Posts tagged ‘Bad Design’

Hespeler Road is Among the Worst Places in the World for Pedestrians

I agree 100% with Planning Pool regarding their recent recommendation that Hespeler Road be named the third worst road in the world!

Oh the ugly chain store strip!

When the site called the Planning Pool put out the call for nominations Hespeler Road was selected as number three on a list of five.

The most unwalkable places are: Eagle Bend in Jacksonville Florida, Amman, the capital of Jordan, Hespeler Road in Cambridge, Tysons Corner in Fairfax Country Virginia, and Arlington Texas.

Denis Agar nominated Hespeler Road. Agar, who studies urban planning at Ryerson University in Toronto, got to know Hespeler Road while attending the University of Guelph. “It is built for the car not for pedestrians and that’s the problem,” Agar said in a telephone interview. It is a stunning landscape of unremitting sprawl, strip malls, big box stores and parking lots, Agar said.

Hespeler Road carries on average 11,000 to 40,000 vehicles a day, depending on where you are on this long stretch of arterial road. Between 2004 and 2008 there were 45 people struck by vehicles on that roadway. In terms of volume it is in the top 10 per cent of regional roads, Bob Henderson, the region’s manager of transportation engineering, said.

“There is a real move afoot to improve walkability on all our roads—the philosophy has changed,” Henderson. The region did not want to create another Hespeler Road when it recently considered changes to Franklin Boulevard, which runs parallel to Hespeler Road. Drivers called for more lanes and traffic lights at intersections along Franklin. The region rejected that and opted for 11 roundabouts that are safer for pedestrians, and move more vehicles through intersections at slower speeds than traffic lights. When writing about Hespeler Road for the Planning Pool, Agar called it an urban form that we are all familiar with—the chain-store strip.

“I chose Hespeler Road because it has a feeling of endlessness to it. It’s the primary retail centre for a city of 120,000 and it is entirely devoid of public space or atmosphere of any kind,” wrote Agar.

“In 1973, the three towns of Hespeler, Galt, and Preston were merged by the provincial government into what is now Cambridge. All three continue to be small, pleasant walkable communities. But the triangular area between the three became wide open for development, and now we have a city centred around five kilometres of unadulterated sprawl,” Agar wrote. Cities and developers have no more excuses and nobody should be approving and building more Hespeler roads, Agar said in an interview. “We can blame developers from the past, we can blame municipal politicians from the past, but they thought they were doing what was best for their city,” Agar said. “We know better now.”

The City of Cambridge is now reviewing its Official Plan—a massive document that governs land use in the city. And the Ontario government will require all cities to focus at least 40 per cent of new development within existing neighbourhoods by 2015 with its anti-sprawl legislation called Places to Grow.

These provide opportunities to make Hespeler Road a better place flanked by high-density-mixed-use communities serviced by rapid transit, Ken Hoyle, a landscape architect and urban planner, said. “The opportunity is there but I can’t see the City of Cambridge taking advantage of that opportunity,” Hoyle said. Hoyle, who owns a private firm, concurs with the planning students who selected Hespeler Road as one of the most unwalkable places around. “It is a classic example of bad planning,” Hoyle said. “I think it is one of the ugliest roads in North America. From a sustainability perspective it is one of the most unsustainable roads in North America,” Hoyle said. For the most part cities react to proposals from developers, Hoyle said. “We leave it to the developers,” Hoyle said. “There are no initiatives to begin to transform Hespeler Road through a planning process.”

Can the next generation of urban planners, those who currently in university correct the multi-lane blunders of the past?

Agar wants to.

He decided to study urban planning after watching a 2004 documentary called The End of Suburbia — a scathing critique of car-dependent sprawl in an era of declining oil supplies. “In high school I had no idea what urban planning was,” Agar said. For Agar urban planning embraces a lot of his interests — geography, politics and the environment.

But Agar said urban-planning students get mixed messages from university faculty. High-density, mixed-use developments that are walkable and supported by public transit use less land, save energy and are easier to service, they are told in theory classes.

But most developers and municipalities approve new car-dependent suburbs with mostly single-detached homes. “On one hand we are being prepared for the job market and places that are building Hespeler Roads — that is planted in our minds,” Agar said.

Source: &


March 23, 2010 at 7:09 pm Leave a comment

The Rise of the Student Ghettos

Neighbourhoods around Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario are at risk of becoming student ghettos, city planners are warning.  The broader plan to improve neighbourhoods around Fanshawe and Western was approved by council in February 2008 and dubbed the near-campus neighbourhoods strategy.

Long-term residents are fleeing, leaving some streets almost entirely occupied by students and other temporary inhabitants who don’t own the homes, a change that threatens the viability of everything from local day cares to churches. The change in ownership has driven up prices of homes whose value are based on rental income, making it tougher for families to buy them. Too many properties have lost green spaces, are in poor repair and become the target of vandals. Previous efforts by city hall to limit changes have sometimes been quashed by provincial appointees on the Ontario Municipal Board.

City planners laid out proposals they hope would make a difference:

  • Reduce the maximum number of bedrooms in rental homes to three from five.
  • Require outdoor areas that can be enjoyed that are no less than three metres wide in any direction.
  • Require proponents of new single and semi-detached homes and those who want to add bedrooms to existing buildings to have their detailed plans subjected to scrutiny at city hall.


October 5, 2009 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

Kiwanis Park to be SOLD?

The City of Kitchener is in the midst of determining whether to declare several properties across Kitchener as surplus. The parcel of land in Kiwanis Park – approximately 9.6 hectares (23.7 acres), or roughly a fifth of the park’s total size – is the largest portion of land in their surplus list. City staff maintain the swath of land in question is underutilized and could better serve the public if it was redeveloped. The bulk of the park is in a flood plain, and would not be sold.

Does this not bring up the question of planning for future generations? Removing a park and constructing high-rise developments would be a heinous crime. I’m sure glad that Councillor John Gazzola is opposed to this idea, and he was quoted as saying, “I am opposed to selling any park land […] It makes no sense. You’ve got to look down the road 100 years from now. Once that park land is gone you are never getting it back.”

Jeff Willmer, the interim director of planning, said city workers must now cut the grass and pick up litter in these unused open spaces.

BOO HOO! Is this not why summer students are hired? If cutting grass and picking up litter are Jeff Wilmer’s idea of why the parkland should be sold off, he should be removed from office. He back’s up his statement by stating, “The development of the sites would create jobs and generate tax revenue.” Well duh! – any development of land would create jobs and generate tax revenues, but don’t remove park land!!! The justification is just not there.

I hope Kitchener’s council smartens up and sees that this is not the way to go about creating new development and spurring the economy out of its current slump.

Join the cause to save the park here: SaveKiwanisPark


Now playing: The Pack – Lovin U
via FoxyTunes

May 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm 1 comment

Plans for new strip mall move forward in Cambridge…

Previous Posts on this Topic:

  • Why City Councils Should Not Have A Say Over Planning Policy and Regulations
  • Site Location of proposed development on McLaren Street and Dundas Street

    Site Location of proposed development on McLaren Avenue and Dundas Street

    Dundas Street may become home to yet ANOTHER strip mall, joy!

    Plans were unveiled for the Firth-Brown Tools property at the corner of McLaren Avenue at Dundas Street. The plan would replace the existing 1950s industrial building with an 18,000-square-foot Shopper’s Drug Mart, a potential 5,000-square-foot bank building and a 9,000-square-foot commercial building. As part of the project, Canadian Commercial Development Group has promised to install left-turn lanes in both directions on Dundas Street to improve access to the strip mall.

    Plans will now be circulated to outside agencies for comment before staff put together recommendations for council.


    May 11, 2009 at 12:54 pm Leave a comment

Wonderland & Southdale Power Center Grows

We try to dedicate this site to Good urban design, however it is hard to show good examples when so many bad developments are currently being constructed. The Southside Group “Empire” is growing once again this time on west side of Wonderland south of Southdale just south of the Home Depot in the big box power center uniquely called Westwood – there are no woods, hardly any trees, in fact, just huge stores (pushed as far back as they can go on the property) along with vast parking between Wonderland Rd and the stores. I must say this this development(both east and west sides of Wonderland south of Southdale) along with the Hyde Park development have to be the least pedestrian friendly commercial developments in the city! With side walks starting in random places (usually between rows of parked cars) going zig zag all over and then finishing in another random place. I believe this development lacks vision it seems just like someone is out to make a quick buck not giving a care in the world as to what it will look like and about the end user. Often I wonder why developers of these big box centers don’t give some character to their developments to differentiate them from the other bland big box centers all around town. For example why not place the front row of buildings (the ones along the west side of wonderland south of southdale) right up to the lot line – up to the sidewalk – and create a street wall leaving an openning every few stores to allow access to the parking lot. Maybe adding a central park space or a public square, which could have a splash pad in the summer and a skating rink in the winter- adding these type of amenities could attract more people which equals more business which could mean the developer makes a premium on this site because the activities bring a lot more people to the area who will stay longer and this means they could buy more in stores. 

Anyway, back to Westwood Power Center (Phase 2 of 3)- there is currently the steel frame of a giant building going up which will house 5 stores; given that none of these stores have backed out because of the state of the economy, they are –

Location MapWinners – I believe this is their 5 store in London 

HomeSense – From what I understand this store would be moving from its Wellington location 

Jysk – Second store in London

Dollarama – x number store in London (soo many popping up everywhere)

 and – This would be the second London location announced (the fist was in Hyde Park next to Sam’s Club- however it seems like this one will be built first)

All the store (if everything goes as planned) should be opened by July 2009-

Here are a few pictures of the on going construction:



March 21, 2009 at 8:11 am 1 comment

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