Ottawa has an Official Plan (OP), and multiple levels of various sub plans, including many — the CDP or Community Design Plans — which aim at intensification. Indeed, CDP’s could be called City Densification Plans.
So, over on Somerset Street West is Chinatown. This is a most curious neighbourhood. Previous waves of gentrification and intensification have largely leapfrogged this area, bounded by Centretown on the east and Hintonburg /Westboro on the west.
Even massive government expenditure on housing developments haven’t been the stimulus for self-creating and perpetuating growth ( I’m thinking of hundreds of housing units and new prestige-design public facilities on Rochester Heights, in the slum-clearance mode of the 1960’s; or the first 600 high density low rise units of LeBreton Flats Ph 1 (immediately south of Albert, constructed in the 1980’s); nor the not well loved mid rise towers of LeBreton Flats out by Wellington and the War Museum (NCC/Claridgeland).
Somerset is zoned Traditional Main Street. Recall that the previous story here explored the City’s desired building-envelope for main streets, and how one project on Bronson will actually meet it (mostly). This is what the City calls for:
There have been several proposals for new buildings along Somerset that have foundered. The modern building proposed for Somerset/Booth died for lack of electricity and pre-sales, and got resurrected more successfully as The Eddy in Hintonburg. Proposals for the corner of Somerset/LeBreton came and went, but never got built.
The site is large, but has some awkward elements. Here’s a view of St Luke’s Church, to the right of it is Searson Clark co-op, and the rest of the block to the right (behind the world’s tallest electric wire pole…) is 770 Somerset:
The existing Clark building looks small, but is actually a fairly large building set sideways on its lot. This results in lots of units having views/light dependant on the vacant property next door, a definitely risky gamble the city/developers accepted back in the 80’s. Here is the view from the far right, from LeBreton Street:
Anything developed on this site is likely to box in the sideways-viewing apartments, leaving the lower floors likely quite dark if they look into a small courtyard space between buildings.
Some shapes of building, built up close to the Searson Clark lot line, would reduce the livability of the existing apartments. In negotiation with the City, the Community Assoc, and Councillor, the first proposal for the site transferred some of the lower floor area of the building into additional height, making a thinner 9 storey building, shown first below from Somerset, and then from LeBreton St:
The three different textures of the exterior were designed to make the building look like three different towers set behind each other, although the set backs were not great, and all the materials looked a bit cheap to me. Generally this design is called “wedding cake” style.
And here is a drawing trying to convince viewers that the 9 stories is really 4-6:
The proposed building got rezoned to permit 9 floors, but “shrink wrapped” to permit ONLY that particular building layout and profile. If the developer wanted to vary that, or build something else, he had to go back for rezoning.
I personally think the first proposal for the site was merely OK, and not wonderful. But since the new proposal has come along, the old one has developed a bit of gloss.
The site subsequently sold, and the new developers have made the building “more efficient” by squaring off the corners, and increasing the developable area.
Here is what they propose currently:
Personally, I’m not a fan of the white panelling (see for example, Domicile’s building at the corner of Holland and Wellington West behind The Table restaurant, or Windmill’s The Eddy building on Wellington West). Brick seems to be beyond the budget of many builders today.
The architect tries to break up the mass into two or three buildings arranged behind each other, the foreground being white, the background ones red brick, and one in gray metal.
Here is the view from the low rise residential area on LeBreton Street, looking north back up towards Somerset:
Do you think the new design is more massive? Does it have enough setbacks and modulation in exterior planes and surfaces? Does it look like a cluster of smaller, thin buildings rather than one large building? Personally, I use the NewYorkNewYork development in Las Vegas as my guide — they were quite successful there in making a huge building look like many smaller thinner ones, but this doesn’t seem to be achievable in Ottawa.
Here’s a site plan, showing the proposed development and the adjacent Searson Clark building with its units facing into the new building’s courtyard:
The new building is proposed to have a mix of one and two bedroom apts, and for the sharp-eyed keeners, you can spot a single three bedroom unit right in the “crotch” or inside L of the building. It looks to be suitable for three students sharing, or being a “bunkie” but is certainly not a conventional layout:
In the sketch below, the former building is shown in red outline, and the somewhat thinner new one is shown in black. I think this profile is cut through the narrow part of the building, perhaps close to Searson Clark (look at the floor plate above, by the right gray stairwell) , and not through the much-thicker portion of the overall L-shape, facing LeBreton Street, by the gray stairwell to the left. But then, what do I know?
The new building has underground parking for residents and has a number of regular size storefronts along Somerset.
Getting a bit lost in the comparison of the “old” proposal and the “new proposal”, is that both are significantly higher and bulkier, and throw bigger shadows, than the what the City’s Official Plan calls for along traditional main streets, which is six story buildings with set backs above the 4th and 5th floors. Of course, no one has shown any drawings of what that might look like on this site.
There is a public open house on Tuesday at 6.30 – 8.30 pm at the DCC, 775 Somerset Street, 3rd floor, directly across the street from the proposal.
I know some will dismiss this project as “greedy developer”, which is why you should hold that thought in abeyance until tomorrow, when you read part 3, about yet another proposed mid rise building also on a Traditional Main Street. Will that developer meet the City’s TMS rules?