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. .
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.