(Sub)urban Design

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Jun 15

Missed opportunity

I went visiting friends in Stittsville (a western suburb of Ottawa) last week and took this picture out my car window.


Do you see an urban design opportunity missed? I do.

These bungalows face Stittsville Main Street and “back” onto Jackson Stitt Circle where they have their garages and rear entries. The grade change between the inner street and Main Street is an opportunity squandered. 

Their lower levels should all have walkouts, which opens up a number of possibilities–

1. It brings more light into basements;

2. Basements become lower level living areas that add a lot of value to the real estate you see above.

3. It creates the possibility of having a separate lower level living unit or a business with its own street address.

4. Adding self contained apartments or businesses with their own entryways and addresses adds yet more value to real estate;

5. Lastly, instead of having 10 steps up to the front door, doorways and windows would be at grade; this animates the street and removes the “walled-off” nature of these homes, which are needlessly non-human in scale.


I can’t understand the development community. They ignore vertical rent gradients to the detriment of everyone–developers make less money than they should when they sell their houses, homeowners and investors make less money on resale and less income while they live there or own it, home-based businesses and renters miss out on opportunities for low rent offices/accommodation, and communities miss out on adding more street life/animation.

Compare what was done in Stittsville with these townhomes on Centrepointe Drive.


Here lower levels are all walkouts and, as a result, their “throwaway” basements are used for doctor offices, by engineering and law firms, as in-law apartments…

A little creativity in urban design can add a great deal of value for all stakeholders. 

@ profbruce

Read more about rent curves here:

How much more interesting and how much more walkable would our cities be if…, https://profbruce.tumblr.com/post/56047674802/how-much-more-interesting-and-how-much-more


How Developers can Make More Money and Urban Design can Improve by Exploiting Vertical Rent Curveshttps://www.eqjournal.org/?p=2618


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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.