Elgin Street’s Future Inspired by its Past
By Alje Kamminga
Called Biddy’s Lane as early as the 1840s, Elgin Street was originally a lively mix of commercial and residential activity. Now, nearly two centuries later, it appears that Elgin is poised to recapture some of that 19th century magic.
City Council’s recent approval of a $36.3 million redesign will ease traffic flow on approximately 1.2 kilometres of Elgin Street, between Gloucester Street and the Queen Elizabeth Driveway, by reducing the number of traffic lanes from four to two. To compensate, a number of passing lanes will be added. As a result, the sidewalks will be widened, encouraging a return to more pedestrian traffic. And while the number of parking spaces will be reduced, from 120 to 90, a number of those spaces will be available to merchants and shop owners to use for restaurant patios, seating areas or displays of public art.
While business owners are naturally concerned about the lengthy construction period, most recognize that the changes will ultimately attract more people to the area. In the meantime, the city is offering free parking at the city hall parking garage during construction, a decision that one merchant described as “really huge” for business. Store owners and residents are equally pleased about the city’s decision to remove overhead lines and bury new lines underground. In addition, sewers and water mains—some more than 100 years old—will be replaced.
As one business owner told the Ottawa Citizen in an interview, “I’m quite excited at what it’s going to look like afterward. I think it’s going to completely transform Elgin Street into this friendly community.”
Pedestrians will also welcome the changes to that “friendly” community. While the redesign for Elgin does not include separated or painted bike lanes, it does feature super sharrows, markings to indicate where people should cycle. Bicycle racks will also be installed.
All told, the Elgin Street redesign will transform—and invigorate— 16 blocks between Gloucester and Isabella Streets.