LOCATION: Gananoque, Ontario


DESIGN LEADERSHIP: Michael Poitras, Principal-in-Charge of Design

DESIGN COMPETITION: Invited design/build/finance competition – Second Place

CLIENT: Corporation of the Town of Gananoque

While examining the site for a new condominium in Ganaoque’s Lowertown, with its scattered commercial and institutional buildings, it became clear that this picturesque, historic town would benefit significantly from proper planning, making the waterfront a much more attractive and engaging public place. As such, our vision involved a four-part master plan for Lowertown, utilizing existing historic buildings, trees and boardwalks to give it a new waterfront presence.

Part 1

The first and most vital component of our master plan was to create traditional “blocks” of land for development. We did this by creating a new street grid and establishing six parallel “view corridors”. Three of the corridors focus views south towards the Saint Lawrence River from Market Street, Main Street and Mill Street, while three east/west corridors focus views towards the yacht club’s inner harbour and the Gananoque River (Clarence Street, Saint Lawrence Street and Water Street). Also added were new boat launch ramps, terminating both ends of Saint Lawrence Street, providing public access to the Gananoque River and the yacht club’s inner harbour.

To highlight the prominence of Main Street and to add more greenery to the downtown core, new coniferous trees line both sides of the street, which can be decorated with festive lights during holidays and festivities. In addition, Water Street’s south side is lined with a continuous parade of new fabric banners, establishing a wonderful waterfront rhythm to Lowertown. Wide concrete sidewalks have also been proposed throughout Lowertown to accommodate the extra pedestrian traffic typical of peak summer months.

Part 2

The second component of the master plan developed a waterfront park, complete with composite wood boardwalks to its perimeter. The combination of a park with a parade of banners marching down Water Street, provides residents and visitors with a true sense of arrival to the 1000 Islands boat excursion departure point.

To unite the waterfront buildings, both new and historic, a “village effect” was created by surrounding them with textured “stone carpets”. In addition, the 1000 Islands kayaking and boat company buildings were relocated within the park and set on their own “stone carpets”, while stone cladding was added to the water filtration building to better connect it with the natural landscape.

To recognize Main Street’s hierarchical importance, a new pier was proposed, extending out to the Saint Lawrence River, terminating with a restaurant and adding yet another tourist destination to this waterfront area.

By dividing the waterfront boardwalk into two halves, we created two types of water-related use for the pier. To the west, the 1000 Islands Kayaking Company would have boardwalk space placed close to the public beach, better suited to kayak lessons, while adding movement and colour to this busy section of the park. Occupying boardwalk space to the east would be the Gananoque Boat Line, the new restaurant and additional dock space for visiting boaters.

Part 3

With four new “blocks” of land now established adjacent to Water Street, the third part of the master plan comes into play. Here, four new waterfront-focused, street oriented residential condominiums are proposed. The two “gate” condominiums straddling both sides of Main Street will be five stories in height, similar to white boats with their pipe rail balustrades and prefinished white metal cladding. These buildings, a homage to the history of the Gananoque Boat Line, creates an architectural focal point and “gateway” to the 1000 Islands, with surface parking provided on all sides of the buildings. To their south, the historic “ticket building” will be paired with a modern cylindrical stone clad gift shop, further reinforcing this “gate” concept.

To the east and west of these boat-inspired residential buildings are two stone clad condominiums acting as “bookends” to this waterfront composition. Here, inspired by the historic military fortifications of 1812 that can be found all along the Saint Lawrence River, are grey dolomite limestone clad condominiums with very geometrical shapes. On the western-most end is a six-storey oval shaped residential tower, complete with a public courtyard, focused on the park peninsula itself. On the eastern-most end, a four-storey residential parallelogram, also clad in grey dolomite limestone, focuses its public courtyard on the Gananoque River and the rotating bridge to the south. Surface parking surrounds both of these condominiums, while below grade parking is also provided for tenants. Street and courtyard edges of all four new condominiums are defined and softened by new deciduous trees, lining the streets.

Part 4

The final phase of the master plan concerns itself with the two new “blocks” of land created north of Saint Lawrence Street, on either side of Mill Street. Here, two buildings are proposed with widely differing programs, which in both cases re-use existing buildings. At the river’s edge, a new boat museum dedicated to the history of boating along the Saint Lawrence River, is proposed. This “T” shaped building utilizes a long existing brick warehouse running north/south and marries it to a new modern brick building running east/west to form the museum itself. Fronting the river, a new “water court” has been carved from its shoreline, offering an outdoor component to the museum, complete with docked historic boats. With ample dock space and boardwalks at the river’s edge, this museum can be easily reached by foot or car, at any time of year.

West of the museum is Gananoque’s new city hall, to be housed in an existing four-storey brick building. With the addition of two stories of offices to its roof and a horizontal circulation corridor linking the city hall to its oval-shaped council chamber, the composition of architectural parts is complete. By embedding the city hall into the residential fabric of this block, the oval-shaped council chamber emerges like another “house” along Main Street, albeit with a highly differentiated form. Again, like all the new buildings proposed for Lowertown, this new city hall can be readily accessed by car or by foot, allowing for all-season use.

As a completed composition, Lowertown’s mixture of new and old buildings, streets, sidewalks, boardwalks, trees and banners, forms a complex, people-focused master plan yielding a tremendous variety of uses, while functioning as the “gateway” to the 1000 Islands.

Note: For Lowertown Gananoque Waterfront Development statistics, materials and general program, see Mixed Use Portfolio – Gananoque Condominiums.