Planning and Development of Lindenlea Garden Suburb (Thomas Adams,1919)


Site Planning at Lindenlea, Ottawa

 Source: Journal of the Town Planning Institute of Canada, Volume 1 (3), April 1921, pp4-5.

The accompanying plan of the Lindenlea pro­perty in Ottawa was prepared in July, 1919, on the instructions of the Housing Commission of the City of Ottawa. The property comprised an area of approximately 22 acres and was purchased at $3,000 per acre. Prior to its being acquired by the Commission it was laid out with rectangular streets which had been planned without regard to the topographical conditions of the site. In the acquisition of this estate the Ottawa Housing Commission had an exceptional opportunity to create an ideal garden suburb. The land is situated at a high ele­vation and surrounded, to a considerable extent, by open country. It was sufficiently undulating to give it character and interest without making it costly to develop, if carefully planned. A large part of it was covered by beautiful tree, most of which could be preserved without detriment to the building lots. The cost of the property was somewhat high, having regard to the fact that the object of the Commission was to erect small houses which could not bear to be saddled with a high cost for land.    

In preparing the plan of subdivision this question of keeping the lots relatively small, in order that no lot should cost more than $600 had to be considered. The first step taken was to prepare a map on a scale of 20 ft. to the inch, showing the levels of the land and the positions of the principal trees. On the completion of this map a study was made of the surrounding highways and of the extent to which provision would have to be made for through traffic across the property in laying out the plan of streets. The conclusion arrived at was that the only direction in which a through traffic route was necessary was from the southeast to the north­west corner of the property. This gave rise to the planning of Rockcliffe Way for the purposes of through traffic and also as the backbone of the remainder of the plan of street system. Rideau Terrace, Lambton Road, Maple Avenue and Rockcliffe Road were already fixtures. Apart from Rockcliffe Way, which had to be 66 ft. wide, it was desirable to limit the amount of land given to streets to the maximum of available land for open spaces.

The following points may be noted regarding the secondary streets. Ottawa Way provides an entrance to the centre of the estate from the existing thoroughfare of Rideau Terrace. From the highest point on the estate this Way opens up a vista of the parliament buildings and the centre of Ottawa.

The narrower street, called Lindenlea, starts from Springfield Road through a slight cut for 100 feet and then follows the top of a small escapement until it ceaches Rockcliffe Way. On the east side of Rockcliffe Way it follows tile foot of the escarpment. During a great part of its length through tile property it is 20 feet wide but has open spaces along the site which can be put to a much more useful purpose than if it had been included in the street. Rock Avenue is a fork road with two arms 20 feet wide, each running on both sides of a rock outcrop. The cost of removing this rock would have been greater than the value of the land for building on and instead of being allowed to be an encumbrance, it was converted into as asset by the treatment shown in the plan.

The portion of land that lies between Rockcliffe Way, Lindenlea and Labmton Road consists of a small hill and this has been developed so as to avoid the necessity of having steep graded street leading from the high to the low land. Rockcliffe Way passes over the southern side of the ridge without making it necessary to have a steep grade. The short cul-de-sac road called Hillcrest enables some of the rear land to be developed as lots on the edge hill overlooking the escarpment.

The open spaces were selected with due regard for the purposes for which they had to be used. They comprise tennis courts and bowling greens 34,580 square feet, park 19,400 square feet, children’s playground and parkway 43,700 square feet and other small areas making a total of 118,734 square feet. The subdivisions were made with a view to ensuring wide frontage and some back garden, without extensive depth. A study of the plan will show that there is comparatively little low in long frontages on the corner lots.

The number of lots is 168 and the average price recommended to be asked for each lot was 12.5 cents per aquare foot or $457 per lot.

Since the plan was completed the erection of houses has been carried on by the Housing Commission. Unfortunately thee increase in prices of building has made it difficult for the Commission to complete the scheme as rapidly as was hoped. Among the recommendations made when the plan was submitted to the was that Rockcliffe Way should be laid out as a boulevard as part of the driveway around the city; that the parks and tennis courts on the property should be improved and leased to clubs of the residents; that the landscape features of the site should be protected and developed and that careful consideration should be given to the placing of each house and the type of architecture adopted.

Unfortunately, the town planner, in a case of this kind, has no control over the design and type of building erected unless he is made responsible in association with the architect for that part of the work as well as laying out the street and lot system. The preparation of a plan of streets and lots does not alone insure good development. There must also be proper discremination shown in the type of buildings erected, particularly in the design of those occupying strategic points and vistas at the ends of the streets. Many excellent plans are spoiled by the responsibility for the design of the land being placed under one control and the responsibility for the design of the buildings under another. A divergent point of view arises in this way which cannot lead to satisfactory results. Lots that are designed specially to secure a certain effect convey no meaning to anyone but the designer. The art or grouping buildings is quite different from that of designing individual build­ings. The time is not yet to express an opinion on the final results of the architectural features of Lindenlea although it is quite apparent that a mis­take has been made in building a large number of houses of what is probably the least attractive type of house on the property.

There is still time to correct, in a considerable degree, this mistake by careful planting and by the use of landscape features. The ultimate success of the scheme will depend on the enterprise shown in improving the surroundings of the buildings erected.

It is important for town planners to bear in mind that the planning of sites such  as Lindenlea should be under the supervision of one directing head from the beginning to the completion of the scheme. The fact that it is not practicable in some cases does not lessen the importance of having continuity of control where it is possible.

One fact stands out in connection with Lindenlea, namely, that as a site plan it was successful because as soon as the plan was prepared and the lots placed on offer they were sold without difficulty. The price obtained was sufficient to recoup the Commission for the cost of the land plus the proportion of the cost invested in spaces for recreation park and roads. Any difficulties that may have occurred to prevent the purchasers from completing their ficulties, largely outside of the control of the Commission but also owing to the lack of cohesion in controlling the building development in conformity with the plan of the ground.