They only come back … bigger

Sometimes community groups or neighbours successfully kill a project. One prominent developer told me at a Champagne Avenue area meeting that if they succeed in killing a project, it only goes away to come back bigger. Because the next proponent has to cover his own costs and (now higher) risks, plus pay to buy the land which now included the cost of the rejected development plans and the original proponent’s time.

This is playing out today at the corner of Scott / Lanark / West Village Private. The lot is supposed to be a parking facility for a nearby Buddhist temple, but I’ve never seen anyone park there.

West Village townhouses are to the left, that’s a electrical power station in the red brick building, and the Metropole is across the street off Lanark.

A number of years ago, in 2010, a developer proposed a six storey apartment of conventional styling, with resident parking:

The neighbours raised hell, screaming of traffic jams and possible perverts living there just to peer into their bedroom windows a half block away.

A particular sore point was the “store”, which was the city’s term and there at the city’s insistence (the developer didn’t want it).

It was actually commercial space, since Scott from this point west is a traditional main street and the city wanted active sidewalk frontages. (A low rise condo apartment a few blocks west of here squeaked in under the old rules, and was built with a front lawn, side yard,  and no commercial space. It will still blend in nicely as the street develops).

The project died at the Committee of Adjustment, victim of a hundred little cuts. It lay fallow since, the land changed hands, and now a new proposal comes forward.

As our Voice of Experience predicted, it’s back, bigger than ever, now 12 stories, with 70 units:

It looks to be mostly small units, very little parking. I dunno if there will be commercial space.

The exterior bears a certain similarity to his previous project on Perkins:

The neighbours will no doubt oppose this. But the city is now more insistent on having intensification near transit stations (Westboro transit station is a short bit west of the Scott Street site).

And the City is (justifiably) more confident that they can turn automotive strip streets like Scott west of Lanark, the epitome of crass ugliness, into a walkable traditional main street if new developments are built to the sidewalk and have active ground floor uses.

I will be interested to know how wide a sidewalk the city will require … it should be very generously wide, maybe 6m,  to encourage walk-in traffic to the new LRT station.

I note the Councillor is already semi on-board, at least liking the height better than the 22 stories proposed at the corners of McRae and Scott.

I don’t think there will be any change in the oppositional arguments from 2010, but there is probably a much more intensification-receptive council.

For a neat sense of deja vu all over again, you can find the original story and issues from here:

1946 Scott Street condo


Will the Voice of Experience be proved right?


8 thoughts on “They only come back … bigger

  1. In the old days, developers would have a 9-storey building planned and come in first with a 12-storey application. The neighbourhood would jump up/down and, lo and behold, the building would be scaled back to 9-storeys!. Wouldn’t work now, of course, because the staff would insist on at least 12 and push for higher.

  2. Another variation on your theme : ” Coming back Bigger” occurred at 809 Richmond Rd (Kristies Restaurant) near the future Cleary LRT Station.

    Originally the developer proposed two 16 story apartments on the site. When Woodroffe North residents complained about the shadow cast by the 16 story building on their properties; the developer came back with a 9 story building which reduced the shadow on Woodroffe North but at the same time increased the size of the other building to 24 stories , which increased the shadow on Carlingwood area residents. City Council approved the development.

    There is now a precedent for more 24 story buildings along the future Richmond – Byron Complete Street corridor from the new Cleary LRT station to the new New Orchard LRT station.

    In hindsight the local communities associations should have accepted the original two 16 story buildings

    1. the redevelopment of kristy’s rates up there with the westgate mall bad redo. Sometimes it seems our city is doomed to unimaginative thinking and determined to miss opportunities to do something better and more profitable.

  3. There is a significant backlog of approved but not yet started highrise buildings in Ottawa. The backlog is primarily the result of demand for condo apartments not meeting the potential supply, and because what is being offered does not meet what is wanted.

    In any event, we should expect that, in the years to come as the backlog is slowly eroded, the developers will return with proposals for buildings that are bigger, higher, and who knows, perhaps even have units that meet the wants of potential purchasers. At that time, as is pointed out in the article and comments, there will be less resistance from the city.

    It reminds me of when my kids were younger. If they didn’t like the answer (generally “no”), they bided their time (generally measured in minutes) and then came back with a more convoluted set of reasons why they should get their way. The difference is that my answer was invariably the same.

  4. Eric, that reminds me of some research I did into the loss of a heritage building in Kanata back in the late 1980s. The building was Hodgins House, a massive 19th century stone mansion. A developer first proposed to preserve the house as part of a townhome residential development, backing onto existing single family homes.

    Marianne Wilkinson recalls: “There was a proposal to put up a housing development on that corner, townhouses and things, and save the house. The people living around there complained bitterly. They didn’t want that there. I said ‘if you don’t do this, you could get something worse’ and they sure did.”

    And what was the “worse” part? They tore down the house under questionable circumstances, and replaced it with a strip mall and McDonald’s:

  5. Surely there’s a limit

    If the three 50+ stories buildings slated for the City Centre triangle fail, can we expect the next developer to ask for three 80’s?

    1. Yes. If the current proposal fails, the project goes on the shelf for 5-10 years. The new proponent has to buy the more-valuable land (presuming the LRT works) and cover the millions spent on the failed project. Just like the old technology of 10 years ago made 20 storey condos normal, then as technology changed to make 50 economic, so the city changes the plans / sells the zoning to allow 50. In another 10 years it might well be 80 stories. The city will be salavating to collect the fees for selling the upzoning.

      Just imagine the nice view from your high rise retirement condo …

      1. Or, if not 3 x 80, there is plenty of room to add another high rise at the eastern end of the site … or to buy air rights for a fourth tower at the western or southern portion. Recall that Trinity has already tried to buy out City Centre site too … do you think that was for the currently-planned six high rises or for more even higher high rises??

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