The Gatineau-based developer behind a new apartment complex in Chinatown wants to build a nine-storey mixed-use building on a Centretown property that’s now occupied by a medical office.The Gatineau-based developer behind a new apartment complex in Chinatown wants to build a nine-storey mixed-use building on a Centretown property that’s now occupied by a medical office. In recently filed planning documents, Katasa Group says the proposed building at 381 Kent St. between Gilmour and James streets would feature 218 residential units and more than 1,800 square feet of ground-floor commercial space. The company also plans to build a 4,100-square-foot park on the southwest corner of the site near James Street. The five-storey Kent Medical Building now sits on the one-acre site, which also contains a surface parking lot. Katasa says the complex would include 125 one-bedroom apartments, 56 two-bedroom units, 10 three-bedroom suites and 18 studio apartments as well as seven one-bedroom walk-out units and a pair of two-bedroom walk-outs. The development proposal doesn’t specify whether the suites would be rental apartments or condominium units, but planning documents refer to occupants as “tenants” rather than owners. Katasa did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. The proposal includes two levels of underground parking with space for 161 vehicles as well as 110 bicycle parking spaces. The plan also calls for about 7,200 square feet of rooftop amenity space and balconies on upper-floor units. The proposal would be Katasa’s second major multi-residential housing development in Ottawa. The builder is currently finishing a nine-storey rental apartment complex at 770 Somerset St. W. that is expected to be ready for occupancy this summer. The Kent Street site is currently zoned for residential use with an urban exception, meaning it would need to be rezoned for mixed-use development. Katasa is also asking for minor amendments to current setback requirements. While the property is located in the Centretown Heritage Conservation District, the developer says the existing building, which dates from about the 1950s, is classified as a “non-contributing” structure to the heritage district. A heritage impact study included with the application says the proposal is consistent with the district’s policies and guidelines. Katasa says the building has been designed to fit in with the overall character of the neighbourhood. A document prepared by consulting firm Fotenn Planning and Design says the red-brick exterior “maintains the established tone and colour palette in Centretown,” adding it “takes design cues from low-rise apartment buildings as well as other mid-rise apartment buildings in Centretown in this regard.” Katasa – which told OBJ in 2017 it plans to construct a number of retirement homes and student residences on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River – isn’t the only builder that’s eager to redevelop prime real estate on one of Centretown’s busiest thoroughfares. The Taggart Group unveiled plans earlier this year to eventually tear down a historic office building located a block north of Katasa’s proposed development at 359 Kent St. and replace it with a 30-storey highrise containing about 320 rental apartments. The plans come as developers continue to ramp up construction of purpose-built rental complexes in the downtown core amid rising demand. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., apartments and condos accounted for 52 per cent of Ottawa’s record total of more than 11,000 new housing starts in 2022. It marked the first time in more than 20 years that new builds of purpose-built rental and condominium suites surpassed starts of single-detached and row houses. The housing agency said soaring house prices and rising interest rates that make borrowing to buy a home more expensive have ratcheted up demand for new rental units. There were 2,818 rental units launched in 2022, up from 1,196 the previous year. CMHC also cited strong immigration and the return of students to university campuses as other key factors driving the need for additional rental housing. “As a result, in 2022, the vacancy rate on the rental market decreased to 2.1 (per cent), and rents increased considerably,” the agency said in its spring Housing Supply Report. “The pandemic also delayed starts of a number of large-scale projects, which were finally shovel-ready in 2022. All of these factors led to an unusually high level of activity on the rental market.”
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