at the ByWard Market’s symbolic core, but the precinct accommodates a diverse collection of original shops, boutiques, retailers, restaurants and public spaces. Because of its economic and cultural contributions, the City of Ottawa plans to ensure that the Market remains a popular and successful destination in the future.

More than eight years ago a project began with key principals – to address the lack of public spaces, put greater emphasis into the heritage attributes, to appreciate and value its history and revive the one spot in all of Ottawa that has since the 1800s served as one of the City’s principal hubs of commerce, entertainment and activity for tourists and residents alike. 

This purpose of this plan was to initially address the fact that more and more the age-old Market was losing its local feel. Now I am pleased to see the Byward Market Public Realm plan has finally taken shape.

The investment – although heavy – is so important. If we do not invest in our history, we lose the story of how we became us, Ottawa. How a divided town – Upper Town and Lower Town – slowly formed the spine that is what we know now today – a downtown many of us are beyond proud to show off. 

And to show it off properly, we need to address the gaps, the issues and rebuild public spaces for the good. 

We must be careful that this plan will not just bring back farmers but it set the right foundational investments to ensure expanded and desirable programming such as supporting a Farmers’ Market is considered. 

Additionally, we should be emphasizing on beautification, and that these investments will allow for greater opportunity to host more events in the Market.

The push to make changes in the Market was first teased by commissioning New York-based consultants People for Public Spaces to conduct a visioning exercise to imagine the best outcome for our Byward Market. The consulting firm defined a vision for Ottawa’s most important and historic district.   

Many successful initiatives were implemented in the area throughout the review to leverage opportunities and test some of the consultation findings. Here are a few examples of successful projects in the area: creating of Ottawa Markets to run the ByWard Building, manage outdoor vending and programming, the Ottawa letters, the creation of the George Street Plaza, and the seasonal closure of specific streets including William Street.

I am pleased that the City collaborates with the local stakeholders and the Planning Partnership consultants, resulting in specific areas within the Market that have improved or altered important and valuable public spaces in this district. 

The plan created established a vision for short, medium and long-term improvements, including public spaces. 

The spaces studied for enhancement included: streets, sidewalks, parks, squares and plazas. The plan both considered a range of areas to ensure it fully grasped the options and the stakeholders who were involved in the area:

  • Public life and consumer behaviour
  • Pedestrians and cyclists
  • Vehicle circulations
  • Parking and loading
  • Below-grade utilities and services
  • Existing and planned context and previous work completed for the study area 

There is no doubt this aims to be a comprehensive plan that will leave no stone untouched in the ByWard Market Area. Most importantly, this plan establishes a vision and, moving forward, guiding principles. The goal, defined elements include public art, accessibility, paved areas, greening and landscaping, retail and patio zones and character areas.  

I find this plan unique because it will allow the Market to officially define its character and its distinct areas that make up the Market’s fabric. 

This effort is a fundamental element to get the Market for what it aspires to be for all, Ottawa’s most desirable area. The plan will not resolve local farmers’ fresh produce, shelter concentration, housing, addictions & mental health, safety, truck route, and business diversity concerns. The plan sets the improvements and the beautifications goals for the area. These serious concerns are advancing with other City initiatives such as the Housing and Homelessness Plan and the Safe Supply expanded pilot, to name a few.

The ByWard Market Public spaces plan enthuses me. 

I want to thank all the participants, The Planning Partnership, and Jillian Savage and City team. It is impressive to see the depth of the consultations and analysis completed by the team to ensure this report reflects the real potential of Ottawa’s most popular destination. 

I am also encouraged by the plan elements that look at traffic calming, an outdoor market strategy, and access throughout the Market. This type of detail is integral to ensuring this plan is more than just an overview of what could be or should be – but what will be.

Getting the fundamental vision in place for the City’s most recognized neighbourhood and getting an investment plan for the public spaces will transform and bring desirable opportunities to the ByWard Market.

I am confident with the approval of the plan and launch of the investments that all ages will again enjoy the Market, year-round.

After commencing in summer 2018, the ByWard Plan and report will be considered for approval by the Finance and Economic Development Committee next week, on December 1, 2020. Here’s the report and the consultant analysis of the ByWard Market Public Realm Plan.

The Byward Market public Realm report was presented at council on December 1st. Here is the complete presentation from staff.

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