Squawking about Norman

The City has solicited comments about the proposed high rise on Norman Street. This is my letter to the City:
The project as current proposed by Taggart is unacceptable, and must be rejected.
The rezoning and OP amendment request are coming just a few months before the CDP is completed. Delay the application until the CDP is received.
The proposal does not meet the criteria of good planning. It puts a heavy traffic generator at the dead-end of a narrow street that is already congested. There are no provisions for a turning circle, para transpo service, taxis, or moving vans or garbage trucks to enter or exit the property. There is no proposal to rethink the street in a way that might mitigate obvious access and aesthetic issues caused by the imposition of a high rise. The public open space at the west of the property is NOT available for use as a street, large or small.
It puts a 18-23 storey wall of condos just 20′ from the rear property line of adjacent houses on Beech, already on small lots. There is nothing compatible in this arrangement, nor is there any transition down to the adjacent houses. The front of the building, on Norman, is little better, as its imposing presence and height dominate the street in an overbearing manner. The building also renders problematic any other high rise intensification on Beech or the south side of Norman.
The proposed podium is being termed “townhouses”, but is merely a lower-rise extension of the high-rise façade  It does not present an articulated, friendly or smaller-scale face to the street. It is dependent on internal corridors. And, if the experience of other buildings in the area is to go by (eg Claridge on LeBreton Flats, Starwood-Mastercraft on Champagne just a few meters west) the promised family-friendly townhouses prove to be difficult to market due to their concrete-construction costs, and the city is all too willing to permit them to be turned back into smaller condo units that happen to have a balcony at ground level. They are “townhouses” in marketing-speak only, and only while seeking upzoning.
It is not to the developers’ credit to try to remoniker apartment buildings as “townhouses”, or to conflate “intensification” as being necessarily “high rise”.
A successful community, a livable city, has a balance of land users. I support the intensification of the underused industrial lands along the OTrain corridor. The east side of Champagne is fine for towers, as is the first block along Carling, and some lots along Rochester are suited for medium-rise.  But a successful city, as planners well know, also has low-rise neighbourhoods  The intensification and redevelopment of this area will be better for having some high rises and some low rise neighbourhoods  Since the major developers are uninterested in providing much in the way of low-rise, it is vital to keep what we do have, and intensify it with additional infills of four floors or less, provided by smaller developers, who have a proven track record of profitably providing low-rise infills within a block of this site.
For the specific development site at 95 Norman, Taggart should be directed to look at the Domicile project at Bronson & Third, and be inspired by its complementarity with neighbours. Or look at the Domicile building on McLeod near Lyon.  Domicile made money on that building too.
In sum, the proposed rezoning and OP amendment are premature. Wait until the CDP is done. And regardless of what the CDP might permit, a project such as the one proposed by Taggart does not constitute “good planning”. They can and must do better by intensifying with a four storey low rise building.
You can also hear me articulate similar sentiments as a guest on CBC radio: http://www.cbc.ca/ottawamorning/2012/11/28/robyn-speaks-to-eric-darwin/
– Eric Darwin.
Note to WSA readers: I put in the last reference to the CBC not because I am excessively vain and in love with my own opinion, which may be true,but in the faint hope that someone might actually click on it. If they do, they get another 5 minutes of viewpoint about why the project is bad. In short, I double the time I get to make my point. And who knows, someone might think if it’s on the CBC it must be right.

9 thoughts on “Squawking about Norman

  1. The cynic in me wonders if this project proposal isn’t little more than a ruse to induce the property owners directly north of the site on Beech into selling at distress. If this project were to go ahead as conceived, those properties will have little resale value on the open market; the only ones would tend to buy them are developers or the proverbial slum lords. In the meantime, the ‘damage’ is done: open market property values on those properties will now have dropped through the floor due to the uncertainty, so anyone there who happens to want to sell basically won’t be able to until and unless the proposal is denied not just at the City but also at the OMB. That’s a lot of time during which someone living there might just try to see if they can sell to the developer and get out with a half decent price. But once one property owner sells, it just sort of feeds on itself until all do (though the last one standing might be able to extract some extra cash). Then the developer can come back with a more “reasonable” revised project encompassing both sides of the block and address a number of the other issues that are being raised at the moment.

    I also can’t help but wonder if the proliferation of ever taller project proposals in the area is partly a result of the community – including yourself – “being reasonable”. Westboro has seen this phenomenon as well (about a decade ago). Any community that shows signs of being in the least bit reasonable ends up getting hammered with even taller proposals later. It sure isn’t much of an incentive for communities to act in a reasonable manner.

    Contrast that to the goings-on in Kanata where widespread ‘loud’ opposition to a condo there has resulted in the developer continuously cutting down the size of the proposal.

    1. The funny thing about Kanata is people are all worked up about the tower yet very few care about the mass urban sprawl going on.

      1. I recall lots of squawking in Kanata concerning the sprawl development in the Kanata Lakes area. And a smaller amount of squawking about development in the Carp valley and whether or not it is in the floodplain and how much impact it will have on flooding issues elsewhere – though few seem too concerned about losing rich farmland.

  2. David, developers don’t listen to the community nor do they have to. They have time, expertise, and money, much of which is not freely available in the community. Look at Ashcroft’s development in Orleans at Tenth and North Service Road. The community really objected as did the councillor. Ashcroft got exactly what they wanted.

  3. Another comprehensive and well written piece Eric, thanks! Refreshing to read your balanced reviews and well thought out critiques. Especially in contrast to the typical, predisposed writing favouring unequivocal Pro-development or NIMBYism perspectives.

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