Claridge is proposing a new condo tower for their site at Breezehill and Somerset Streets, just west of the O-Train corridor. The site is between Devonshire school and Somerset, in the old Chinese market store (which was Acklands AutoSupply before that). (Pending zoning approvals etc the store is being renovated and rented out to a dollar store).
Immediately to the west of the site is a four storey red brick office building, opposite that is the 18 storey residential tower that looks like it might date from the sixties or early seventies.
Here in a nutshell is the neighborhood context:
The left picture, a typical helicopter planning view, is taken from somewhere southeast of the site, maybe above Preston Street. In the right picture our helicopter has flown us over Spadina Avenue, the existing 18 floor tower is visible on the left and the distinctive curved City Centre building is visible on the top right. There are already several high rises within three blocks or so of this proposed building (two on Bayswater; one at Somerset/WestWellington).
Claridge is proposing a 28 storey tower, with a 3 to 5 storey podium that actually reads like a real bit of building and isn’t just drawn on the base of the tower to pretend it is progressive planning.
The building podium will have commercial spaces wrapping around the Somerset faces:
As illustrated above, the second thru fifth floors of the podium are shown as residential uses. I don’t imagine this is locked down yet, and could very well turn out to be commercial spaces.
Claridge is offering residential “townhouse-style” units on the Breezehill, back, and lane sides:
If the past practices of Claridge are anything to go by, the townhouses are most likely to be “drawn on” the building and not really contribute to street level life. It will take vigilance on the part of the Community Association and the support of the Councillor to force these units to provide real, actual street level activity. This is best provided by ensuring they do not have “back doors” into the elevator lobby, garage, and internal corridors, so that people actually come and go by way of their front (exterior) doors and walkways.
Of the 271 units, a welcome 105 will be two bedroom. This is a pleasing shift towards some “family oriented” condos. Of course, he will also sell you a three bedroom unit, but at the typical construction selling price of $500 a foot these become rather pricey.
The proponent is asking to move the building back a bit further from the sidewalk along Somerset Street both to handle the slight grade elevation change along the block, and to provide additional sidewalk space for a cafe or sidewalk uses. As seen from the existing conditions photo (above, showing the former market in operation) the front sidewalk could stand to be a bit wider.
The garage to the building is off the public laneway that runs up through the centre of the block. It enters the building at its midpoint (see car entering garage in the right photo above). Claridge is proposing to widen the laneway to handle the traffic. And possibly to introduce measures to thwart traffic from going southwards past Devonshire school parking lot.
I’m not particularly happy with this lane access. While the exiting cars are facing the red brick office building, they will provide lots of traffic to cross the Somerset sidewalk at a midblock location, not far from either the Bayswater or Breezehill intersections. Unless the office building parking lot is fenced off, some exiting cars will cut through their lot to access Bayswater.
A better solution might put the garage entrance on the south edge of the lot, adjacent the playground. While this cuts the Breezehill sidewalk there is less pedestrian traffic on that street. This would require a slight redesign of the building to put apartments above the garage entrance. However, since the developer is proposing to provide daycare space valued at $300,000 as part of his community benefits (section 37-ish) , this could be located on the southeast corner too, allowing it direct access to the school playground (this side is the smallest-kids playground). Removing the townhouse units from this area is not a problem in my estimation, given the unlikeliness of them actually animating the dead strip of grass that is currently proposed to run along the south side of the building.
A condo on this site has the potential to provide some neighborhood housing and intensification without being directly adjacent much existing housing (there are a few low rise house conversions to the SW along Bayswater), it avoids a number of shadow issues, animates the least-lively section of Somerset, and offers residents easy access to transit (to Bayview via Breezehill north or via the new North/South multipurpose path to be constructed this summer, along the O-train corridor) and good views. In all, not a bad start.
It is also adjacent the Bayview-Carling CDP study area, which is pretty much committed to developing both sides of the O-Train corridor with high rises.
There will be a public meeting on the proposal on Wedn. March 7th, 7pm, at the Hintonburg Community Centre. Expect to hear a lot of complaints about height, traffic, the sacred need to provide free teacher parking, etc.