Preston Street is an odd mainstreet, in that it has minimal hinterland of dense residential development. Hintonburg’s and Westboro’s main street areas are more densely built up and have large catchment areas on all sides with a mix of low-rise and high-rise built form. Preston lost its eastern residential areas when 50’s urban renewal wiped out existing urban fabric to replace it with commuter office towers (NRCan), a commuter high school (Commerce, now Adult HS), and a commercial strip predicated on a city-wide market (the ethnic Italian community) rather than an indigenous market. Thus merchants champion converting housing to parking lots, and since the merchants rarely live in the neighborhood, might be more easily convinced of the merits of selling to developers.
Preston Street, the heart of the remaining bit of Little Italy (which used to include all of what we now call Chinatown) is unusual too in that it is in valley, a syncline caused by the Nepean Gloucester Fault Line, parts of which are visible near Lemieux Island, by the Russian Orthodox church on the transitway, the bowling green beside the Queensway near Parkdale, and Hogs Back.
Notice below the intersection of Carling-Bronson on the top right, and trace your finger along Carling to Preston and then Sherwood and then up the hill to the Farm:
I was interested to come across the drawing below, whose origin shall for the time being remain unspecified. The faint title of the page is “neighborhood analysis”, and the top part of the sketch is a profile of the existing Preston-Carling area as seen looking north from somewhere over Dow’s Lake. The building on the far right is the Fitzsimmon’s Building, aka the Nortake Building, and probably known as something else now, right at the corner of the Carling and Bronson.
The tallest existing building in the mid-point area is the NRCan 18 storey office tower at Rochester. There are plans to build a similar office tower immediately to the north of it, presumably that is the light gray shadow, or it could be the OCH red brick apt building in the distance at Gladstone and Rochester. Note that all the area from about Bell St N to Norfolk is marked as having “NO MAX”, which presumably refers to the height limit. I think this refers only to the NRCan lands, and not to all the lands beyond going back to the Queensway … (Try double clicking on the image to make it larger).
At Preston Street, there is one 9 storey apartment building existing on Sidney Street, a half block down from Carling. The taller gray buildings are presumably the Adobe and Xerox towers at 333 Preston Street. Off to the left of Preston, beyond the OTrain cut, are the CMPA office buildings and then the Botanica apartment buildings on the anticline — the geological rise up cause by the fault line.
It’s worth taking a minute to examine this drawing, and absorbing what is there now.
The second part of the drawing is proposed buildings. I am not sure who is proposing this build-out scenario. It might be the city, or it might be a developer. Nonetheless, the gap between the developer’s consultants and the city planners is not very wide in this neighborhood, so it’s probably fair to assume this isn’t some wild fantasy.
Start at the Bronson end of Carling again, and note the higher building beside the Fitzsimmon’s tower. Is this close, at Carling, or is it beyond, maybe the development proposed near McDonald’s on Bronson? There are rumours of high rises at the newly-vacated lot at Bell/Carling, but these aren’t on this profile. Nor, for that matter, are any developments on the soon-to-be-vacated and sold vacant lands scattered amongst the NRCan buildings.
There is the potential to create a urban sidewalk facade running from Cambridge to Sherwood, should all those high rises have commercial storefronts on the ground floor or second floors (to take advantage of lake views). Can we actually create a new mainstreet atmosphere here?
Preston Street is shown clustered in the future with high rises. The Claridge 42 storey building is shown, and kitty corner across Preston is the Soho Italia tower at about 32 stories. Several high rises are shown on the current Dow Motors Honda site, which is several blocks large, and conveniently has no height limits, which might account for the 42 storey buildings shown there (Richcraft now owns the site). On the west side of the Otrain cut area the proposed Arnon high rises on the parking lot at Carling-Champagne, and beyond them the Soho Champagne twin towers and then the Ashcroft towers where the dog pound used to be. Domicile’s HOM condo is now shown just beyond the existing CMPA office buildings.
These drawings shown an interesting examination of current and possible future development related to the geography and geology of the area.
One tidbit for amusement: the Soho Italia excavation analysis (they are going five or six floors down for the garage) refers to the site draining towards Dow’s Lake. Of course, it is the opposite. Dow’s Lake is uphill, held in place by a dam upon which QE Driveway now runs. The dam was burst once before, in 1900, to flood the lower Preston area and stop the Great Fire. It does make me wonder sometimes about the accuracy of other research that goes into building applications. For interest, stand on the Carling sidewalk and notice how the lawn goes UP to the lake. If you picnic on the grass, you can’t see the lake.
Tomorrow: a similar profile of heights and buildings, drawn from Gladstone to Carling. What high rise fantasies are to be found along Preston??