Gatineau developer wants to replace Billings Bridge-area burger joint with apartment highrise

Lofty highrise

A Gatineau developer is proposing a 26-storey highrise with a mix of rental apartments and hotel suites near Billings Bridge Shopping Centre, saying the project will breathe new life into a part of the city that’s overdue for residential development.

In planning documents recently filed with the city, Lofty Riverside GP says it wants to construct a 20-storey tower on top of a six-storey podium at 1335 and 1339 Bank St. 

The project would include 326 residential units and 65 “limited service” hotel rooms. A 2,000-square-foot cafe and bar is proposed for retail space on the north side of the ground level, while various amenities, including a fitness centre for residents, would occupy the rest of the floor.

An auto repair shop and a Harvey’s fast-food outlet currently sit on the two parcels of land, which are located less than half a kilometre north of Billings Bridge Shopping Centre. The buildings would be torn down to make way for the new development.

“There is a need for rental opportunities in Ottawa, and this project addresses this demand,” the application says, while contending that the existing businesses on the site “do not contribute to a vital or viable mainstreet.”

The developer says the residential suites would range from studio units to three-bedroom apartments with two baths. Lofty Riverside also says it plans to earmark some of the units for affordable housing priced below market rents.

Two levels of underground parking would have 142 spaces for residents, while 30 surface-level parking spots accessible from Riverside Drive would be reserved for visitors. 

Current zoning calls for a minimum of 196 residential parking spots, but the builder says a lower parking-to-resident ratio is intended to boost ridership at the nearby Billings Bridge Transitway station as well as on two bus routes that stop directly in front of the proposed highrise.

Under the current Bank Street Secondary Plan, buildings have a height limit of 50 metres, or about 16 storeys, meaning the project will require council approval for an amendment to the city’s Official Plan as well as zoning amendments.

Eyeing more density

Noting that the secondary plan was approved more than a decade ago, Lofty Riverside argues the height restrictions are outdated and don’t address the need for buildings of greater density to help alleviate the shortage of apartments near central Ottawa.

“Since that time there has been significant increases in demand for rental housing within the greenbelt,” the application says.

The Gatineau firm isn’t the first developer to try to capitalize on the development potential of the site.

Five years ago, a group called Cassone Construction proposed a 16-storey mixed-use highrise with a mix of ground-floor retail and 100 residential units at 1335 Bank St.

The plan received site plan approval in 2018, but the developer ended up selling the property to Lofty Riverside last year. The Gatineau company then bought the Harvey’s land next door in July, paving the way for the new proposal.