Claridge is proposing a six and nine story condo buildings at the corner of Richmond and Kirkwood, opposite the Real Canadian Superstore:
The lot is currently occupied by a three storey industrial building, with strip-mall type retail on the Richmond side; with undefined street/parking lot on the east side where Kirkwood sort-of runs northwards from Richmond; and with loading docks and a very industrial frontage on the north side, Wilbur Street.
The current industrial building is zero lot line on the west, where it abuts the rear lot lines of homes. This is quite similar to my own home, and I greatly value the industrial neighbour on my zero lot line. This of course depends on the exact occupancy of the adjacent building. I would not be so happy with an auto body shop, for example (noise and smells) or even a bakery (however artisanal, after a while the smell would get tiring).
I am particularly curious to see how well the development proposal handles the close proximity of the residential rear yards: do it well — and further condo developments might be accepted; do it poorly — and the hue and cry against intensification will continue.
It turns out that the vague parking lot cum street on the Kirkwood side is actually a city street and in the proposed development will be curbed, sidewalked, lit like a real street. The parking on the building curb line will be located in protected parking bays. It is isn’t perfectly clear to me if the east side of Kirkwood will be curbed, sidewalked, and landscaped. I wonder if the streetlighting and pavement textures should match the Richmond main street?
Here are some views of the proposed building:
The nine storey building on Richmond is supposed to be differentiated from the low rise building along Kirkwood, although they will be connected at the 3rd thru 6th floors, above a portico or walkthrough (there are two of these already at Claridge’s condos on LeBreton Flats and they work quite well when you walk around and through the buildings).
The bottom of the Richmond condo is commercial storefronts, and the describing jargon in the planning documents certainly says all the right things about narrow storefronts, vertical and horizontal detailing, etc. Unfortunately, there is no detail or close up available on the web site. I do wonder if “mixed use” should mean more than just a few storefronts. What if the second floor, facing Richmond, was offices for therapists, accountants, and other uses? The more variety, the more street life…
Presented Right: The proposal has done something very right, something I have not yet seen any other developer do. It has avoided those “helicopter shots” that view the building from a great distance and from several hundred feet up. We walk on the street and few of us will see these buildings from 500′ up. Helicopter planning is rightly derided as ego-feeding the architect, and blamed for plunking buildings on existing neighborhoods with all the grace of bird droppings. Splat, take that! But this project thus far has shown sidewalk views that real people will have of the buildings. Long may this trend continue!
Real setbacks?: On the Kirkwood side, the low-rise building has two-storey townhouse-type apartments all along the street. A similar row of townhouse-type apartments will face the rear courtyard. There is a small step back in the building façade above the Kirkwood townhouse units; I hope it is enough to visually distinguish between the podium and higher rise building facades. Too often, Ottawa planners let developers get away with pseudo-podiums or bases just drawn on the high-rise building but not really expressed with a physical change in the vertical plane. Set back should mean a real set back, not just a drawn-on texture change.
On the back side, facing the existing low-rise residential street, the building has much more articulation, with set backs at the 3rd and fifth floors. The back of the building is located about 15m from the lot line. Coupled with the existing houses’ back yards, this should provide reasonable sight line privacy, space for trees, etc. I was impressed that the shadow study shows that there will be no significant shadowing of the existing yards after 10am. While the devil is in the details — and the execution — it appears that this project will successfully abut its low-rise neighbours, esp further north where the condo’s landscaped deck will be several feet up on a wall topped with a 5′ fence.
Real townhouses or fake?: I have posted previously that I am concerned that ground level units that are supposed to animate the street level should actually do so. Too many new projects (including some Claridge ones) only pretend to animate the street. If the animation is genuine, there should be no need for an internal indoor corridor behind the units. But if there is a corridor, residents will use it to access the garage, the mail room, and the individual “front entrances” will be fake. The corridor entrance will win out and be the real entrance. Will this project have a real lively urban street or a dead zone?
My reading of the site plan suggests that the ground floor patios will be very similar to the ones at Claridge’s LeBreton Flats project ( a bit more on this in the next post).
This plan shows the townhouse patios, sidewalks, the street with parking bays along Kirkwood shown to the top of the illustration:
And here is a more detailed view of the back of the building patios and landscaping:
And here is one of those optimistic landscape architect views of the back of the building:
The proposed new Kirkwood sidewalk aligns with the pathway through to West Village Private, and thence to Scott Street, the BikeWest route, and LRT station. It is really nice to see useful pedestrian connections shown early in the project rather than as an afterthought. Can we please plan in a textured sidewalk crossing too, just to point out to drivers that taking the curve that this is a ped zone? (this section of Kirkwood is currently used by commuter rats running the residential maze, and needs to be discouraged).
Parking (Mis-) Management: The project has one or two other features worth pursuing. For example, the 240 units will have 310 parking spaces, which is an awful lot, in my mind, for a building within 600m of a major LRT transit station, located on two bus routes, and on a mature main street with a huge variety of shops and services including the giant Loblaws right across the street.
I firmly believe that if they provide parking, it will get used. So yes, I think it has too much parking. And while some of it is for the commercial space, it isn’t well-located for customer parking, as the only garage entrance is way back on Wilbur Avenue. This means the store owners and staff will drive (parking expense is a tax write off) which further perpetuates our car-oriented city.
I wonder also if condo owners driving home might sometimes spot a surface parking space on Kirkwood and park there rather than drive around the building to access the garage, much the way lazy homeowners with back lanes park out front more often than in the lane. Perhaps a/the garage entrance should have been off Kirkwood right behind the taller condo tower. This would make for some useful customer parking for the stores, and visitor parking for the condos.
The planning documents do vaguely mention traffic demand management techniques, such as unbundling the parking spaces from the condos (ie, spaces could be available on a priority list basis rather than individually deeded), space for VirtuCars, and bus passes for buyers. But alas, these are only talked about unless the community (and Councillor) demand them.
I think it is really important for Ottawa to break the buy-a-condo-buy-a-dedicated-parking-space linkage. It’s a concept well beyond it’s past-due date. Once one or two projects are built with more efficient garages, we can expect to see others follow. Is Claridge brave enough to be the first?
There will be a public meeting on the proposal on Wednesday at 6.30pm at Hilson PS, just a block east of the site.
More details on the application can be found at http://app01.ottawa.ca/postingplans/appDetails.jsf?lang=en&appId=__8U6YGF