95 – 101 Norman Street: blockbusting begins

Norman is a little dead end street, lined with small single family homes on the south side, and a mix of homes and a defunct garage on the north side. Vehicular access to the street is from Preston only, beside the Black Cat Cafe. It’s a narrow street, not cute in the generally accepted way in its current form. But it is home to many families.

And most importantly, it is surrounded by many similar streets stretching between the OTrain greenway corridor and the government office complex along Rochester Street.

The last few revised plans from the city actually showed the area continuing as low rise (shown in light yellow), while increases in height and density where in other blocks, leaving a generous swath of low rise along the tracks, both sides of Preston (also low rise, shown in light pink) and a further three block zone on the east side of Preston. .

the city official plan shows the band of low-rise along the east side of the Otrain corridor in light yellow. Right smack in the middle of the strip is a proposed high rise

But the City planning documents are a masterful collection of mutually contradictory statements. It can designate an area low rise, but then favour high rise applications. Thus the city planning dept is enthused about the proposal from Taggart to redevelop a chunk of Norman Street into a high rise. Reading the proponents application for the site is truly Alice-in-Wonderland planning, where 18 stories (on top of a four storey podium, so possibly 23 stories) can be portrayed as a gesture of moderation compared to the 30 storey zoning along Champagne, and a 23 storey building set back only 21′ from the back yards of little houses on 20×100′ lots can be cast as “compatible”.

A slight variant of this plan was turned down in fall, 2011 as being too incompatible with the city official plan. So what has changed? Well, this time around, the city seems keen to rezone the area.

Recall from the post a few weeks ago that when George Dark, the city’s favorite outside planning consultant (other than Fotenn) held a charette for the neighborhood, he introduced the notion of leaving these blocks zoned low rise but permitting high rises within them. Sounded bizarre to me at the time, but his contracts with the city have been extended and expanded (sorry, no terms of reference available, thank you for asking) and this proposal and the city’s response seem to anticipate the Dark side:

Here is what the developer, Taggart, partnering with the omnipresent architect of mass- produced high rises, Rod Lahey, are proposing along the north side of Norman where they own most of the block:


There is a high rise component that takes up half the parcel of land, 18-23 stories high*, rising straight up from the street level.This proximity to the street is described as “enjoys a close relationship to the street”.  The other half of the street frontage is a low rise apartment building, four stories high. The low rise and the high rise sections look like and are treated as one and the same façade and building. The only articulation that suggests a podium appears to be a change in brick colour. The low rise section does not suggest a townhouse composition, and given the failure of developers to provide these even when promised on other lots nearby, this might at least give the impression of honesty in packaging.

Up top, the glass-intensive floors replace the brick in a step-down gesture that might cause the eye to be persuaded there is a downward gradation from west to east (left to right in the pic) . Recall that the next highrise west, on the other side of the OTrain, will be in the high twenties or thirty floor range. Thus, the ‘transition’ zone from high rise to low rise neighborhood must occur entirely within the ‘low rise’ neighborhood. This is also consistent with Dark’s view of the downward transition north from Carling: it was to occur within the low rise zone, and never interfere with the high rise zone.  By this metric, residents as far west as Bayswater might want to be cautious of ‘transitions’ from  the west side of the Champagne high rise zone.

And here is the view of the “ends” of the building as seen from the east and west:


The back of the building is essentially the same as the front, except instead of being slightly set back from a street, it will be 21′ from the lot line of the low rise homes on its north. Mind, those low rise homes may not be there for long.

The rezoning and OP applications manage to skirt that the structure is going on a shallow 100′ deep residential lot, by emphasizing they have combined numerous small lots to get a lot of frontage, and then neglecting to mention the depth of the lot, nor the narrowness of the street:

I was unable to ascertain just how the building is to be accessed when on such a narrow dead end street. For example, how does a taxi take someone to the front door or pick someone up, when there is no turning zone, and cars park on both sides of the street? Will they all be using neighbours’ driveways for turning? And where does a moving van park, and indeed, how does it even get in and out of that street?

Might the developer and city be considering removing a chunk of the adjacent linear park along the OTrain to make a turning facility? (George Dark calls for a street parallel to the OTrain, but this building doesn’t give up any space for one, so it would have to be extracted from the OTrain multiuser pathway space instead).  Indeed, the lack of thought given to the streetscape of this building is appalling  While I can’t expect the city to do something imaginative to the street, surely the developer would be interested proposing streetscaping Norman in order to transform it from an overwhelmed dead end into a urban walkable piazza zone that might mollify existing residents and render their building more marketable.


The City has put up the proposal on its web site www.Ottawa.ca/devapps. This means the planning dept is happy with it, and will recommend to Council that it be built. But given the “delay” imposed on Claridge’s 40 storey condo proposed just a block away, pending receipt of the new outsourced detailing planning writeup being done by the Dark gang in downtown Toronto, I suspect the same delay will be put onto Taggart.
Which gives the neighborhood some time to fight the Dark forces for a low rise designation that actually means “low rise”, and to negotiate with the developer for a building with better scale and neighborhood integration.

As is, this proposal flunks.


the drawings may show 18 storey building, but the city circulation says 18 stories on top of a four storey podium. Drawings are for illustration and are not definitive.





10 thoughts on “95 – 101 Norman Street: blockbusting begins

  1. Perhaps the lack of planning for street traffic means they will expect everyone to be car free and just carry everything in (not). While this may fit with the Dark vision, it doesn’t fit with keeping Preston Street and the area livable. They had better not take land from the linear park! There is so much here not to like for sure.

  2. Interesting article. I don’t think you can make a correct assumption that just because the background studies etc are uploaded on to the City website that this application has the blessing of the City Planning Department. The applicants are required to have a pre-consultation meeting with the City staff, get feedback based on the initial meetings and then finalize the application. The applicants are taking a calculated risk that the application will be judged favourably. There are many applications on the City website that are filed that do not have staff support, but City staff are obliged to post the application if it is filed.

    Putting that aside, this application strikes me as a pie in the sky application that will go through many iterations before anything is approved. For the sake of the designers/consultants I hope they are not doing this on a fixed fee basis.

    1. I beg to differ. The application has been in “pre-consultation” for about a year, and the application has been finalized. I think they went public because they have the blessing of the planning dept. The main problem was how to approve it when it contradicts the OP and zoning. Solution: hired gun planner recommends new, higher height limits within the “low rise” areas, and then provides the wording for the new rules to the city to cut and paste as an amendment to OP.

      I really dont think the applicant is proposing an amendment to the OP all by herself.

      As for traffic, the applicant tried to buy one or lots north of the site in order to run Dark Blvd thru to Beech, but were dissuaded by the high cost. Ergo, the street can come out of the greenspace corridor, or the city can expropriate, or the bldg needs redesign …

      1. You may know more about the timing, but my experience (I have filed applications of all types in the City) is that the City uploads them within days of an application being filed and deemed to be complete. I am not aware that an application being deemed to be complete and an application getting the support of planning department are the same thing.

        Whichever way you look at it, the density and height of this development on what is basically a dead end street is very high and I’m sure that the Councillor will not be in support. In many ways this street is like Larch or Laurel further to the north…2 streets I know well…a project of this scale would totally throw the neighbourhood dynamics out of whack.

  3. I really like the design, and how it fits in with the neighbourhood (and future buildings) in terms of height. However, I completely agre that there is a huge lack of planning when it comes to building access. We all know cars will live there, so something has to be done. I hope to hell the City doesn’t add a new road along the O-Train corridor – that would go against everything the City is trying to accomplish with its intensification and greening efforts.

  4. Apart from the cross-the street neighbours (vis-a-vis traffic and view out the front window) the most affected are the wee Beech St houses to the north (dang! I used to make beer in the basement of one of those hovels) and the low-rise condos on the old C-town Building Supply site, who lose a whack of sunlight. How come no one has talked about leasing air-rights over the O-train to resolve the “transition zone” predicament, which, as you’ve rightly noted, likely falls equally to the west as to the east?

    Is there not some way to stop this nonsense? I’m beginning to think Mr. Lahey is joining that select group that includes the principals of Claridge and Ashcroft (and now Taggart?), about whom I might have some hesitance to swerve to avoid should my brakes fail while they were crossing the street in front of me. Bless them, I wouldn’t recognize them in a line-up so I suppose they’re safe enough…

  5. Eric, someone should speak to the residents of 104 Beech Street. (Last house before the MUP)They are an elderly couple who have one of the most impressive backyard gardens in the neighbourhood, equiped with a small green house. They are very friendly, they once offered us tomatoes for my wife to sing them a song on the guitar she was carrying.

    This application is an assault on this couple’s way of life and the traditions of our community. It’s tragic.

    1. Agreed. I don’t think the developers give a hoot about this man’s tomatoes, however.

      It all comes down to money, which the developers earn in spades the higher up they build, and use to fund the electoral campaigns of our elected council and pay for advertising in the private sector media. May both Ottawa council, Mayor Watson and local private media grow a spine on this development.

      1. That elderly couple is what prevented Taggart from buying the houses on Beech Street. The amount they were asking for their two houses was as much as what was paid for 95 (Franks Auto), 97 (Former BIA offices) and 99 (house) Norman. If they had accepted $600,000 per house this development would have been a lot bigger.

    2. That elderly couple is what prevented Taggart from buying the houses on Beech Street. The amount they were asking for their two houses was as much as what was paid for 95 (Franks Auto), 97 (Former BIA offices) and 99 (house) Norman. If they had accepted $600,000 per house this development would have a lot bigger.

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