Proposed condo, 175 Richmond Road

Claridge is proposing a six and nine story condo buildings at the corner of Richmond and Kirkwood, opposite the Real Canadian Superstore:

view along existing building on Kirkwood; cross traffic is on Richmond, 30 storey Metropole is in the background, beside Westboro LRT station

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. 

some of the Richmond frontage is a strip mall set behind a parking lot; this type of ribbon commercial development is a planning no-no for traditional main streets

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:

view from Kirkwood & Wilbur, the northeast corner of the project. The taller tower building is on Richmond

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?

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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

34 thoughts on “Proposed condo, 175 Richmond Road

  1. In 10 years, people will drive down a Richmond Road that will be one gigantic vast row of bland beige condos and will wonder who the hell was running this city. In 25 years, these condos will all be slum rentals and Westboro will be suffering, badly.

    1. I don’t think its fair to say all condos will be slum units we need devlopement and i think in some cases it could be better but we can’t just say no new projects.

  2. z – they’re NOT all beige ! Many have black brick too! I doubt they will be instant slums, anymore than the ticky tacky developer built homes in the surrounding neighborhoods turned out to be. They will, however, be tomorrow’s affordable housing, same way as older apts — introduced as luxury units — are today’s affordable units. And while many units are small, there is a discernable trend that at year 5 when the building stabilizes people start combining units to make bigger ones. You are certainly correct that we don’t want a continuous alleyway of 6-9 storey buildings on both sides. Fortunately the liquor store and Loblaws are low rise …

  3. I agree that some architectural/design diversity is needed – that goes for anywhere – but the whole ‘luxury condos are the slums of tomorrow’ argument doesn’t wash. There are already slums for that.
    That said, Richmond Road could use a dark red brick/Quebec City-style infill development.

  4. You just added another reason why I don’t want to ever buy a condo – if a parking space was not deeded with the condo, this would implicate that owners should/would not own cars. If condo owners wanted to travel out of the central core, or where bus/LRT service was not available, or out of town, what would you suggest they do?

    1. Wanderer: parking spaces are included with the condo if you want to buy one, or two, or more, at builder’s cost. Sometimes houses in the city are similar, ie don’t have an included parking space. In the suburbs, you are forced to buy your asphalt driveway and garage, whether you want to or not, and then you get to pay $40 a month in property taxes on that garage, whether you use it or not. I think it is useful to have a choice about whether or not you have a parking space, or how many of them. As for car-free living, I’ve never owned a car, I’ve raised a family, owned a business, etc and survived just fine, in fact, a lot richer and healthier for not having one. Thus far in our society, car ownership is still a choice, although it is obviously more necessary in the ‘burbs and less useful in neighborhoods close to transit and services. C’est la vie.

  5. Hi Wanderer,
    We are one of those crazy no-car-owning pinko families. We joined Vrtucar or rent a car if it’s a multi-day outing. It’s really not a big deal. We save a ton of cash.

  6. I’m not denigrating non-car owning people at all. I happen to live in a suburb where the walk to the nearest bus stop is 20-30 min, and I’m unable to walk that distance for physical reasons. I still have a life, and have appointments that are not easily accessible by bus, and again, standing at bus stops waiting is not an option for me. To rent a car to go shopping doesn’t seem reasonable either. Now I suppose I’ll ge a bunch of replies explaining how I can manage all this without a car.
    Sigh….oh well, I was just making a reply. :>)
    I was commenting more on the comment ‘ Ottawa must break the buy a condo, buy a dedicated parking space linkage’ . If it’s optional, that’s OK.

  7. I’m not sure what benefit there is to anyone but the developer in adding a few extra storeys on top of the six in the ever-ignored CDP. The residents of these upper storeys are, after all, the least likely to take transit. If the building were to include office space to replace the office space that is being lost, then we might have a half-decent rationale on our hands for extra storeys on top, but this isn’t the case; we’re only going to get the ground floor space for commercial.

    We’re seeing an increase in residential density and a slight increase in commercial density, but with this project employment density (other than those who work from their condos) will actually go down. That’s quite disappointing for a site located in Westboro at Kirkwood & Richmond with good transit access and good car access to the Queensway. “Mixed use” is still not a concept that the development industry is taking seriously, as this proposal aptly demonstrates.

    1. I agree about the loss of employment density, but what’s the big deal about there being a benefit to the developer of extra storeys?

      Is it to anyone’s detriment? Whose?

  8. If it were a good looking building, extra height wouldn’t be an issue.

    But it’s a typical ugly glass and concrete that will have little to distinguish it fro mthe other ugly glass and concrete buildings sprouting up all along Richmond, and will add more traffic to the already failed intersection of Richmond and Island Park.

    I’m certain the fearless councillor will be all over this, and prodly announce a new memorial manhole cover or some other meaningless frill as the developer’s tax for exceeding height guidelines, and the spineless city planners will drool “Look! It’s got a podium!” and ignore that it’s a fundamentally ugly bit of infill.

    At least they are reserving some green space…

    1. I agree the proposed design now emphasizes “compatability” with adjacent condos, ie indistinguishable from them. Yet that is what Ottawan’s seem to ask for …

      Memorial manholes is so sexist. They are gender-neutral access hatches. Actually I proposed the Preston BIA get City of Rome manhole covers for their street as they have that great SPQR logo on them. Now you propose HobbsHatches.

      As for reserving green space, well, all the green space is on top of the parking garage, so trees wont really get very big. The roof membrane of the garage will be dug up periodically to repair or replace it, so it we wont be seeing any majestic oaks.

    2. Is this one even claiming to have a podium?

      For some strange reason, the “podiums” that I see developers and their architects propose never look anything like the ones I learnt about in the urban design courses I took. The idea was roughly that the podium is what one would experience at street level, and on top of it would be a much narrower and taller tower, much of whose shadow would ideally be cast on the podium itself. Instead, what we tend to get is a tall blocky thing plonked on top of a slightly larger short blocky thing (Westboro Exchange is a good/bad example, as is Westboro Station, with Phase II being a slight improvement over Phase I), with the upshot being that the experience at street level is not the 2-4 storeys of the podium but rather the entire height of the building.

      But I’m not convinced that a single mainstreet artery surrounded by lower rise residential districts is the correct place for any of this podium and tower stuff anyway; a location with plenty of space to play with like LeBreton Flats or Centrepointe or Hurdman where the transition to existing neighbourhoods can be managed is where this urban design technique properly belongs. It’s a concept to be applied on a fairly wide scale, as we see in Vancouver . For a solitary mainstreet the buildings on either side should really be kept to a height that is no more than the street itself is wide, which would work out to the 5-7 storey range for most mainstreets in older areas, depending on ground-level setbacks (for wider sidewalks and functional space like patios) and upper level stepping back as well as other factors such as lot depth and neighbouring properties.

      1. I agree with David that we are insufficiently demanding of real podium bases. The concept has been diluted to the point where we just get towers with a drawn on podium for the lower few floors. As long as the base is in white faux stone or something, it passes muster in the planning dept. Time to up the ante ! Indeed, time to up the ante for better design on all high rises.

        1. Anyone interested where these definitions and plans for future development on Richmond rd. corridor could attend the Community Design Plan reviewed and explained with Councillor and City Planning staff, Thursday Dec 19, 7-9pm St. Georges.

  9. Uugh. This, just like a lot of the other over-development of this area, makes me sad. Where’s the forward thinking? What about infrastructure to keep up with all the new units? Traffic is increasing in this neighbourhood and it’s cars, not pedestrians that are everywhere. Le sigh.

  10. Re: TDM (transportation demand management) measures. The obligatory reference to these were also included in the transportation (sic…traffic) plan for Les Soeurs de la Visition (Our Lady of Westboro?) but, as far as I can tell, will mean absolutely nothing because the City’s own TDM program is anemic and Ashcroft has not been asked to pony up. Completely agree with Eric that the parking allotment for this development is totally out of line. Also lament the unimaginative design and the loss of employment space.

    1. Today’s “imaginative” design just might be tomorrow’s eyesore however – have to tread carefully.

      1. Yes, there always is that possibility, but chances are that today’s unimaginative eyesores will continue to be tomorrow’s eyesores.

  11. Rumour has it at least one MP will be upset by the loss of the lowrise industrial building. Seems it’s host to occasional “adult” parties that he likes to attend with his dates… though apparently his wife back home is unaware…

  12. This Claridge condo development on Richmond is going to be great for the neighbourhood and I fully support it as well as the rebirth of the Westboro Collection project on McRae ave. (presently being designed by the same architect).
    Wilber ave and Clifton, which are not a dead ends or private streets will be opened up as access from Kirkwood to McRae. The intensification of the two derelict properties will make the area vibrant and economically boisterous as well as tearing down fences and bringing together the smaller communities to be cohesive with the rest of its neighbours.

  13. Only thing I disagree with is the “illusion” of all that pedestrian green-space and trees. These are images that are meant to sell an image but in reality, landscape features are the first thing to be cut from budgets in development and there is the question of who will supply and maintain the numerous trees to be installed on what is actually City property. And all that grass along the pedestrian mews, it’ll be asphalt because the city is not going to take care of a strip of grass and condo owners will reject the huge cost for additional exterior maintenance.

    1. D-Ottawa: I dont think there will be much problem for the condo owning and maintaining the mews space. It is definitely condo property, not city land. It will have a lot more pavement and less grass than the sketch shows. Several Claridge condos have extensive green spaces eg their large building on Bolton Street, or the LeBreton Flats courtyards, so the developer has a track record of delivering this type of space.

  14. I’m confused as to why people who buy in the “upper floors” of condos – where parking space comes at a steep price – are more likely than anyone else to drive their cars everywhere (according to David P) as opposed to the owner of a house in Westboro with a driveway and 2-car garage.
    So, if there’s 1.2 spots per unit, how is every condo owner managing to drive two or three cars, as opposed to a homeowner? I see a lot of people complaining here about the amount of traffic that has overwhelmed their neighbourhood. That tells me those people like to drive, and are used to driving, as people don’t complain about traffic unless they own cars and have to be inconvenienced by it.
    Just like people who don’t take transit also don’t complain about poor bus service. If I worked downtown and lived here, you can bet I’d walk one or two measly blocks to take one fast 95 bus to my office. People who complain about urban life believe other people are as devoted to their vehicles as they are.

    1. Good points. Reality is that condo parking spaces are all the same price unless deemed a “premium” space, IE has a locker attached to it or is larger than others. People buy parking spaces not to necessitate the amount of vehicles they own but #1 to rent as a source of income and #2 as a feature that will separate them from competitors when they resell their units. Any sensible condo purchaser would have their parking and lockers if available for purchase “deeded” to their units.

    2. Parking doesn’t come at any steeper a price for the buyer of an upper floor condo than for the buyer of a lower floor condo – the price per parking space will be the same. The buyer of an upper floor condo however is going to be paying a lot more for their unit because it has a view. It therefore stands to reason that such buyers will tend to be wealthier on average than lower floor condo buyers and consequently also more likely to drive since it’s a fairly well established fact that higher incomes are associated with lower transit use (and their parking space will constitute a smaller percentage of the total purchase cost). Residents in the upper floors of the Metropole for example are far less likely to take transit than those in the lower floors and Metropole residents generally are less likely to take transit than the residents of the townhouses that immediately surround it.

      As to the “owner of a house in Westboro with a driveway and 2-car garage”… well… umm… ya, there aren’t too many such people because houses with 2-car garages are few and far between in Westboro, and to the extent that they exist, they’re more often than not recent builds. And don’t think that reducing the number of detached houses and increasing density necessarily increases transit patronage: one of the ironies of monster semi-detached infill in Westboro is that it sometimes has the effect of reducing transit use overall since it replaces a single lower income transit-using household with two much wealthier driving households. Long time existing residents also seem to use transit more than newer arrivals (who of course have to be wealthier to be able to afford the high housing prices); indeed the increase in property prices results in higher property taxes so real income for existing residents may well have gone down all the while that the value of the property they’re living in goes up. One way to reduce living costs while still living in the area would be to take transit.

      So, frankly, in Westboro chances are the average detached homeowner is more likely to take transit than the average condo dweller and if I were you I would be VERY careful about ascribing devotedness to vehicles to long time existing residents. The people in Westboro who complain about tall building infill are amongst those most likely to take transit, not the least, and they also know that newcomers are far more devoted to their cars than they themselves are. Basically, you’ve got things the wrong way around.

      1. Just to complicate things a bit more, there is a big difference between who lives in the buildings for the first five years vs after that. Within five years, a number of speculators will have flipped their units, and more people will have chosen the building for its merits than for its initial appreciation. It also takes a number of years for people moving from elsewhere to give up their car habits and learn new ones. It may even take until the second car dies before they decide to do without it. Some of the condo owners will be richer than the average neighborhood resident, some poorer. Claridge condos do deliver a variety of incomes as they are positioned to appeal to the whole market, not just the elite subset some other builders seek out. And finally, a fair number of the owners will be former neighborhood residents (who probably opposed the building in the first place) who should therefore have the same auto owning habits as before, or perhaps a bit less.

        1. And finally, a fair number of the owners will be former (OR PRESENT) neighborhood residents (who probably opposed the building in the first place) who should therefore have the same auto owning habits as before, or perhaps a bit less.
          Totally agree. This is the land of NIMBY, however……
          And Claridge is not the only developer who realizes the demographic and financial breakdown of its target market.

      2. Well if all they opposed was the extra height, and so long as they don’t buy a unit above the height they objected to, they would actually be in the clear. Don’t conflate objections to extra height with objecting to development generally, which is an all-too-common characteristic amongst those who have a fetish for tall buildings.

  15. This is really an ideal way to live near Westboro, and have your shopping right across the street! Great design and thoughtful layout!! I remember eating at the “Purple Pickle” Restaurant that was upstairs in the front building. Their chicken wings were superb! Or, was it the “Perturbed Pickle”,..don’t recall,..but like this plan !!

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