Mizrahi development on Wellington Street gets planning committee stamp of approval

Construction of a controversial Wellington Street condominium could begin in 2017, now that the city’s planning committee has approved the results of the developer’s appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.

The committee voted 8-2 in favour of the proposal Tuesday, with Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum and Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper dissenting. The proposed development is located in Mr. Leiper’s ward.

Toronto-based Mizrahi Developments is planning the 12-storey mixed-use development at 1445 Wellington St. between Island Park Drive and Carleton Avenue. It said the building would not be profitable at a lower height due to industrial contamination and underlying bedrock.

The planning committee disagreed, striking down the proposal in May 2014, prompting the appeal to the OMB. One year later, the board ruled the developer could proceed with 12 storeys as long as the proposal included "landmark architecture," which the board has referred to in the past as "an element of wow."

City staff told the planning committee they are still opposed to 12 storeys but concede the new design does fit the "landmark architecture" description.

The OMB ruling prompted interesting discussion at Tuesday's meeting on topics such as the definitions of "landmark architecture" and "wow." Almost 20 delegations made presentations to the committee, representing a mix of those for and against the development.

When the OMB made its ruling, Mr. Leiper told OBJ it could create a precedent for future development in the city.

“The fundamental premise that somehow landmark architecture should automatically result in height greater than what we’ve planned for is something I reject,” he said at the time. “I think the whole city, certainly the urban area, will be following this closely. Now that the door’s been opened, we can expect a lot of different parties to walk through it. Mizrahi won’t be the last to rely on it.”

Mr. Leiper also said the definition of "landmark architecture" is subjective and that the OMB lacked the expertise to make such a designation.

“Frankly, I don’t think that is the OMB’s job,” Mr. Leiper said. “The OMB is not a centre of architectural excellence.”

If council approves the proposal at its next meeting on Wednesday, the OMB will make a final ruing.