Randolph Wang
Urban Designer
City of Ottawa, Ottawa

The last two decades have seen a "back to city" movement in many Canadian cities. Baby Boomers are returning from the suburbs while millennials continue to enjoy urban living. The demand for housing in the established urban neighborhoods has increased significantly, resulting in a resurgence of high-rise buildings in some desirable locations, including downtown and in areas with convenient transit services and good quality physical and social infrastructure. High-rise buildings in Canadian cities are growing in both number and height. Some of the new buildings having reached unprecedented stories in their hosting communities.

High-rise development in a mature urban neighborhood is often controversial. Whiles some of the controversies may be characterized as NIMBYism, there are genuine urban design concerns on some of the development options. What might be the appropriate level of high-rise intensification? How might high-rise buildings be designed to respect the characteristics of a mature community? How might high-rise buildings bring about positive changes? How might high-rise buildings be designed to respect each other? How might the relationship between neighboring high-rise buildings be appropriately and effectively managed so that the rights and responsibilities of the development are respected and shared.

Using Ottawa, Canada's capital, as an example, and drawing experiences from other Canadian municipalities, this presentation highlights some of the newly observed urban design challenges facing high-rise infill development, and discusses the struggles of making regulatory changes, while exploring options for a forward-thinking strategy.