A sales office trailer showed up this week on Preston at Sydney Street, just a half block north of Carling Avenue. The photo above is taken from beside the CIBC, at the foot of the Little Italy Arch.
The trailer belongs to Mastercraft Starwood, the condo builder. Readers may recall that they are building a glass box condo on Parkdale opposite Tunney’s Pasture, and on Lisgar by the former plastics store (theirs are the big adverts that show a lady sitting on a …). They also bought the Aquerello site on Champagne Avenue south, beside the dog shelter. It had been rumoured they bought the shelter, but there is no record of that.
On the Champagne site they took the previously-approved 11 storey Aquerello design, added more suites, and “re-arranged” the units into two much taller, slimmer towers. There have been numerous posts here on the subject, use the search button at the top if you are interested, search terms such as Hickory/Champagne/Starwood. After some battles, they got the site approved late last fall for 20 and 16 storey towers on a townhouse podium. They are also contributing some funds towards a ped bridge over the O-Train at Hickory which will improve access to the transit station and to the commercial strip along Preston.
Has Starwood bought this Preston site from the previous developer? The site was rezoned a few years ago from low rise to 18 stories, for a very thin “pencil” building that had only two largish-sized suites per floor (step from elevator right into your suite, every suite had three views). The building was also permitted to be right up close to the Preston sidewalk so that units had a view of the park and Dow’s Lake along the street, thus preserving views should other highrises appear (the Esso site, recently decontaminated, at the corner; the CIBC site; the Dow Honda huge site).
IF Starwood bought this site, I wonder if they will keep the pencil thin building at 18 stories? If they try what they tried on Champagne, they will go for a larger building, perhaps double the size, ie 36 stories.
Right now the tallest building in Ottawa is Place de Ville Tower C, built in the early 70’s. (Right out of university I had a corner office in that building, 28th floor, north and west view, and it is truly a stunning view for a career-starter. Life after that was all downwards.) However, Claridge is proposing a 28 storey condo on the Barbarella site on the other side of Lyon. Claridge is also building a pair of 28 storey towers by Place Bell, and has applied to build a 28 storey tower on Nepean on a 120′ x 100′ lot.
Lest you think tall towers are not possible on small lots, just look at the eighteen-storey tower Claridge already built on the Lyon side of Minto Place, which is on a ~60′ deep lot x ~125′ with no surface amenity space. Very tall buildings on very small lots are already here, and more are coming down the pipe, very very fast.
If Starwood was to market this (theoretical, 36 storey) building to empty nesters and affluent couples (DINKS – double income, no kids) they would construct largish suites. Minto did this for the Metropole building, which is upscale, large units, for affluent buyers (current resale prices are 500k to 1.6million dollars). Theirs is an example of a tall building on a large lot. The surroundings give a sense of gravitas, of formal approach to the tower, as shown below:
However, the previous owner of the Preston site had no luck with an upscale building (presuming he actually tried to market it, which I saw no signs of…) and the safest bet for mass-market builders is to built lots of one bedroom and one bedroom + den suites. Although, as an aside, I have noticed increasing numbers of early buyers in downtown condos are now acquiring the adjacent suite and combining them into larger suites, which means the occupants are happy with downtown condo living and intend to stay. The builder is concerned with the initial sale, not the future resales, and thus the safest route is many small suites.
Note that the Metropole is the second tallest building in Ottawa, fifteen feet shorter than Place de Ville. Claridge has shown no signs of beating the local height sweepstakes, maybe Starwood would find that attractive.
A quick look at the internet for the lastest designs of tall thin condos elsewhere in the world shows many are simple towers (good, known economics) with decorative elements attached (to add interest, novelty). There is the Marilyn Monroe tower in Mississauga,
or the Aqua in Chicago. The Aqua is basically a simple square core tower with curvy balconies added around the perimeter. To complicate things, the pattern changes as the balconies go up.
I think there is lots of room for debate on how to integrate new buildings into existing neighborhoods. To my mind, height alone is not a disqualifier. The trick is to make the building function well in the neighborhood. There will always be people ticked off at any sort of change. Look, for example, at those who squawk at enlarging existing homes in 1960’s neighborhoods, or listen to the outrage when a developer proposes a small townhouse group inserted into a neighborhood (ruination!). The NIMBY volume goes up when its a five or six storey condo, and crescendos when the project is large or involves several buildings (eg Lansdowne, Our Lady of the Condos site, or indeed, any site near Westboro). How loud will the howling get when more citizens see the number of small lot tall towers coming to downtown Ottawa in the next few years, and realize the “contagion” will spread outward to other neighborhoods?
How can one integrate a 35 storey, small-lot high-rise into an existing neighborhood, like Preston? What will the City’s Dept of
Planning Reaction and Development do?