The Champagne Avenue area — immediately west of the O-Train near Carling Avenue — has been a hotbed for developers recently. Domicile built two red brick mid-rise condo towers and some townhouses at the southwest corner near Carling Avenue. He has another one – Hom – starting at the corner of Hickory and Champagne.
Starwood Mastercraft has the vacant lot at the NE corner of Hickory and Champagne, where they are building two towers, about 16 floors high, the Soho Champagne. Here is an aerial view of the neighborhood, taken from somewhere above the soon-to-be-demolished Sir John Carling Building (which should instead be converted into condos):
The O-Train track is the black line running up through the centre of the air photo; and Carling Avenue runs across the bottom. The green space south of Carling, shown holding a circus during the Victoria Day weekend, is zoned for high rises. Dow’s Lake is on the extreme bottom right. The Domicile buildings at Sherwood/Bayswater/Carling triangle are also not shown due to the age of the photo. The Queensway is shown running across the top of the photo, as is part of the Adobe complex at Preston and the Queensway.
The two proposed Starwood buildings –Soho Champagne — are shown on the site plan below as the pair of buildings with slight curves on their south side.
The next lot north (left) is the former Humane Society site, which they sold to Ashcroft once the dog shelter moved to the ‘burbs. Oh, to round things out, the remaining vacant lot, now used as surface parking for Civic Hospital employees, running between Hickory and Carling, is owned by Arnon. They just won their OMB hearing permitting them to build either office towers or … more condos. For the sake of less traffic, and an attractive building in an historic style, I hope that the Arnon site is developed by Charlesfort, the condo builder.
OK, back to the dog shelter site. The plan above sketches in Tremblay Park on the left third of the block. It has a wading pool, bike polo courts, and an abandoned bocce court. The entire park is due for a refreshing. The smaller middle slice of the block is the Ashcroft/Dog Pound site. They are proposing two towers, somewhat thinner than the Soho Champagne towers shown on the rest of the block, but in the same staggered configuration. Running all across the top of the site is the O-Train cut with parallel paths on both sides.
The existing Carling Station for the O-Train is just off the drawing at the top right; and a pedestrian bridge over the O-Train cut is promised for Hickory Street, so residents can have easy access to the Preston main street.
The Ashcroft proposal is for two towers of 24 and 20 stories. The planning rationale they have submitted to the City is very unusual. It is essentially a crie de coeur (or crie de wallet…) wailing that they cannot figure out what the City wants on the site. The Official Plan (OP) and the Secondary Plan are at odds. They don’t even mention the on-going-but-never-to-get-completed Bayview-Carling CDP which local residents suspect is designed to die of embarrassment because it will only be finished once all the developable sites have already been rezoned and developments permitted (only a slight exaggeration).
Listen to Ashcroft: ‘the inconsistencies between the [planning] documents make it difficult if not impossible, to propose an urban design rationale and architectural solution consistent with both’.
Ashcroft cannot figure out if there is supposed to be a height gradient from (highest at) Carling declining as one goes north into the block, or if it is the other way around. They point out for example, that the Carling end is zoned for 8 stories (just recently overturned by the OMB) but the next lot back is zoned for 18. High density zones in the plan are further from Carling than the low density zones. And why do designated high density zones have a four floor height limit? How does one have a ‘transition zone’ when adjacent lots are zoned ‘high rise’ and ‘low rise’?
I attended the Planning Committee meeting (fall 2010) at which Soho Champagne was approved, and the story then was a declining height as one went north from Carling, but that may be worth the paper it’s (not) written on.
It is hard to tell just what this planning application is supposed to do. Is it to embarrass the planning dept which is struggling with conflicting plans, ad hoc directions from the planning committee, and superimposed decisions from the OMB? Why couldn’t a working coffee session with the head of planning and Hume sort out just what the direction is?
The application has other zingers in it. They ridicule the notion, outlined in the plan, that the area northwest of their site (ie Champagne and Young, immediately south of the Queensway) could ever be developed as low rise. Yup, in their mind, it definitely needs high rise there.
Except … Ashcroft’s planners don’t seem to have actually visited the site in the last nine months since those very lots they ridicule as being developed as low rise are now ready to have residents move in to their new townhouses, semi’s, and singles. Oops.
Here is the best sketch I could find in the application as to what Ashcroft is actually proposing:
This is the view from some unknown height off in the northwest. Eve Trembly park is shown on the left, then Ashcroft’s Siamese towers, and running off to the far right is Soho Champagne and Hom condo towers. Ashcroft’s best views will be of the park, and north. Soho Champagne’s best views will be south, towards Dow’s Lake. Who knows who will be attracted to the back sides of each building which offers views of the next building.
They propose 250 units, although I found that out from the transportation plan rather than the planning plan. And their garage will have either 275 or 175 parking spaces, depending on which page you refer to. As further evidence that the plans have been somewhat rushed, the site drawing on pg 3 is actually of Ashcroft’s Central Park site on Merivale Road rather than the Champagne site. Details, details!
The proponent has put forward an alternative to the tower-on-a-podium model that City planners love so much. There are already two tower+podium designs already approved for the street – Hom and Soho Champagne. (The existing CMPA office towers in pinkish granite are done in the office-building-in-a-park model popular two decades ago, and Domicile’s existing two towers simply rise out of the ground sans podium, although the bottom two floors are done in white faux stone instead of brick).
Instead, Ashcroft suggests his towers will have no podium, and an absolutely minimal base structure at all. The largely ground level space will then become a piazza, park, and pedestrian composition that will allow circulation through and over the site in all directions. The site would become a virtual extension of Tremblay Park. The actual condos would only start on the fourth floor up.
Alas, there is no sketch as to whether they plan a building on pilotis, or some cantilevered structure. Or maybe they envision something like the 13th Federal Reserve building Minneapolis *, which is held up like a suspension bridge over a huge concrete plaza. Or something like the old BC Hydro building in Vancouver (now condos) which had only the elevator at the ground level and everything else hung down from the top of the elevator shaft so as to truly free up the ground level.
The planning rationale is short on some other details too.
The traffic study is more complete, since Delcan has done all the other traffic studies for the adjacent sites. This makes a lot of sense, since the traffic report includes the impact of each proposed building and project separately and together.
Adjacent residents usually jump up in horror at the traffic impacts of infill. Alas, the impact of traffic is usually way less than feared. As the study shows, an over-estimate of the generated traffic shows Sherwood Drive getting all of one new car per two minutes, at the rush hour, and then only at the one east-most block. (Sherwood residents have a street designed for cut-through traffic, as it runs to the Parkdale/Queensway on-ramps, and indeed 50% of the traffic on Sherwood is using it as a through street. Something could be done about that, but the condos are not going to make the problem significantly worse).
I did note with interest that the intersection of Carling and Champagne has traffic lights, although these are not warranted by the current volume of traffic. As a result, the operation of the signals is paid for by the CMPA in the adjacent office park (your medicare dollars at work…). It is unclear from the traffic study if the signals will be warranted in the future once all the condos are built.
Indeed, Carling Avenue is so under-capacity that the plan notes that it could be reduced to four lanes and no one would notice. This of course, was the position of the PAC on the upcoming Carling reconstruction, where we pointed out the section from Bronson to Preston (3 lanes westbound) has the same traffic as Preston (one lane northbound), so why was the City calling for the widening of Carling in this area? (while it wasn’t a rhetorical question, it still gets no answer from the City).
So, we have a development application that whines about the conflicting plans, and proposes a sketchy pair of high rises at the old dog pound. I cannot imagine the Planning Committee approving it as is. Presumably the applicant (Ashcroft) tossing something on the table and hoping the City will respond. This is truly one development application worth following, since it tells us so little about what is proposed.
You can read the stuff yourself at
* Actually, the former fed.reserve building, now known as Marquette Plaza, was built like a suspension bridge with two elevator towers and the office building is slung between the two towers. The office building itself doesn’t reach the ground.
Katherine from the Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Assoc sends this convenient summary of the projects:
DEVELOPMENTS NEAR CARLING O-TRAIN STOP
125 Hickory (Mastercraft Starwood)Soho Champagne (not yet under construction)- Town houses and two condominium towers – 16 storeys and 20 storeys. An estimated 342 residential units. 263 parking spaces.
100 Champagne (Domicile) (now under construction) One residential 12 storey apartment building with 94 units. One three storey townhouse dwelling with 6 townhouses. 109 parking spaces. Two car sharing spaces (Vrtucar) and six visitor spaces.
330 Loretta / Caring and Breezehill (Domicile) completed – Two buildings. One 8 storey on Breezehill with 66 units. One 10 storey on Loretta with 86 units. A number of townhouses. Shared garage with 160 parking spaces.
855 Carling (Arnon) proposed- Two office towers. One 15 storeys. One 12 storeys. 800 parking spaces.
Note: This may not include changes at the Arnon site due to OMB hearings. Arnon believes it should be allowed to build higher towers. It may also consider building apartments or condos instead of office buildings.
ADDITIONAL VEHICLES IN NEIGHBOURHOOD ONCE ALL DEVELOPMENTS ARE BUILT: 1340
NOT YET APPROVED
101 Champagne (Ashcroft Homes) – A 22 storey building and a 25 storey building right next to Ev Tremblay Park on the former Humane Society site. Approximately 252 condominium units. 175 or 275 parking spaces.
ADDITIONAL VEHICLES IN NEIGHBOURHOOD IF ASHCROFT’S DEVELOPMENT IS APPROVED: 1515 TO 1615