It’s a Soho World After All …

Soho Champagne & Soho Italia have a sales office at the south end of Preston, on the proposed Soho Italia site. Now the sales office is really an information office, as there isn’t yet anything to sell on either location, nor is there much information. They will take your name if you are interested in the Soho Champagne (first tower of which is at the top of the photo, in dark; its larger sibling is shown transparent, as is the Soho Italia tower) and ask for “community support” for the Italia Tower.

I declined to give my support, and the rep didn’t seem surprised.

Still, they spent a few bucks to show the neighborhood in model format, including a lot of park and lake at the southeast.

23 thoughts on “It’s a Soho World After All …

  1. When you see a diorama like this SohoItalia really stands out. I wonder why the need to make it so much taller than the Champagne towers which seem fine to me. Is it just bragging rights and money? As well, this tower will become an Ottawa skyline feature. You will not be able to avoid it if you are out on the Dow’s Lake or even walking around the farm. Would a more imaginative design have been too much to ask for? I realize not everyone in London (U.K.) likes the Gherkin (30 St. Mary’s Axe) but it is an interesting addition to the skyline. It elicits interesting responses when you talk about it and it is architecturally noteworthy. Another tall rectangle for Ottawa. Ho hum.

  2. Is spotting a tall building in the distance – several kilometres away (if you’re walking in the farm) – that big a hardship? Just trying to figure out why seeing such a thing would ruin one’s day. I guess inanimate objects can be viewed as obscene… in Ottawa, anyways.

  3. My biggest concern is the unfriendly box at the bottom. I am less concerned with height than the walkability and livability of the neighbourhood. Putting multistory black box forgets the most important scale of all: that of the pedistrian. Eye level, 5km/h. How many people will enjoy the building from that helicopter? A lot less than those whose street level experience would be hampered by an ugly functionless monolith (as it currently appears to be proposed, at least.)

  4. A 35-storey tower will cut off sunlight for a large number of neighbours. I prefer a limit of about on street face height (depending on the street) and then staggered set backs on higher storeys. I’m a big fan of mid-rise buildings, and this certainly isn’t one. This tower might look nice at 5km away, but if you live or work next to something like that it would suck. Buildings should be restricted to a height limit relative to their neighbours. 50% or 100% taller might work, but 1600% taller, no way.

  5. So change the colour of the “box” and have it start – like the Mondrian – one storey up from street level.

    Pedestrian scale respected, problem solved, which is easy to do when you worry about what’s at street level, not what’s up in the sky.

  6. If the design of the podium was the real concern of residents (and I admit it’s ugly and should be changed), there would have been a cry of “change the podium” this last month or two instead of ‘kill the tower!’

    Nowhere did I hear mention of the podium as being the main criticism of this proposal, it was just height, height, height, taller than other buildings, out of scale, character, height, etc, etc. Same goes for any tall proposal in Ottawa, only in some cases, change the word ‘podium’ to ‘setback’.

    If residents made more of a point of demanding better architecture and street-level interaction instead of simply demanding that all buildings be halved in height so that nothing is taller than anything else, we’d have a better city. Height, to some people, equals architecture; in turn, short and plain is more pleasing to the eye to some people than a taller building that’s more intricately designed.

    I guess conformity is bliss to some people, but to others not living in a dystopian future it’s mind-numbing, like visual tapioca. And we have to save national treasures like this lot (recently approved for development amid much protest):

    I’m sure Greenpeace will hop on board with the cutting of Beaver Pond for single family homes as long as they know ecological treasures like this are being saved from development by residents who have the city’s best interests in mind…

    give me a break…

  7. my house is one of those wee houses in the picture. that tower just looms over my wonderful, tiny house. all i see is a future in shadowy darkness with the height of the tower. how will my established gardens and vegetable patch survive with 35 stories casting its shadow overhead?

    i want to see the land developed, i want to see more development on preston. i want a grocery store near-by, a liquor store, a range of shops for all the neighbourhood to use.

    i just don’t see how the scale and type of building they are proposing fits into the neighbourhood or benefits the neighbourhood? we can’t do our groceries in a museum (as proposed for the main floor).

    1. how will my established gardens and vegetable patch survive with 35 stories casting its shadow overhead?

      How does it survive now, when it’s cloudy?

      Same way.

      1. I gather Moammar Gadhafi needs a spokesman with your kind of sensitivity and understanding to calm the agitated peons around him.

      2. but there will be no sun at all, that is much different than a few cloudy days.

        like i said, i want these empty spaces developed on preston. i definitely want more foot traffic along the street. i want businesses to move into the area to serve the neighbourhood’s everyday needs (and not just our dining out needs).

      3. How close is your place to the proposed building? It would have to be directly adjacent to its north side for “no sun” to be ever true, given the latitude of Ottawa and the orientation of the street grid.

  8. If a 15 storey building was built next to your house, your backyard would be in shade for the same amount of time as if it was a 30 storey building. The sun moves throughout the course of the day.
    The only way to ensure no shading would be to have no development, which would make a lot of people happy.

    The way people talk about high buildings in this city conjures up images of an oppressed society living forever in a dingy, grey world, scribbling diary entries under the heading of ‘Life under the tower: Day 729’

    1. Unfortunately, you won’t find particularly many of those people on this blog. You will probably find principled objections to certain projects, but your blanket criticism isn’t particularly applicable here.

      1. In retrospect, I should say “Fortunately” you won’t find many of those people here. It’s only unfortunate in that I think your rhetoric is misplaced(and perhaps a little bit wasted) trying to convince people who generally have a pretty nuanced view of things.

  9. Hence the earlier Gadhafi comment from your namesake. Nuanced, indeed.

    That said, the majority of posters on this fabulous blog are light years ahead of the newsy comment board posters that I get a chuckle from each and every day. I hope I am too (fingers crossed).

    1. Well he missed the point, didn’t he? Clouds occur only some days and don’t always cut off all solar radiation, but a building shades a garden every day reliably and fully. Over the course of a year, the garden receives less sunlight and that ultimately affects plant growth. It’s like moving to a more northerly latitude. Gardens would be less productive.

      His comment displayed the same kind of dismissive attitude that dictators throughout time have displayed in response to the grievances of the populace.

      The basic problem we as a city have with intensification is that the specific goals of developers and the public as they relate to intensification are at odds. When the public hears the justifications for intensification – reducing outward growth, reusing existing infrastructure, increasing the vitality of areas by introducing more people, they think of filling in vast empty parking lots and other derelict lands along with sensitive infilling of vacant lots and moderate turnover of aged structures in existing areas. They may also expect that new suburban developments that do get built might actually look like real walkable neighbourhoods. Developers, however, see intensification as a way to make profits off the demand for living in walkable neighbourhoods – existing walkable neighbourhoods. Accordingly, they try to cram in buildings that are as high and as big as possible into the few such neighbourhoods that exist – basically Hintonburg-Westboro, Little Italy and the Glebe along with Centretown and the Byward Market. Those same developers have never shown any inclination whatsoever to build walkable neighbourhoods from scratch in the suburbs or out of the suburban retail greyfields they created a generation ago. Not too long ago College Square next to Algonquin College and Baseline Station was completely rebuilt – without any residential being added whatsoever. Laurentian HS gets torn down but is there any residential in the plan for its replacement? Where was the skyscraper they could have built – virtually at a regional high spot – without shadowing anyone? Why is it that we cannot find a ‘suburban’ (I speak of location, not design) mainstreet that is lined by buildings that are 4,6,8 storeys tall with ground floor retail and with a density gradient fall-off into the surrounding neighbourhoods rather than shopping districts completely divorced from anything else? Why are those neighbourhoods almost bereft of anything taller than 2 storeys? For intensification to succeed both in its own terms and politically, it has to be everywhere, not just concentrated in the parts of the city that are already the densest.

      This is why we have the kind of reactions from residents of existing walkable areas that we do. There’s a disconnect from what intensification is understood to be for and what developers present as intensification, and further anger when the City’s planners basically back the developers over plans that were prepared with community input. The reflexive instinct of some to call people ‘nimby’s is distinctly unhelpful.

  10. Denser suburbs are starting to be built, Barrhaven being an example. As of a few months ago, four-storey condos went on sale next to the soon to be completed transitway in the Ampersand project (also located next to stores), while eight-storey condos will be marketed come March along the same Transitway line (Longfields Station).

    Laurentian might have been redeveloped as commercial, but there are grand plans for Central Park right next to it.

    So, some effort is being taken to make up for the two storey, vinyl-clad mistakes of the past. That said, I’m not sure how a large residential building built on vacant land in a downtown area or a medium-sized building in an adjacent-to-downtown area is so terrible, as people in those buildings are likely to join the other walkers of the walkable community in going about day to day life. Is there a tipping point reached where there are too many walkers mingling with the existing walkers?

    Forget Soho Italia, and forget the convent. When I see opposition and outcry like what was seen yesterday over the 89-91 Nepean Street proposal (a tall building surrounded by tall and medium buildings, one block from a future grocery store and two blocks from express buses and future light rail), I have to wonder at what irreversible harm is being done to the surrounding community. I’ve walked down that street many a time and it’s a dead zone after the civil servants have gone home. No chance of that sidewalk exceeding its capacity. Despite what the community associations say, I’m never in fear of getting hit by a car crossing that street, because there aren’t that many.

    What this rambling tome is trying to ask: is there anywhere in the core area of the city that could sustain high density residential development? Because as far as I can tell, you want skyscrapers built in the suburbs, even ones that don’t yet exist (but should). People move to the suburbs because some still dream of owning a single-detached home. Others move downtown to be able to walk places and do things. The latter group of people traditionally accepted that they would have to share said space and do said things alongside other residents – that was the main appeal. Now it seems, people want their peace and quiet downtown, their right to unobstructed views in all directions, an empty street to drive their car on, but want all the convenient trappings of downtown as well. Does such a place exist?

    I’m not screaming NIMBY at you, in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used that word; rather, I’m just shaking my head at these attempts to rid downtown of community-destroying people.

  11. Thank you for your response David.

    I used to live in a small house on Laurier Ave, near Bronson. There were 2 houses side-by-side, the rest of the street was the giant apartment/condo buildings. The buildings had this horrible side effect of creating a giant wind tunnel down Laurier from Bronson towards Bank St. The sidewalks were always empty, never anyone walking (except myself). The wind would force us to go out of our way and walk along streets without tall buildings. It was unpleasant and we spent no time in our yard. Soon those houses were sold, torn down and giant buildings put in their place. Now with the talk of the Laurier bike lane, I shudder to think how difficult it will be to try to ride a bike with the wind howling down the street.

    This morning I was listening to the CBC and there was a piece on the residents of a Luxury highrise condo in Sandyhill. They were complaining about the state of their neighbourhood being unsafe. There is a new proposed homeless shelter (in addition to the needle exchange and various other shelters). The luxury condo owners don’t want that kind of neighbourhood, one that caters to all walks of life. I fear that is what will come of Little Italy too with the Soho Italia (luxury condos) and Soho Champagne (luxury condos).

    What is great about Little Italy is the variety of people living in the neighbourhood. We have life long residents (many Italian), new families, retirees, renters, and a family centered social housing area (town houses at Rochester and Gladstone). Will the luxury condo owners be out and walking on the street? Will they be parking their yachts at Dow’s Lake in the summer and drinking cocktails on their boats (joke) while the area residents are fishing? Or will they drive in and out of the neighbourhood to dine and shop in the parts of town they feel safer?

  12. That CBC article absolutely reeked of elitism and selfishness, and I really hope to see less of that attitude in coming years (though I fear it will just continue). Too often – like the Besserer Street condo owners – people move into the neighbourhood knowing full well what’s going to located close to them, then immediately start campaigning to change their surroundings.

    It’s certainly possible that pricey condos proposed for this area could harbour snobby, scared elitists who prefer to see their world from the driver’s seat of their locked car – in fact, given the law of averages, it’s probably inevitable. I can see them now, peeking out their window at the sketchy guy in the beat-up sedan driving down their street (me). All one can do is hope that their numbers are balanced (or hopefully overwhelmed) by the number of those who moved there for the charm of the surrounding neighbourhood and not for the cache of the address by their front door.

    On a somewhat related note, I’m curious as to what the price list for Hom by Domicile will be. I’d rather live near stacked ‘houses’ populated by people with lives rather than stacked investment properties micromanaged by overly protective buyers.

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