(Use the search button to find more posts on the previous projects. The main posting is found at http://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/soho-italia-the-developers-proposal/)
Members of the community had a number of problems with the tower. First, it had above ground parking garage, meaning the bottom 6+ floors were a black box. The building had apartments facing outward on all four sides, right up to the lot line. It didn’t do an acceptable job of enhancing the streetscape, and struck pretty much everyone as being too much building on too little lot. Apparently they were getting similar messages from the planning dept.
A few weeks ago the owner of the house just north of the site phoned me. He has sold his house/lot to the developer.
Starwood, and its architect Rod Lahey, have come back with a revised design. With the additional lot, the revised building has a lower, broader podium, which they have redesigned to reduce its bulk and further separate it visually from the tower above. The entrance is now on Sidney Street, with more usable storefronts facing Preston, and the Preston sidewalk is now noticeably wider. The building is reduced from 36 to 29 floors (this builder fully encloses his mechanical floor at the top, which effectively adds one floor to the count, but it does make for a much nicer skyscape which it would be nice for other developers, such as Charlesfort, to emulate).
The number of apartments is reduced as well, and most of them now face Preston or Sidney Streets, with secondary windows facing the inside of the block. Some of this was achieved by making larger apartments. There is now a set back at the 25th floor, visually reducing the mass of the building. The exterior is now glass window wall with glass balconies, much like Soho Champagne.
The parking garage/podium is still bulky. The developer proposed to disguise it by cladding most of its exterior with an art installation. Starwood makes a big deal of having conspicuous artwork installations at all its buildings. This is a marketing and design feature, but does not “trade off” for more height, in my view.
The neighborhood is faced with a typical Ottawa conundrum here. The City declares in its official plan that it wants intensification and redevelopment around the transit stations. It then pacifies the neighbours by zoning said spaces to be four or six floors. Do they suspect that the OMB will be left to do the dirty work of approving high rises?
In this case, the OMB has already approved a rezoning of the site for this building, proposed a few years ago:
Alas, in obeying the OMB the city rezoned the whole lot for a high rise, not just this high rise. So, the property owned sold the lot on to the new guys in town, who proposed to build it out to the maximum, plus asked for +/-50% more height.
Here is the proponents revised pitch for their Soho Italia project (when I copied it from Lahey’s letterhead, the letterhead info didn’t copy, but the letter below is reproduced in its entirety):
500 Peston changes
September 26, 2011
Soho Italia – Revised Concept Design
500 Preston Street
In an effort to move the planning process forward in a positive manner substantial changes have been made to the original proposal. These changes were incorporated into the proposal to address concerns expressed during the review process. The most obvious change to the proposed Soho Italia Project is the building height reduction and the alteration to the building’s appearance.
A critical element of this revised design proposal has been the inclusion of the adjacent property to the north. At the request of the planning department Mastercraft Starwood reviewed the option of acquiring any of the remaining properties along Preston Street between the subject property and Adelaide Street. Recently they were able to purchase the adjacent lot at 496 Preston Street. This additional lot has increased the Preston Street frontage from 38.10m to 45.72m. The proposed development site area has been increased from 1161.25sqm to 1393.50sqm. The acquisition of this additional property has provided an opportunity to revisit a number of concerns that were discussed throughout the review process. The addition of the adjacent property has also eliminated the potential of the adjacent properties to the north being able to be developed in a similar fashion. The remaining property between the subject property and Adeline Street could still, however be developed to the current main street zoning guidelines.
The proposed building height has been reduced from the original 35 +1 storeys to 28+1 storeys. The additional floor (+1) in both proposals is a mechanical penthouse and condominium or amenity area.
In addition to the reduction of the overall building height a significant setback from Preston Street has been introduced above the 25th floor. The upper four floors, which include the mechanical penthouse, have been set back an additional 8.0m from the Preston Street façade. This increased setback creates a major reference line along Preston Street that is a mere 7.5m above the mechanical penthouses of the previously approved proposal.
The final change in the building’s height is the redesigned podium. The revised podium has been reduced in height from six stories to five. The height of the podium is 19.5m.
Apart from the 26th floor setback mentioned above we have increased most of the building’s setbacks from the previously submitted approval.
One of the most significant benefits of the acquisition of the additional property is the changed relationship between the tower portion of the proposal and the enlarged podium. The revised design has increased the setback distance between the tower and the northern property line from 4.0m to 8.6m. The setback from Sidney Street to the proposed tower has been increased from 1.20m to 4.20m. In addition to the two setbacks mentioned above, the sixth floor amenity level has been setback an additional 1.80m on the north and south sides and 8.0m from the Preston Street frontage. This design feature has further distinguished the tower from the podium. A large portion of the sixth floor deck is open to the sky and will incorporate a number of outdoor amenity areas.
In addition to the setbacks mentioned above is the increased setback to the ground floor along Preston Street. The ground floor retail has been set back 4.6m from the Preston Street property line. This creates a 6.6m wide plaza area in front of the proposed building. This additional area will be creatively enhanced with landscaping to allow for café areas, sitting areas and outdoor retail display areas. These features will promote activities in this location that traditionally have not been able to occur due to the lack of space between the buildings edge and the street curbs.
The original design concept required a certain amount of height to allow the buildings modulating floor plates to be effective. A reduction of height from the original proposal would have had a serious negative impact on the design concept. As a result of the reduction in height the original design has been shelved and an entirely new concept and design is proposed.
The curvilinear balconies that gave the building its uniqueness have been deleted and replaced with large cantilevered glass balconies. The simple rectangular floor plan has been replaced with a more dynamic plan of intersecting rectangles. The result of these two design elements is a more streamlined building with a greatly reduced building mass.
A key element of the revised mechanical penthouse is the housing of all of the mechanical and elevator equipment in what appears to be a typical floor. Treating the mechanical equipment in this manner eliminates an unsightly aspect typical of high rise design and reinforces the buildings streamlined appearance.
Reduced number of Units, Parking spaces and FSI
The proposed change in height has resulted in the reduction in the total number of residential units from 210 to 178.
The total number of parking spaces being provided is 123. This total is based on the combination of the minimum parking ratio allowed under the existing zoning bylaws, reduced visitor parking and an adequate number of parking spaces to meet the commercial demand.
The reduced number of required parking spaces combined with the increased site area allowed for the reduction of the number of floors above grade dedicated to parking. The result is a podium that is 5 storeys in height instead of the originally proposed 6 storeys.
The floor space index of the revised design proposal has been reduced from 13.7 to 8.6. The existing zoning has a FSI of 6.5.
Ground Floor Design and Use
Along with the additional retail frontage created by the increased site area the balance of the ground floor and the lower level has been redesigned. The condominium lobby has been relocated to Sidney Street, immediately adjacent to the parking garage entrance. Access to the bicycle storage area will be from grade along the northern property line. The balance of the ground floor is dedicated to maximizing the retail frontage on Preston and Sidney Street. This revised proposal will add over 160 feet of retail frontage and 6600 sq. ft. of retail space to Preston Street. All of the proposed retail area will have direct access to the sidewalk.
A key change in the revised ground floor is the increased floor to ceiling height. The revised proposal will feature a ceiling height in excess of 4.8m.
Throughout the development process a constant topic of discussion has been the need for a grocery store to be located in the area. To that end we are proposing to develop the entire ground floor as a retail food store. The proposed store will feature 6600 square feet at grade with an additional area in the lower level of up to 4600 sq. ft.
This proposed use along with the proposed sidewalk enhancements will significantly transform the commercial viability of the area.
Another fundamental design change is the architectural treatment of the proposed podium, in particular the treatment of the above grade parking garage. The first objective was to reduce the number of required parking spaces. This has been accomplished by reducing the total number of units but more importantly by reducing the required parking ratio to the lowest rate allowed under the bylaw. The second objective was to be innovative in the way in which the parked cars are considered. The way we treat the storage of our vehicles has always been an interesting design problem. One solution is to hide them below grade no matter what the cost both economically or environmentally. A second solution is to hide the vehicles above grade behind walls of brick or stone and fake windows. A third and more exciting solution which we have designed for Soho Italia is to celebrate the car with an exciting architectural expression. Precedent buildings such as the Marina City Towers building in Chicago have elevated the storage of the car to the same level of importance as the residential unit. Today the parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami Florida has become a new Mecca for the architectural enthusiast. What is proposed at Soho Italia is something new and exciting that has not been done before at this scale. The proposal is to wrap the above grade parking levels with a major urban art installation that will both mask and celebrate the car. Mr. James Lahey, a recognized and established Canadian Artist, has proposed the creation of an integrated canvas-like structure of colour and texture that will challenge the way we perceive buildings. Multi coloured enameled steel tubes will screen the open air parking garage. This will provide a visual barrier, security and allow the natural flow of air to reduce energy use. Areas immediately adjacent to residential uses will be clad in glass to transition to the neighboring use. The previously proposed electronic billboards and display panels have been replaced in favour of this new more permanent installation. Mr. James Lahey recently worked on a collaborative installation with Margaret Atwood in Calgary Alberta, and is currently working with Concord Adex to produce a major art installation in their newest residential project in Toronto. Included in our extended design team is Karen Mills. Karen Mills is an art consultant who is responsible for numerous installations across Canada and throughout the world. Her installations In Toronto include the Dale Chihuly at the Soho Met Hotel and the Jeff Goodman Glass at the Hazelton Hotel. Both of which were developed by Mastercraft Starwood.
In response to the expectation that section 37 will apply we anticipate this significant art installation will be an exciting and innovative application.
This design proposal has been generated as a new, exciting and vibrant alternative to the previous submission. The merits and aesthetic of the previous submission are rooted to the issue of height and the limitations of lot size. This revised proposal has carefully considered the concerns raised, incorporated an increased lot size and looks to providing an architectural/artistic statement that is unique to the Preston Street Community and indeed to the National Capital Region.