Our Lady of the Condos, more Archly

The redevelopment of the Soeurs de la Visitation site on Richmond Road is a great opportunity for infill development and intensification. The City had the chance to buy the site for a park, and passed on it. An eight to twelve storey building along Richmond and 4-6 storey buildings behind it is appropriate. Some aspects of the current design are not my first choice, but then I am not building it.

Previous posts featured the Rowe’s Wharf project in Boston. See  http://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/our-lady-of-the-condos-archly/ I thought it was a good inspiration for the Richmond facade of the project here in Ottawa. I like the idea of keeping the convent “cloistered”, ie not on a shiny pedestal to be glanced at from automobiles speeding by, but tucked away, a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of daily traffic. The first plans from the developer included an arch to “see through” the building. I remembered a similar arch being in Toronto, but could not find it back then. On the weekend, I stumbled upon it. Built by Minto, the ten storey condo has shops on street level, a beautiful garden behind it, and the arch frames the view very nicely.

The Arch is at the head of a T-shaped intersection of Yorkville and Avenue Road. There is a pleasant pedestrian walkway arcade on both sides of the driveway. The far end of the driveway, a turning circle, was undergoing repairs when I took the picture.

The city has a policy of urban intensification. Our new mayor signalled consistently through his election campaign that he favoured intensification and infill. This project comes up before Planning and Environment Committee in the next few weeks (with the “old” councillors). I have no doubt it will be passed.

5 thoughts on “Our Lady of the Condos, more Archly

  1. If the proposal by Ashcroft was even remotely as pleasant as the buildings that you have featured on this website it would be a lot easier to accept this development. Unfortunately, Ashcroft’s proposal is ugly and their attitude is belligerent. Not a combination that makes the neighbourhood particularly sympathetic to their project.

  2. Both the Boston and Toronto buildings are predominately brick, and reflect the architectural norms of the 80s and 90s. Brick has been largely priced out of the market, and glass walls are now “in”. If you don’t like the LeBreton Flats buildings, you aren’t likely to like the Bank/Gladstone projects, or the West Wellie/Richmond Road projects, all of which feature lots of glass walls and irregular window patterns.

    Ashcroft’s attitude is not fun when you are a member of the general public. It is more understandable when you watch community groups for while: too many are NIMBYs, or extortionate. A bigger problem is that they have no consistency, constituency, or legal basis … a developer can talk to a community group, get some consensus, then a bunch of neighbours immediately pop up with a new group name and escalate their demands, using the previous compromise position as their new starting point. Community groups are advisory in function, not negotiating partners capable of committing anyone to a deal. There are a few other developers with the same attitudes in our neighborhood, it helps when dealing with them to understand why and where they come from. Their behaviour is learned, and they do it because it works.

    1. I am sure you are correct about developers learning their behaviour. However, I would argue that this development is atypical and demands much greater sensitivity by the developer. They are not building on a former parking lot.

  3. Given that the official plan is for 6 stories, I can’t say I agree with 10-12 (or even 9) stories. There’s already intense traffic pressure in that area; this will make it worse. In addition, the arrogant “We’ll make a driveway through a park” attitude hasn’t served to make any friends.

    Ashcroft knew the zoning coming in – 6 stories. That their plan was predicated all along on ignoring the zoning says a great deal about them as corporate citizens. That the OMB will let them do it says even more about the problems in Dalton’s Ontario.

  4. Zoning generally refers to the current use of land, and should not be relied upon for the future use of the land. I know we all tend to view zoning as a forward looking tool but it isn’t. Planning determines what will go on land in the future. There is a hierachy of plans – the prov. planning directive to intensify, the official plan calling for intensification, the general rules that state that the height limits in local plans can be overidden, etc.

    Neighborhood plans, written by neighborhood groups, will always favour low rise/low density. Yet the same community groups will favour intensification and higher density land uses as city policy … just not right here, this local spot is always the wrong spot. If you dont want to force your kids to live in smith’s falls or arnprior and commute for 90minutes a day, intensification is what we need. The only way, in my opinion, that we can get low rise intensification is to permit large swaths of the city to be gradually intensified. IMO, this would mean all residential zoning would permit uses up to four or five stories, lot line to lot line, and very gradually individual projects would appear all over the city. Instead, we insist on claiming that existing low density 50-60′ lots must be sacred, and cannot be intensified … with the result that like squeezing a balloon, a few projects break through and they are necessarily high rises. So our policies give us neighborhoods of low rises with pockets of high high rises. We could have a city of medium rises … but that is not a policy any neighborhood group I know of has adopted.

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