There have been no end of critics for the Our Lady of the Condos site on Richmond Road; or for the Franciscan site in Overbrook (www.saveoverbrook.com). The Dominican fathers on Empress have talked about selling their property. Now there’s a second chance (second coming?) for Hintonburg-Westboro too.
The Salvation Army operates Grace Manor on West Wellington. Immediately east of the modern low-rise Hobbinesque nursing home is an elderly manor on a large lot. Here’s a Google streetview (before the streetscaping was installed):
The red-brick manor house shows up just left of the bus. On the nearest left of the picture is the Rosemont Library. The parking lot in the foreground at the corner of Rosemont and West Wellington is likely part of the Sally Ann site (and another parking lot at the corner of Parkdale). The site goes a long way back through the block, until it hits Connaught School on Gladstone Avenue:
I hear through the grapevine that Sally Ann is asking $3.2 million for the site; that Somerset West Community Health Centre (SWCHC) is interested in the property; that a non-profit housing provider could be involved … and that there is another bidder, a “dark knight”, in the form of Shoppers Drug Mart, the current bete-noir of Canadian urbanistas (standing in for Wal Mart, the former devil figure, American no less! for whom the site is way too small).
If the site sells to SWCHC or to CCOC or another housing group, funding will be a big issue. There is a provincial election coming up, though … and the Ontario purse strings are being loosened. Will Yasir Naqvi and Bob Chiarelli come through? Or M.Baird … maybe a Federal election will be in the offing …
The Salvation Plan comes to this: with so much criticism of the Our Lady of the Condos site, can the City and neighborhood groups come up with something much better this time around?
Can the neighbourhood get their only-four-storey infills? Can the Wellington frontage get a Shopper’s big-box store (hopefully with a narrower street frontage and much of the box running back from the street) and a Community Health Centre, with three floors of apartments above? And leave 40% of the site vacant? Can the Sally Ann get their 3.2 million? Can Hobbs get all these things on this site whereas her predecessor was stymied by Ashcroft and the good sisters of the visitation?
Absolutely the worst scenario I can see unfolding here is a two-storey free-standing Shopper’s Drug Mart. Not because it is Shoppers, but because on a street frenzied with condo mania, it is criminal to see a government monopoly build a single floor liquor store at McRae, or Shoppers build another low-rise big box like they are building on Rideau Street (let’s see there, 20+ storey condo, 20+ storey condo, another 20+ storey condo, yet a fourth 20+ storey condo … then a two storey drug and convenience store…). Ottawa has more low-rise mini-strip malls and Mac’s Milk plazas than any city I have visited. Some other cities simply don’t have this sort of zoning category. If you wanna build a Swiss Chalet, go find a developer who will build the apartments or offices above … but Ottawa welcomes these cheap low rise commercial blights, it’s abusive zoning at its worst.
If Shopper’s gets the site, expect some other commercial uses too. I can picture a Giant Tiger, the smaller Canadian chain that emulates the Walton formula. Let’s throw in a condo tower too, to pay homage to our mixed-land-use intensification policies.
These are some pretty stark choices, and the stakes are large. Can Sally Ann get the bucks for their good works while the community gets the low-rise infill they claim to want; or will Mammon win out? Can we have both Shoppers and SWCHC? Is there room for some interesting land swaps (move the Senior’s Centre from across the street into the new SWCHC and sell their site for a condo tower)?Can there be access to the back of the site from Rosemont, maybe replacing the bead store on that street? And don’t forget that parking lot at the corner of Parkdale…
There needs to be some real consultation and competition for this land, and not a done-deal. Hintonburg-Westboro is lucky to be getting a second chance at getting it right. Planning for salvation.