'Creative' $60M project for Baseline
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
OTTAWA-The company that brought Ottawa the South Keys shopping mall says it is planning a very different kind of project on the former Laurentian High School site at Baseline Road and Clyde Avenue.
"We have a design and concept that has not been done here," SmartCentres vice-president Dennis Eberhard said Tuesday.
"It should be a drastic improvement and catalyst for redevelopment in an area of town in need of an injection of some interesting buildings and a place for people to shop and enjoy."
SmartCentres is proposing a $60-million mixed-use development. The 15.5-acre site would feature two- and three-storey buildings containing stores, offices and possibly condos, a big-box store, as well as a highrise tower.
The concept includes a pocket park, paved squares with seating and pedestrian and bicycle paths connected to the adjacent Central Park community. Shopfronts face Baseline Road and Clyde Avenue and surround an interior surface parking lot as well.
"I am delighted that SmartCentres is contemplating a mixed-use development," said River Councillor Maria McRae who got a preview Tuesday.
"One of the big concerns of the community is they did not want another big-box commercial wasteland. They listened to the community concerns and they're contemplating a design that is very transit-friendly, cycling and pedestrian-friendly."
"They're good urban design so it's functional but blends nicely in the residential area. Their plan contemplates a very creative bus space, not your usual glass walled space."
The company plans to submit its proposal to the city this week as part of an application for rezoning from institutional use to commercial and residential. They also plan to present a preliminary design to the public in three or four weeks.
I think it's very interesting and very promising looking," said Stuart Sykes, president of the Central Park Community Association. "It's evident that they have tried to respond to early input we provided: concern about shadow effects, pedestrian access, traffic at the intersection. Putting the tallest development closest to Baseline and Clyde, that's very positive because it addresses the shadow effects."
Items he flagged for later scrutiny were the size of the pocket park - two-tenths of an acre - and the presence of a big-box store after residents said they didn't want a big-box mall.
Ms. McRae said she was impressed the developer took the unusual step of soliciting feedback before submitting the application. "Instead of being saddled with an application thrown on our desks, I'm hearing a developer say they want to work with the community. They're working with the city's traffic and transit planners."
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board closed Laurentian High School in 2005 due to declining attendance. It sold the property last year for $21.26 million to SmartCentres, a Toronto-based real-estate developer that specializes in big-box developments anchored by Wal-Mart stores. Mr. Eberhard said they hope to demolish the school next year and begin construction next fall. The mall would include 15 to 35 stores. The big-box store could be 50,000 to 120,000 square feet. The company is not yet announcing what store it will be.
Shadow studies will be done for the tower. It's not known yet what height is envisioned. "It will be open to the interior so people can walk through into the site," said Mr. Eberhard. "It should be quite impressive. It is an important corner. We hope to take advantage of the profile and attention that corner gets because of all the people and traffic going by."
The company is planning a berm with grass and trees between the shopping centre and the neighbourhood. It is also conducting a traffic study. The intersection at Baseline and Clyde is busy and has a high collision rate. Options include extra turning lanes, built at the company's expense, and signals.
The city wants to encourage more intense development along Baseline, and to strengthen its role as a major east-west transit route and alternative for commuters who do not go downtown. It is planning a dedicated bus lane on Baseline Road, for which SmartCentres will give some land.
And, when light rail is implemented, the corner of Baseline and Woodroffe is envisioned as a transfer point between buses and light rail.
"Done right, the SmartCentre project could be a model for higher density development, says Ms. McRae. "If you drive there now, it is pretty scruffy looking," she says. "It is prime for intensification. They are contemplating a beautiful streetscape with sidewalks and stores as small as 1,000 square feet. Residents talked about having a place they could walk to for a coffee, a nice meal or a greeting card. There's nothing like that within walking distance of that area now."
© Ottawa Citizen 2008
shopping centre in Thornhill by Smartcentres