That changed one day a few years ago, when she saw a tourist stroll up to an info kiosk in the area and ask where the ByWard Market is.
"There are banners up on posts everywhere, but I guess people don't necessarily see those," said Ms. Van Kregten, Ottawa Tourism's director of communications.
"Wayfinding" for tourists is an essential part of their experience as they often arrive in a city with, at best, only a vague idea of where local monuments, restaurants, neighbourhoods and attractions are.
Other cities have embraced the idea of indicating major landmarks on maps, in subway stations and on street signs scattered around downtown.
Ottawa's case is more complex. Its most popular sites fall under the ownership of a variety of bodies, such as different levels of government and the private sector. This means there is no one entity responsible for putting up directional signs.
Nevertheless, wayfinding is something a coalition of tourism entities are hoping to fix in the next few years. Ottawa Tourism's council for tourism development, made up of a mix of representatives from the city, the National Capital Commission, the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, the Ottawa Convention Centre and others, has identified wayfinding as one of the city's priorities in the coming years.
At the moment, says Ottawa Tourism CEO Noel Buckley, it's too early to talk about concrete steps to address the problem. However, the group has identified a few areas for improvement in the city, including along the Rideau Canal, and the need to help people identify the location of neighbourhoods and well-known smaller areas such as Westboro and the Sparks Street Mall.
"I don't expect it will all get solved immediately, but different parts of the city or different areas could be signed, and wayfinding could be put in place," he said.
The council was reborn in 2011 out of a previous ad hoc committee called the Tourism Leadership Alliance, which in 2009 also identified signage as a major issue.
The NCC is similarly looking at refreshing its wayfinding in the region, which was last updated in the early '90s. Its signs point to publicly accessible tourism landmarks such as Parliament Hill, which attracts more than 50,000 people a year. Other sites identified on NCC signs must meet bilingualism and opening hours criteria; attractions with fewer visitors fall under city jurisdiction, said Janik Cazabon, the NCC's manager for interpretation programs.
The NCC is considering a formal study to evaluate the effectiveness of its signs.
Its current strategy is to direct drivers from Highways 416 and 417, as well as major downtown entry points, to the Capital Information Kiosk in the World Exchange Plaza. At the kiosk, they can receive maps of major attractions in the area.
Pedestrians are sent over from Parliament Hill, under a pilot program implemented when the centre moved last year from its more visible location on Wellington Street. Additionally, there are "info columns" including maps, and separate 3D bronze maps along Confederation Boulevard.
"We want to know if a centralized model that we have is still working, and if it still serves all of our clients," said Ms. Cazabon.
It's possible the NCC will lean more towards technology to point the way, she said. With tourists now walking around with smartphones in their pockets, the commission is implementing a downtown wireless network this summer around the major tourism hubs of Parliament Hill, the National War Memorial, Major's Hill Park and Jacques Cartier Park.
It's still too early to say how the NCC will use the technology for wayfinding, but that will be among the items addressed in the study, Ms. Cazabon said.
HIGHWAY DIRECTIONAL SIGNS
Since 400-series highways are under the jurisdiction of the province, anyone interested in applying to have a sign there must go through the Ministry of Transportation.
This led to years of frustration for the Preston Street BIA to get signs highlighting the exit for Little Italy on Highway 417, according to executive director Lori Mellor.
"It took us six years to convince the province that we were deserving of wayfinding signs owing to our status of a ‘cultural district,'" she said in an e-mail.
"We would still be working on it if (then-MPP) Jim Watson had not intervened on our behalf."
That sign has been in place for three years.