Fri. Aug 19th, 2022

Critics object to the building’s height, ‘unattractive’ architecture, and incongruence with the character of the area

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Planning committee members gave their blessing Thursday to a proposal to transform a parking lot at the corner of Somerset Street West and O’Connor Street into an 18-storey mixed-use building.

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Staff and the applicant highlighted changes made to address concerns about early visions for the project, though it still was not enough to assuage objections about the building’s height, “unattractive” architecture, and incongruence with the character of the area by some residents.

“There’s a reason it’s called Somerset Village,” said Sylvie Faulkner, director of a neighboring condo corporation. She pointed to the area’s traditional main street, tree-lined roadways and three-storey character homes, many of which have been converted into restaurants.

“If our city is to make concessions to developers, we should expect them to come up with something architecturally interesting that adds to the beauty of Centretown, instead of bringing it down,” she said, requesting a height reduction and architectural design “that complements that traditional character and cache of Somerset Village. ”

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Jack Hanna, of the Centretown Community Association, said his group of area residents wants density and is fine with “big buildings – but not at the cost of trashing good urban design,” recalling an assessment by the city’s urban design review panel that a high -rise is not an appropriate built form for the site.

Hanna warned that approving the project could pave the way for others like it.

“Fotenn (the applicant) will point a finger at this tower to justify other tall buildings on Somerset. It will be a precedent for this traditional main street and other traditional main streets. ”

Planning committee co-chair Scott Moffatt disagrees. The site is a fairly unique one, he noted in an interview, as a corner lot with dual traditional main street and R5 zoning (on the R5 portion of the property, 16 storeys are permitted as-of-right), near many amenities.

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“I do not think that this exact situation gets replicated so much that all of a sudden… it’s going to proliferate through the (traditional main street) zone across the city. Every application is unique. I get that people want to make the argument that ‘oh, if you do this here, it’s going to happen elsewhere.’ That’s really not the case. ”

The area’s councilor, Catherine McKenney, said the current project design is not perfect, but it’s an improvement from earlier versions, especially in the removal of proposed mass in the middle of the building “which really did make it a nine-storey high- rise onto Somerset ”in favor of a four-storey podium and set back tower design.

“It’s replacing a parking lot, we have to replace parking lots in the downtown, but we have to be sensitive to the surrounding community, we have to ensure that our traditional main streets… retain their human scale, if you will, that’s what we because, and I think through the iterations, we’ve gotten much closer, ”said McKenney.

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The mixed-use development is by Ottawa company Gemstone. It’s proposed to include 156 units and 65 parking spaces, along with bike parking and electric vehicle charging stations. Through a Section 37 agreement, which secures community benefits in exchange for allowing more height and density than current zoning permits, Somerset Ward is getting close to $ 550,000 for its affordable housing fund and $ 50,000 for community gardening needs.

With a green light from staff and planning committee, the application is scheduled to come before council on June 8.

Committee members also voted Thursday to back a proposed six-storey mixed-used development that the ward councilor described as “step one of a larger vision” for Kanata Avenue.

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“Right now it looks and feels nothing like a main street,” said Kanata North Coun. Cathy Curry. But that’s the end goal for the stretch of road that abuts the Kanata Centrum shopping center, across from which Kanata Woods Inc. wants to build a mixed-used project with 304 dwelling units, ground-floor commercial space and two levels of below-grade parking.

Another builder has plans to develop a mixed-use building next door, with housing that Curry said would cater to residents 55 and older.

Both developers are committed to making Kanata Avenue look and feel like a main street, said Curry, who shared plans to survey the people living around nearby Bill Teron Park, north of the development site, about the kind of businesses they’d like to see in the new buildings.

“The builders are not saying they will absolutely do whatever we say, but they’re going to try very hard,” said Curry.

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