The Dog Shelter Condos – Is Ashcroft Serious?

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.

view from the O-Train Carling Station looking NW across the Arnon parking lot (now approved for office or condo development) towards the CMPA office buildings

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.

vacant lands at Champagne and Young, near the Qway, have already sprouted townhouses and semi's since this picture was taken in the summer

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

http://app01.ottawa.ca/postingplans/appDetails.jsf?lang=en&appId=__8ODN8V

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* 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.

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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

23 thoughts on “The Dog Shelter Condos – Is Ashcroft Serious?

  1. 275 parking spaces, but only one new car commuter every two minutes. Riiiiight.

    And this is just one of the new projects in that area. Allowing that many new parking spots assumes that everyone will drive to work, and does not encourage use of the O-Train or the future light rail system.

    Eric, I invite you to come down and witness the ongoing traffic failure at the corner of Sherwood and Parkdale every morning.

    Better yet, I dare you to try to cross Sherwood at Parkdale during rush hour without sprinting.

    I’m not opposed to projects like this per se, and generally support the intensification projects already approved for the Champagne Avenue area.

    But in my view, new projects in this neighbourhood should of this scale only be approved incrementally, after the impact of current projects are known, and when the light rail system is established. Traffic studies are no substitute for real life data.

    The Civic Hospital neighbourhood already suffers from its proximity to the Queensway. Turning Sherwood Avenue into a major thoroughfare will do significant and lasting damage to the area.

    1. Maggie: the 275 spaces may or may not be the number of spaces. The car every two minutes was for ALL PROJECTS and for the section of Sherwood between Bayswater and Carling, both directions. Presumably some commuters will exit the area via Champagne (that is the most direct) which doesn’t disturb the existing neighborhood much. Some will also exit via Beach Street to Preston. And yes, some will go west along Sherwood (if ALL of them did, this would add one car every two minutes).
      I think it unwise to assume that everyone who lives in a condo is in the work force or commutes at rush hour. Retired people for example are major buyers of condos and are less likely to come and go at rush hours. Buyers will also include existing transit users or those who wish to.
      I take from the tone of your comments that you perfer the new condos to have fewer parking spaces than condo units, to encourage transit use. I agree.
      The story is about the Champagne end of the neighborhood, not the Parkdale end. I expect there will be some traffic consequences there, but as 50% of the traffic there is through traffic, and 50% from the neighborhood, then it is hard to expect these units to overload that intersection all by themselves. The solution to traffic issues on Sherwood lies in traffic calming the street, not in prohibiting condos along the O_Train transit corridor.
      The neighborhood assoc might lobby for some inclusives in the condos, such as transit passes.

      1. Eric,

        I am most definitely not making that assumption that every parking space will lead to an extra commuter on Sherwood, but similarly, I do not accept that 1500 new parking spaces at one end of Sherwood will lead to a mere 30 extra vehicles between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. each morning.

        And I can assure you that the Sherwood and Parkdale intersection is already dysfunctional.

      2. I have to disagree with you about traffic impacts Eric. I don’t think most vehicles are going to exit from Champagne onto Carling. There is a traffic light at this intersection. There is also a light at Carling and Sherwood. People don’t like sitting at lights and will do almost anything to avoid them. This means that many vehicles are likely to scoot up Hickory, go south on Bayswater and then take Sherwood OR go north on Bayswater to downtown so that they can bypass Preston. The trucks working on the various developments are already doing this.

      3. Traffic to the 417 will not go to Parkdale, that exit is regularly congested at peak hours with traffic to/from Tunney’s pasture and all business-residential areas in the Parkdale vicinity. Anything to/from the West will use Beech-Rochester, coming from the East will use the Bronson exit followed to Rochester-Beech. Only the Eastbound traffic may go to Parkdale. Still quite a flawed traffic study! The impact on Beech-Preston is completely mis-evaluated, not counting the hilarious errors like putting the site on Merivale.

      1. As I have said above, we should wait to gauge the impact of all of the currently approved developments before we determine how many more cars Sherwood (and Parkdale) can handle.

    2. Sounds like the association has already made up its mind on traffic, so the ‘pause for traffic analysis’ sounds a lot like a delay tactic. If traffic is too much now, it will never get any better, right?

      As for all people choosing to navigate a labrynth of narrow street to avoid an ‘intolerable’ wait at a single traffic light located at the end of one’s street, this is purely hypothetical. The reality is, either the people complaining about current traffic seem to find traffic lights intolerable and are projecting theirown behaviour on the general populace, or they are looking for any way of funneling hypothetical future traffic through their neighbourhood to back their argument against the development of this area.

  2. Hi Eric, People might find the following summary useful.

    DEVELOPMENTS NEAR CARLING O-TRAIN STOP

    125 Hickory (Mastercraft Starwood) – Town houses and two condominium towers – 16 storeys and 20 storeys. An estimated 342 residential units. 263 parking spaces.

    100 Champagne (Domicile) 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) – 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) – 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

    1. ADDITIONAL VEHICLES IN NEIGHBOURHOOD ONCE ALL DEVELOPMENTS ARE BUILT: 1340

      ADDITIONAL VEHICLES IN NEIGHBOURHOOD IF ASHCROFT’S DEVELOPMENT IS APPROVED: 1515 TO 1615

      And?

      If it’s bad to have vehicles in the neighbourhood, will any current residents be getting rid of theirs? If more vehicles is worse than the status quo number, then fewer is even better, so civic-minded citizens will, naturally, burn their cars.

      1. We got rid of one and now take the bus. We moved closer to work in order to do this.

        I know of others in the ‘hood who have done the same.

        Your point, WJM?

  3. Eric, thanks for giving the proposal a good going over. And I think you’re right to ask the question “Is Ashcroft Serious” in the title. And the answer, I think, is yes. Not serious about the details of this particular proposal — you rightly point out the sloppy details and twists of language that are Ashcroft’s stock in trade.
    No, I think they are serious about the bigger game: slowly strangling Secondary Plans – and their more modern expression as Community Design Plans – to death.
    Ashcroft’s little treatise embedded in the planning documents — called “Planning Rationale” in case you don’t speak Machiavellian (full document here http://bit.ly/zfEMBK) — is just an essay on why they should be able to work around the Preston Champagne Secondary Plan that applies to this area.
    Now kudos to Ashcroft for learning a lesson from the Westboro Convent process that Secondary Plans can’t be ignored entirely, since those pesky community activists keep waving them around. But they also learned the lesson that they get much further by working directly with senior City Planning staff than by working directly with the community.
    So yes, they do point out several legitimate points of tension between the wording of the Official and Secondary Plans, which are worth hashing out. But from the high handed tone of the document, one doesn’t get the sense that the Community (or “residents” as Ashcroft prefers to call them) are part of the solution Ashcroft has in mind.

  4. I must admit that I haven’t read the Planning Rationale report…just skimmed over it…but the fact that it was written by an architect on the file could be part of the problem. Typically these Planning Rationale reports (which are often just put on a shelf at 110 Laurier, 4th floor) are written by a planning consultant whose job is to be go through the various policy statements, secondary plans, community design plans and figure out the commonalities and where the application is in conformity and if not what will need to be amended. Does this make sense?

  5. I live in the area, very close in fact, and I don’t see a traffic problem on any street in the area except Parkdale. People who do drive from this site (for work, especially) are most likely going to take Carling or Preston. Waiting at a light isn’t the most inconvenient thing in the world, as an earlier commenter insinuated.
    As for the height of the buildings, being DIRECTLY next to a park, they should be halved in height, so that they ‘step down’ from the Soho buildings to the south. As well, high-density developments in areas (close to downtown; transit options) such as this should have caps on the number of parking spaces.
    Besides that, I really don’t think traffic is a huge problem in this area, nor do I believe every occupant of a high-rise leaves the building in their car at exactly the same time while following the exact same route to the same destination. Life doesn’t work that way, especially with the mixed demographics in a buildings such as this – as Eric noted.
    From this site there are 2 ways downtown by transit, and downtown isn’t far. So not everyone would drive, especially with parking rates going up at federal buildings.

    The proposed solution mentioned earlier – to wait years and perform numerous studies between the construction of every building in the area – does no service to the city, as the “creeping development” you propose here is not being replicated outside the greenbelt; there, it’s fast and furious. It costs taxpayers to put ever-increasing miles of road and pipe out there, and you’re guaranteed they will all drive into the city, likely many of them heading down the roads you want to keep free of traffic. All the while transit lags due to not enough ridership.

    As an aside, didn’t the community association (Civic Hospital) speak out harshly about the Domicile building at Hickory and Champagne (the first non-low rise to be proposed on that stretch) for similar reasons? i recall that building conformed to all zoning at 12 storeys, and remember thinking what the fuss was about.

    1. S-Man (Short for “Soho Man”?)

      If you live close by the Civic Hospital area, you may have seen the traffic this morning backed up for over a block on Sherwood.

      That’s my definition of a traffic problem.

      As for your other points, I wasn’t aware that transit was lagging “due to not enough ridership”. The ridership stats from OCTranspo do not seem to support your suggestion.

      And with regard to your point that “nor do I believe every occupant of a high-rise leaves the building in their car at exactly the same time while following the exact same route to the same destination”, thanks for that straw man argument, but I don’t see how it adds to the discussion. No one has suggested such a thing.

      Finally I don’t see how “fast and furious” development in the suburbs justifies fast and furious high rise development focused in a five square block area of central Ottawa. Again, I am not opposed to some high rise development, but the numbers of new cars resulting from all of the current and pending projects suggests to me that there will be added traffic issues on Sherwood and on Parkdale. Once these projects are built the traffic problems become very difficult to solve. Having approved 1340 new spaces, it is now appropriate to take time to assess the impact.

  6. Maggie: Thank you for showing your level-headedness by starting your comment with an insult.

    OK – we disagree on how traffic is affecting the area. Fine. Some routes in an area are always destined to be busy, no matter what ther area is. Where do you suppose the people living on Champagne will be working, for the most part, and how does Sherwood factor into this thought? Will everyone living there be working in Westboro? Not likely. Norwould someone working downtown (if they do take a car) spend 15 minutes driving to the Queensway just so they could get off the Queensway a mile later and work their way up a north-south street in centretown. People would take Preston, Carling, Bronson and Albert for this.

    By transit lagging, I’m not talking ridership – I’m talking service and expansion. Improvements, and new routes to better serve the car-dependent subrubs that are very much exploding on the fringes of the city and lowering service levels in the rest of the city due to the financial drain on the city’s budget and Watson’s promise of keeping taxes low.

    As for the opposition to the first high-rise in that area (HOM by Domicile), please explain your reasonale opposition to that project when it came to planning committee, considering it was within very old zoning and the only building on a completely empty block?

    Again,please do not resort to name calling.

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