A multimillion-dollar proposal to build a nine-storey mixed-use development next to the former All Saints Anglican Church in Sandy Hill is a big step closer to reality after the city’s planning committee gave the project the go-ahead on Tuesday.
Full council still must approve the plan, which calls for the church building at 315 Chapel St. to be maintained as a public meeting place and a new mid-rise residential complex or hotel to be built next door on the current site of the Bate Hall assembly space, which would be demolished. Unlike All Saints, which held its last service in 2014, Bate Hall does not have heritage designation.
According to a development proposal filed with the city, the historic former house of worship – which was completed in 1900 and hosted a royal wedding and the state funeral of former prime minister Sir Robert Borden – would be converted into a restaurant on the main floor and an event hall on the second floor.
The new nine-storey structure on the former site of Bate Hall would be used for commercial purposes such as retail, office or restaurant space on the lower floors and would feature either about 60 residential units on the top five floors or a hotel with 80 to 100 suites. The complex would include 90 underground parking spaces on four levels with an entrance on Blackburn Avenue.
The current community plan caps building heights in the neighbourhood at four storeys, requiring rezoning approval for the project.
“Re-purposing the church will help to preserve its established significance as a heritage building,” the application filed with the city said. “Together, the re-purposing and development of the new building will respect and enhance the existing and desired character throughout Sandy Hill.”
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who represents the ward, voiced his support for the proposal in a staff report to the committee.
“This (takes) an innovative approach to preserving and energizing an important heritage asset in our community."
“This application has taken an innovative approach to preserving and energizing an important heritage asset in our community,” he said.
“Pursuing smart growth in older established neighbourhoods is essential, and we welcome projects that are developed with those community goals in mind.”
A group of local residents backed by investors from Ottawa and Alberta purchased the property in 2015 for $1.5 million with the goal of turning the former church and the adjoining land into a community hub.
The group, called Save our Saints, held a pair of public meetings in late 2016 and early 2017 to gauge public support before the development application was submitted and hosted an open house in early January where it presented its plans.
“Our vision is to create a vibrant urban space that will serve residents and tourists alike,” Save our Saints leader Leanne Moussa told the media in 2015.
According to the city staff report submitted to the planning committee, about 80 residents submitted comments on the proposal, with about half supporting it and half opposed. The most common concerns were fears of increased traffic, the height of the proposed new nine-storey tower, its design and the lack of specific details on the residential component of the complex.