Lansdowne's legacy? Eight-storey Glebe development gets committee's nod

880 Bank
Architect Barry J Hobin & Associates' rendering of Canderel's proposed Amica retirement residence

Montreal-based developer Canderel received support from Ottawa’s planning committee on Tuesday to construct a new eight-storey Amica retirement residence on the site of a Beer Store in the Glebe, despite concerns that ever-taller buildings are appearing on Bank Street.

The two-hour debate at Ottawa City Hall featured two recurring themes that typically emerge whenever a tall building is proposed in an established neighbourhood: concerns about height and parking.

But in a fresh twist, some residents and councillors argued that the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park had set a precedence for taller buildings in the area – contrary to promises made when that development was under consideration – and that more large buildings would be proposed for Bank Street, changing the character of the Glebe.

“It is, in fact, the steady march of a non-traditional mainstream type of mass that we feared would happen,” said Capital ward councillor David Chernushenko. “That’s what this project represents to me.”

For its part, the developer’s consultant, FoTenn, said in planning documents that the new building would serve as “an ideal transition” from the mid- and high-rise apartments constructed as part of the Lansdowne Park redevelopment and said other projects such as the nearby Lord Lansdowne retirement residence provided precedence for its building.

‘All-or-nothing’ accusations

Canderel’s proposal calls for a retirement residence at 890 and 900 Bank St. with eight storeys on the south end. The building would drop to six and four storeys as the building extends farther north.

Beer Store

The development would take the current place of the Beer Store and Mr. Muffler autobody shop, with the Brewers Retail taking space in a ground-level retail unit in the new building.

The primary concern for members of both council and the community was the impact the proposed eight-storey building height would have on the character of the Glebe neighbourhood and nearby residences. Residents went as far as building Lego models of the design to discuss how the scale of the proposal would impress upon the surrounding area.

Though the application still requires the nod from city council, Canderel received the planning committee’s endorsement for a zoning bylaw amendment to exceed the current four-storey height limit.

The applicant told planning committee that this height and massing, which it says has been already reduced through community consultation, is necessary for the project to be viable.

A motion, put forward by Kitchissippi councillor Jeff Leiper on behalf of the neighbourhood’s representative, Capital ward councillor David Chernushenko, would have seen further setbacks on the property and a maximum height of six storeys.

“The motion would effectively kill this project,” Fotenn Consultancy partner Ted Fobert told committee on behalf of the applicant, which later prompted Coun. Chernushenko to suggest the developer’s consultant was taking an “all-or-nothing” approach. All four of the motion’s amendments were defeated in a vote.

Residents unconvinced

Numerous residents voiced their displeasure with the height and parking allocations of the new building.

Carolyn Mackenzie of the Glebe Community Association told committee that the proposed height will “overwhelm” the established low-rise residential neighbourhood. She criticized the idea that the development’s height represented a “transition” from nearby taller buildings such as the 12-storey Lord Lansdowne and Minto’s 21-storey Lansdowne condominium, noting that single-storey Kettleman’s Bagels stands as a gap between the proposed and existing buildings.

The view from the development site, looking south on Bank Street.
The view from the development site, looking south on Bank Street. 

Isla Paterson, whose mother lives in a nearby retirement residence, was concerned about a lack of available parking and associated congestion. Currently, the property’s parking lot has 35 spots for both Beer Store patrons and the general public. The proposed development would feature 50 underground spots with 26 reserved for residents of the building and the remaining for retail spaces such as the Beer Store. Another community member raised the concern that underground parking with an elevator to the main level doesn’t make sense for people returning empty bottles for deposits.

The net loss of parking spots for the general public is a cause of concern for Ms. Paterson: “This proposal, in my view, just exacerbates an existing parking deficit.”

Mr. Fobert responded to these concerns by asserting that a retirement residence is the ideal property to address congestion issues, as tenants do not drive to and return from day jobs at peak traffic hours. He adds that Amica, proprietor of the retirement residence, will monitor the parking situation for a year after opening and will pay for the additional spots as needed.

The application heads to city council for final approval on April 26.

890-900 Bank St. proposal

Building height:

Eight and six storeys

Number of residential units:

160

Parking spaces:

50 vehicle, underground

22 bicycle