Thumbs up or down? Planning committee, NCC rule on city-wide development proposals

Stairs view
A rendering of the master concept plan for LeBreton Flats, which the NCC approved in principle this week.

The city’s planning committee has given the green light to a local developer’s controversial plan to build four mid-rise apartment buildings in Sandy Hill, a proposal opponents say will create a noisy enclave of student housing in a quiet neighbourhood.

Robinson Village Ltd. Partnership is proposing to build a nine-storey, 190-unit apartment building at 36 Robinson Ave. as well as three separate six-storey dwellings each containing 46 units. The addresses of those sites are 17, 19 and 23 Robinson Ave., 27, 29 and 31 Robinson Ave. and 130, 134 and 138 Robinson Ave.

Robinson Village is a small neighbourhood just north of the Queensway and west of the Ottawa River, not far from the University of Ottawa’s main and Lees campuses. Most of the surrounding dwellings are single-family homes, low-rise apartments and townhouses.

City zoning calls for a minimum of 17 parking spots for residents at the six-storey sites, but the developer wants to have just three spots at each property, along with two spots for visitors and one car-sharing space. The nine-storey building would have a total of 53 spaces for residents as opposed to the required minimum of 81 spaces.

Opponents slammed the proposal, saying the development doesn’t provide enough parking and will attract short-term student or transient tenants rather than long-term renters, and 92 people signed a petition calling for the development bid to be turned down. 

However, staff noted in the report that the city cannot legally reject a planning application based on the demographics of the tenants it is targeting. 

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who represents the ward, referred to the proposed six-storey buildings as “Bunkhouses 2.0,” saying they would jam too many new residents into a quiet enclave of Sandy Hill. Staff argued the proposed developments are consistent with the existing zoning and should be approved. 

Fleury proposed a motion that would have forced the developer to stick to the required allotment of 132 parking spots, but it was voted down 7-1. Only River ward Coun. Riley Brockington supported it. 

City council is scheduled to consider the proposal at its next meeting on Jan. 29.

Council urged to nix hotel plan

Also at its Thursday meeting, the planning committee recommended that council reject a proposed 17-storey hotel in the ByWard Market, arguing the project wouldn’t fit with planning and heritage policies for the Lowertown neighbourhood.

Bayview Ottawa Holdings has proposed a Hampton Inn by Hilton hotel on the site of a surface parking lot at 116 York St. and is seeking a zoning bylaw amendment to raise the height limits on the site to 60 metres, amend the heritage overlay requirements and reduce loading space provisions.

A city staff report says the planned hotel lacks the necessary angular height plane or setbacks to transition well between neighbouring buildings and is ultimately incompatible with the area. In addition, the lot size of slightly more than 1,000 square metres is well below the 1,800 square metres recommended for high-rise development in Ottawa.

“The scale, massing and height does not relate well to neighbouring properties,” the report reads.

Standard Bread building closer to heritage status

Also Thursday, the committee endorsed a move to grant heritage status to a 96-year-old former commercial building on Gladstone Avenue that’s being eyed as the site of a three-tower mixed-use development.

The committee endorsed a recommendation from the city’s heritage sub-committee to designate the former Standard Bread Company Bakery at 951 Gladstone Ave. as a heritage building in order to preserve elements of the structure first built in 1924. The building is currently home to the Enriched Bread Artists collective.

The Hintonburg Community Association first requested that the city give the building heritage status in 2010. Although city staff agreed with the request, discussion was put on hold in anticipation of a redevelopment proposal, according to a report prepared for the planning committee.

Trinity Development Group and partners CLV Group and PBC Real Estate Advisors are looking to build three towers of 35, 33 and 30 storeys atop the site, which is near the north-south O-Train line and will be located next to a new Gladstone Station that’s slated to be part of the line’s upcoming expansion.

Trinity previously said it would look to maintain elements of the existing building in its final development. If council approves the heritage designation, Trinity would have to prepare a formal conservation plan as part of its application.

LeBreton plan ready for next steps

In another key city-building decision Thursday, the National Capital Commission’s board of directors approved the preliminary master plan for the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats.

The plan builds on a draft master plan announced in November after a previous proposal from Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and Trinity Development Group fell apart when Melnyk launched litigation against Trinity founder John Ruddy and his company, citing conflicts of interest with the developer’s nearby highrise project at 900 Albert St. 

The revised concept plan calls for four unique districts at the 72-acre, NCC-owned property: 

  • the Aqueduct District, which the NCC bills as a “vibrant cultural hub and entertainment district spilling out onto public space along the two aqueducts, part of the historic Ottawa Waterworks Complex;”
  • the Flats District, a residential community with a mix of housing types;
  • the Albert District, a mixed-used neighbourhood anchored by the future main branch of the Ottawa Public Library to the east and a potential “event centre” such as an NHL arena to the west. Homes, offices and shops would be built along Albert Street;
  • and the Park District, which the NCC calls a “unique park and public realm experience” at the western end of the property.

The NCC said in a news release it solicited feedback from more than 5,000 Canadians, adding the plan lays the framework for a “dynamic new community” that will feature more than 30 acres of parks and open spaces, 4.5 million square feet of residential space, 1.25 million square feet of office space and 225,000 square feet of retail space.

The plan is expected to be built in phases. According to the NCC, the area will eventually include 4,000 residential units housing about 7,200 people. Once complete, the neighbourhood is expected to create 6,500 jobs.

NCC chief executive Tobi Nussbaum said in a statement the redeveloped Flats will play “a vital role in the future of Ottawa and Canada’s Capital Region.”

The NCC is expected to approve the final master concept plan this fall and start requesting development proposals in late 2020.