What's Happening at Tabaret?

Monday, April 14, 2014

A landscaping truck sits in front of the Tabaret building

The University of Ottawa recently announced that construction is beginning on the Tabaret / Grand Allée project. Essentially, the whole project is an extension of the Grand Allée (or the Grand Alley in English but no one really calls it that).

This image shows the grand allée at uOttawa

There are a lot of good things about the project and a few sad things about it too. A recent article in the uOttawa Gazette spoke about the "makeover" of the space and some of the features. But I feel that more should be done to explain some of the details about the project. In fact, the project is more of a restoration than a makeover. So here is our contribution to what is happening in front of Tabaret.

As it stands right now, the Grand Allée extends from the FSS tower all the way to Laurier. This new segment would include the other side of the street betweet Tabaret and Academic Hall, essentially bringing the space in front of Tabaret to the same standards as the rest of the Grand Allée. And it kind of needed it, I mean the space was getting pretty worn down.

First things first, some trees got cut down!
I have seen a lot of things go back and forth on social media about this and a few things need to be said about why this happened. First and foremost, there is preventative foundation repair work that needs to be done on the Tabaret building. It is over 100 years old and work needs to be done to ensure that the foundation is properly sealed (aka water-proofed). This necessitated the take down of the trees along the East side of the building.

Although work won't officially start for another couple of weeks, the trees needed to come down ASAP to prevent migratory birds from establishing nests. New greenery will be planted that is more in line with the heritage designation of the building. The same thing goes for the vines along the East side of the building, which are also going to be compromised as maintenance takes place on the facade of the building.

The next thing is the amount of hardscapping in front of the building (there is a lot of new hardscapping in the new plan).
One thing to note about the Grand Allée is that is was not properly aligned in front of the Tabaret building. Realigning the path requires moving the path a little closer to the Tabaret building.

the image shows how the Grand Allée is not aligned in front of the Tabaret building

But the big thing is the accessibility of the space. The Tabaret building has 4 exits on the East side of the building that are overgrown and that need to be wheelchair accessible. Adding hardscape will open up the space and allow for access to the statue of Tabaret (currently hidden among the trees).

This image shos some of the emergency exits of Tabaret

There are also a bunch of other accessibility features being added to the space, including braille signage, better curb transitions around Laurier Avenue, and way-finding tools for the blind.

This kind of leads into another aspect of the project, the sustainable transportation link. The space was designed with the City of Ottawa's extension of the Laurier Bike Lane in mind (which will eventually link Vanier to Westboro). The space is much more pedestrian friendly, with a wider pathway and no more uneven paving running through the alley.

As an added bonus, parking lot A (located at the North-West side of the Tabaret Lawn), will be shut down. The plans have not been finalized about what will be happening with the space but a few options are being batted around.

This image shows the outline of the Tabaret parking space

There are many more details about the project that add to the complexity of the program, (including the measures to respect the heritage status of the space, the removal of some infected trees, or the programming of activities for the space) but I won't go into all of them. This project fits in with the University's masterplan process and helps launch a rethink about how land on campus can be more functional and beautiful.

However, if you do have more questions about the project, Richard Hould (rhould@uOttawa.ca), the project leader, is happy to talk about more of the details.

~ jon - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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