Sussex Courtyards Rehabilitation Plan, Ottawa Ontario
The Sussex Courtyards in Ottawa are a fun way to go from George Street to Murray Street throughout a network of lanes parallel to Sussex Drive. They guide you from Byward Market to the National Gallery of Canada. They host shops, cafes, apartment buildings, seating, and public art. Pre-Covid, they were wonderful places for Christmas markets, arts programming (e.g. Nuit Blanche), performances and children’s activities.
The Courtyards have been part of Ottawa’s built environment since the mid-1840s. They are beside the Byward Market Heritage Conservation District (1991; By-Law 60-91). The Courtyards are comprised of Clarendon Lanes, York Court, Jeanne d’Arc Court, Tin House Court and Beaux-Arts Court. As with all infrastructure, they are in need of repair and an innovative upgrade. National Capital Commission (https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/ ) is steward of the Sussex Courtyards, as it is of Nepean Point, Majors Hill Park, 24 Sussex Drive, other properties on Sussex Dr., the Rideau Canal, Confederation Park, Gatineau Park, Le Breton Flats and other properties in the National Capital Region. All NCC properties are being studied for upgrades and development opportunities, as part of NCC’s “The Plan for Canada’s Capital, 2017-2067.”
In June 2022, NCC offered a tour and consultation process regarding their plans to enhance the entire Sussex Courtyards network, coupled with programming the lanes. I participated in two walkabouts and the consultation process. NCC researched, developed and provided detailed design guidelines for pavers to define spaces, plant materials to create a robust, sustainable and interconnected landscape, lighting options as lighting a network of lanes is critical for pedestrian safety and programming use, and wayfinding vehicles, including use of colour and enhanced furniture. In addition, NCC and users of the lane system want the final renovation plans to implement consideration for gender, accessibility and diversity. There is no one way to use and enjoy this remarkable historic laneway network and based on gender, age, accessibility needs and ethnic understanding of colours, plants and programming, the design options and implementation are endless and exciting.
All cities, and definitely Canada’s Capital, deserve groundbreaking yet functional upgrades to their public spaces. May we all be enjoying the renewed Sussex Courtyards soon and for many years to come.
Robin Etherington worked for many national and community level cultural organizations over the past 30 years. Her area of consultant specialty at Etherington Consulting Services is management of not-for profit and cultural organizations and has improved the bottom line at many sites through tighter operations, expansive partnerships and maximizing networking opportunities. She developed tremendous skills in grant writing, social media, youth outreach, marketing, policy writing and implementation, and community facilitation. Skills include developing and implementing fund development (fundraising and revenue generation) strategies; Cultural Resources Management (CRM), and cultural strategic planning.