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  #81  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 2:18 AM
ajldub ajldub is offline
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I think Ken is bang on when he says 1100 people in this spot is too intense. I also disagree that building homes for 1100 in the suburbs has the same impact on Richmond. If you are going to drive from the western edge of town, you don't go down Richmond when you're going downtown. You take the Queensway, maybe the parkway, possibly Carling. Not Richmond.

Really all you have to do is look at the aerial shot Ashcroft provides to see it's just a bid to put as many units in as possible. The hype about a pond, or a special place that invites pedestrians to come in and explore the convent is just spin.

This project is a dud. It's also a nonstarter and will never get built in anything close to its current form. What will be interesting will be to see whether Ashcroft will be able to come up with any plan that is acceptable to both the city and the community, and profitable on his sizeable $10 000 000 investment. This could also be further complicated if the property gets heritage designation next week, in which case he could be stuck with a real lemon of a property.
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  #82  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by ajldub View Post
I think Ken is bang on when he says 1100 people in this spot is too intense. I also disagree that building homes for 1100 in the suburbs has the same impact on Richmond. If you are going to drive from the western edge of town, you don't go down Richmond when you're going downtown. You take the Queensway, maybe the parkway, possibly Carling. Not Richmond.
The only thing missing here is an answer to the question, too intense for what? based on what? People who use the word "overintensification" can't quantify what they mean. "Over-" in relation to what? What's the standard, is it what exists today, or what will exist in the future? What future are we guiding this type of neighbourhood toward: a future where you still basically move around by car, or a more self-sufficient neighbourhood where there are enough people to sustain basic services within a 5-minute walk?

Here's the thing. There will be cars. If the neighbourhood's density is too low, it will be residents' cars plus commuters' cars. If the density is high, there will be much fewer residents' cars. You go piece by piece at regenerating a neighbourhood with high density, AND high quality urban spaces, and eventually people make the choice to locate there because you have everything nearby. And there will still be cars - other people's cars, yes stuck in traffic, frustrated at the time it takes to get home, and seeing the locals enjoy their neighbourhood on foot. And yes, congestion does lead to people making different choices.

I don't think we should fool ourselves that those types of growing pains are inescapable. Trying to avoid them is a geographical impossibility. The Champlain Bridge won't be blown up. But the neighbourhood can certainly be improved, and densified, for the local benefit of all (not just new residents).
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  #83  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 1:38 PM
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In the end, everybody will have a different opinion on how much intensification is enough. But I think the trend we are going to start seeing on these very intense projects is that the people who don't live in the neighborhood are going to be most for it, and the people who live nearby are least for it. Both sides are, in a way, NIMBYs.

Also, this in no way resembles a high quality urban space. It's a junky proposal from a junky developer to put too many condos on a small piece of land, and take one of the few heritage properties in the neighborhood out of public view.

Don't get me wrong, I agree overall with intensification. But if you look at the big picture, the reason why Westboro feels like a suburb is not because it lacks 1100 condos on the convent site. It's because we have massive swaths of empty land separating us from downtown. There are square kilometres of undeveloped between the convent and parliament hill, namely Tunney's, Bayview, and Lebreton, that would benefit greatly from densification. This property is one of the few in the whole city that is surrounded by a mature neighborhood and contains a heritage jewel. This is the kind of property that warrants something more sophisticated than packing bodies in, and opportunities like this come along very rarely. The failure to recognize this, as Ken says, ultimately rests on the shoulders of the NCC and city. A $10 million property is not too expensive for a city that blows $1 million on a study for a footbridge, regardless of what they say.
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  #84  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 2:28 PM
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But if you look at the big picture, the reason why Westboro feels like a suburb is not because it lacks 1100 condos on the convent site. It's because we have massive swaths of empty land separating us from downtown. There are square kilometres of undeveloped between the convent and parliament hill, namely Tunney's, Bayview, and Lebreton, that would benefit greatly from densification. This property is one of the few in the whole city that is surrounded by a mature neighborhood and contains a heritage jewel. This is the kind of property that warrants something more sophisticated than packing bodies in, and opportunities like this come along very rarely. The failure to recognize this, as Ken says, ultimately rests on the shoulders of the NCC and city. A $10 million property is not too expensive for a city that blows $1 million on a study for a footbridge, regardless of what they say.
Lebreton and Bayview will be densified. Then again, look at the amount of "green" space in the Lebreton Plan. It has high density housing but it's all surrounded by a mini-greenbelt, as if to say that it will "lessen the impact". The impact of what? It's a brand new neighbourhood. You move in there, you choose. That's what you buy into. "Impacts" and all. The only thing that will do is to introduce a new useless wedge of green that adds to what you just said. The "impact" of this green corridor around Lebreton is to increase distances (and pedestrian effort) to and from downtown. We do need parks, of course. Can we not agree to put them where they'll be useful, instead of using them to get in the way of decent connectivity?

And then, we'll probably hear that the lawns of Tunney's Pasture are a jewel of green in the urban jungle, the lung of the neighbourhood, etc., and on it goes until you can't touch anything or do anything meaningful anywhere. There's actually a heritage movement afoot to designate modernist and brutalist buildings to "preserve them as unique witnesses of their times" - so, what will that mean the day that a real plan for Tunney's comes along?

Having big-box green space as a sacrosanct principle is as harmful to urban vitality as having big-box anything. Urban vibrancy comes in small scale servings and that applies to parks and open space as well as anything built. Yes, there is such a thing as out-of-scale development. Metropole is out of scale. But then, there is development that sets the stage for the "future scale" of a neighbourhood. I'm not saying that the Ashcroft idea is a bang-on match, but they're not too far from it.
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  #85  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 3:12 PM
ajldub ajldub is offline
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Hmm I'm not sure how to respond to your last post as it was a little difficult to follow. Suffice to say I am not a proponent of 'big box green space'.

Let me try to boil this one down to comprehensible terms. I am generally in favour of reasonable intensification of Westboro, and if you need a definition of that I will say 4-5 storey condos along Richmond/Wellington.

I am also very confident that this proposal sucks. It sucks because it's too dense, because it ruins the prospect of doing something really cool with an old heritage building, and because it's out of character with all the new developments in the neighborhood(12 storeys on Richmond).

If I understand you correctly, we should be willing to overlook the reasons why this development sucks because this property needs to contribute to a newer, more intense Ottawa.

My response to this is that there are square kilometres of land around that can contribute to the overall density. A developer can break the planning guidelines and bump up the density in a place like Bayview, and few will complain because no neighborhood exists there. Let the "future scale" of Bayview be 12 storeys, and people who want to live around Bayview buy into that. But this development is totally out of context, even with the condos that Ashcroft is proposing across the street.

We're also throwing away a really rare opportunity to do something really, really great with this convent.

All to say I'm not worried, because this proposal won't be making it to shovel any time soon.
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  #86  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 3:39 PM
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There are many times that old buildings should simply be taken down and land completely renovated to allow for the space to be revitalized. This location is one of those 'gems'. There is so much potential to take what exists here, and bring it into future, while retaining that special feel, its diversity. There is opportunity with this site for both historic culture and density.

At a quick glance from page one of this thread, it doesn't appear to me that they 'get that'. It seems to me like that is a real shame.

I won't be holding my breath however, such change is inevitable.
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  #87  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 3:50 PM
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Well let's see if the Ontario heritage designation 'gets that'. Look a little further down Richmond towards Churchill. Where the church recesses from the sidewalk, you have a great little spot that breaks up the streetscape. You could do exactly the same thing here, but even better.
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  #88  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 4:10 PM
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Originally Posted by ajldub View Post
Well let's see if the Ontario heritage designation 'gets that'. Look a little further down Richmond towards Churchill. Where the church recesses from the sidewalk, you have a great little spot that breaks up the streetscape. You could do exactly the same thing here, but even better.
But what are we going to give Ashcroft to do this? They have to make money and the property was not cheap. I would love to see a courtyard with some restaurants/cafes/coffee shops along each side in front of the convent but there is no incentive to do that if on the other hand you prevent them from going taller*. If this property doesn’t get developed then we are stuck for how many years with that damn wall blocking the “gem” behind.

Cheers,
Josh

(*Note: I am not in anyway suggesting higher then the 12 stories proposed)
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  #89  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 5:07 PM
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Josh - I think we always have to be careful when considering economics in the planning context. It is certainly a huge part of planning from the developer's perspective, they aren't in it to lose money, but a taller building should be able to stand on its own merits, and not be approved just because the developer needs 'x' floors to make the project work (at the same time, Councillors need to be aware that arbitrarily knocking off a few floors at the last minute can really affect the economics of a project).

However the Planning Act does have provisions to allow additional height/density in exchange for community benefits including preservation of heritage beyond what is required by law.... so I think there's a principle out there that we can find a mutual solution that brings both benefits to the surrounding community and more units (i.e. a more feasible project) for the developer, with both parties getting something of value. However the project still must represent "good planning," taking into account these benefits. I'm not sure how receptive Councillor Leadman would be to something like this, a lot of people don't like it because it seems like let's make a deal planning or chequebook planning

Last edited by waterloowarrior; Mar 18, 2010 at 5:25 PM.
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  #90  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 5:08 PM
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Great question. And the real winners of this fiasco in the making are the Sisters, who managed to sell this property for top dollar prior to its heritage designation, which will inevitably decrease its value on the commercial real estate market.

It's possible that a private interest could buy it from Ashcroft, or the city/NCC. It's also possible that an Ashcroft backhoe could 'accidentally' back up and demolish the whole thing. It's been done before, unfortunately. Will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
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  #91  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 5:24 PM
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I agree, Waterloo Warrior. And that's why I think the best all-around option is to leave the convent and the front lawn undeveloped and restored, and in the backyard put up a tasteful tower that doesn't dominate the surrounding area. I think it can be done.
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  #92  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 5:59 PM
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Originally Posted by waterloowarrior View Post
Josh - I think we always have to be careful when considering economics in the planning context. It is certainly a huge part of planning from the developer's perspective, they aren't in it to lose money, but a taller building should be able to stand on its own merits, and not be approved just because the developer needs 'x' floors to make the project work (at the same time, Councillors need to be aware that arbitrarily knocking off a few floors at the last minute can really affect the economics of a project).
My background being in construction and business I see good urban planning as a hybrid or marriage of economics and planning. If we don’t offer incentives, bonuses, or recognition for proposals that integrated well into the urban environment, bettering the community in which they are built, good urban development will be the rarity. I agree that a building has to stand on its own merits and not require an increase in height to break-even. But to make a building cheaper you build out to the maximum , you don’t have set-backs more then what is required, you use cheaper material or less expensive building techniques. All of which leave you with building that are uninteresting and boxy .
A prime example of this was the argument for the increase in height for Charlesfort’s Lisgar proposal. Paraphrased “I can build a box that adds nothing to the neighbourhood other then density, which the city can’t stop if it meets all of the zoning requirements or I add a building that’s taller with setback and tapered to promote more sunlight and less of a wind tunnel effect.”

I know I make it too black and white, but if we make it easier to get a well planned city our odds of getting it increase significantly.

Cheers,
Josh
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  #93  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 7:07 PM
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I definitely agree with what you're saying. Personally I think economics and financial aspects of development aren't considered enough in planning... parking lots in Centretown aren't going to be redeveloped any time soon with some of the height limits there, it just doesn't make sense if you're making lots of money each month from people parking there. And with some projects the requests made by community associations or neighbours can be unreasonable financially without some sort of increase in density.... but just wanted to make the point that it can be a slippery slope and we should always make sure that the project can stand on its own merits and/or that the tradeoffs make for good planning... otherwise the economics argument has potential to be abused.
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  #94  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 7:54 PM
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Ashcroft has posted their slides from the public meeting. There are a number of images and plans that haven't been posted here yet.

Also, they now have a blog!
Could a Twitter account be next?

Last edited by waterloowarrior; Mar 18, 2010 at 8:20 PM.
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  #95  
Old Posted Mar 18, 2010, 8:25 PM
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Some good pictures there, its a really interesting proposal. Im not sure what it's going to take for it to get approved. If they dropped 3 floors at the front, that might help.
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  #96  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2010, 12:00 AM
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Originally Posted by ajldub View Post
Great question. And the real winners of this fiasco in the making are the Sisters, who managed to sell this property for top dollar prior to its heritage designation, which will inevitably decrease its value on the commercial real estate market.
Indeed they are, though Ashcroft knew it would be heritage-designated.

More troubling is the "ransacking" of the convent by the Sisters of many of its features, like whitewashing the painted ceilings, before they sold it.

Quote:
It's possible that a private interest could buy it from Ashcroft, or the city/NCC. It's also possible that an Ashcroft backhoe could 'accidentally' back up and demolish the whole thing. It's been done before, unfortunately. Will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
You've brought up the prospect of the convent getting or not getting a heritage designation a few times, and I think the record has to be set straight on this. It will get a heritage designation, and Ashcroft already knew that. There's no prospect of them knocking down the convent proper.

Where things get less certain is with all the site's other features, particularly its trees. A lot of the height is being justified on the basis of maintaining tree cover and east side setbacks (the two are related).
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  #97  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2010, 1:35 AM
ajldub ajldub is offline
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Good to know, thanks for the clarification. Does this mean they will be bonded until the property is all developed?
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  #98  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2010, 10:23 PM
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Wed, 31 March, 7-9pm

Kitchissippi Ward councillor Christine Leadman will be hosting a public meeting to discuss the proposed redevelopment of the Soeurs de la Visitation convent. The meeting will be held Wednesday, March 31st, from 7-9pm at St George’s Church (415 Picadilly Avenue).

Councillor Leadman has expressed her concerns over the development, and would like to hear from the community. City staff will also be present to answer questions and discuss the next steps in the process.

More information can be found here.
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  #99  
Old Posted Mar 20, 2010, 3:24 AM
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This might have just blown sky high :-S
Quote:

Heritage status of Les Soeurs property in question

Advisory committee wants entire site designated, not just convent buildings

By Kristy Nease , The Ottawa CitizenMarch 19, 2010 11:02 PMBe the first to post a comment



A decision to seek a heritage designation for the entire Les Soeurs de la Visitation D’Ottawa site has deeply concerned the project’s developer and has the ward councillor demanding answers from city staff.

The unanimous recommendation by a quorum of the Ottawa Built Heritage Advisory Committee asks that the whole site of the former convent, from Richmond Road to Byron Avenue, receive heritage designation, said committee chairman Jay Baltz. City staff originally recommended that only about the northern half of the site — where the convent sits — should receive the designation, he said.

Kitchissippi Councillor Christine Leadman said staff should have considered the entire site in their report to the heritage committee in the first place. She said the back portion of the site reflects more of the nuns’ daily life, where they maintained food gardens and even buried the monastery’s founder.

“To take the site and chop it up isn’t really in the heritage context that the site should be treated as a whole, and it’s interesting that our own staff did not do that.”

“And if they didn’t agree with the back portion being of heritage value, they should have indicated that assessment. … They didn’t do that, they didn’t even evaluate it,” Leadman said.

The councillor said she has asked for clarity on the staff report, and for an argument one way or the other about the heritage value of the site’s southern half.

The recommendation is moving quickly forward to the planning committee on Tuesday and on to full council on Wednesday.

The heritage committee traditionally sits only once in March, Baltz said by phone Friday, “but councillors asked us to schedule a meeting in order to have (the site) designated before any proposal (from Ashcroft) might come forward.”

Eight of the committee’s 14 members were present.

Paul Rothwell, Ashcroft’s director of planning and development, called the Thursday discussions surrounding the recommendation “confrontational” and “disturbing.”

“We’re very worried, to tell you the truth,” Rothwell said by phone Friday evening. “We’re very concerned. I’m not sure what our response will be technically, but we were talking about it today and we were discouraged and quite distraught, in fact.


“We heard a very, at almost times vitriolic, expression of anti-development sentiment,” he said. “We know that technically speaking, (the recommendation) doesn’t necessarily prevent development, but it gives a tremendous advantage to naysayers and the heritage folks, who, when it comes to new development, are not the champions. They tend to want to look back and keep things the same, and that’s their philosophy.”

Rothwell said a multi-use development such as the one Ashcroft unveiled in Westboro March 10 is needed to fund and sustain the heritage value of the former convent building.

Baltz said development can still go ahead if the entire Les Soeurs site is given a heritage designation.

“It just gives it the same protection that any other designated property has, which is that it has to go through a process under the Heritage Act …” alongside the regular city process.

Baltz, who has chaired the committee for four years and lives in Hintonburg, also said it is not unusual for land to receive designation.

“You always designate property,” he said. “It would virtually never be done that you stopped a designation at the building walls. It usually is the extent of the lot that the building sits on. In this case, there was a lot of discussion because the lot is so large.”

Baltz said an architect working with Ashcroft’s team who attended the meeting asked that a reduced amount of space along Richmond Road be recommended for designation.

Ashcroft’s preliminary concept designs outlined a large mixed-use Richmond Road façade with first-floor retail space and commercial accommodations, as well as condominiums, with an arched entrance to the site.

Rothwell said committee members had been poised to vote on protecting the sightline into the site from Richmond Road, without, of course, the current wall secluding the convent. That vote never came, but he said the thought is indicative of the committee’s anti-development stance.

“That, simply, to me, is nothing more than an effort to stop a building,” Rothwell said. “Pure and simple.”

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  #100  
Old Posted Mar 20, 2010, 2:32 PM
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^ Planning committee on Tuesday just got a lot more interesting


Letter to the editor:
Taking the village out of Westboro
 THE OTTAWA CITIZENMARCH 20, 2010
 
Re: Losing the village in Westboro, March 17.

Columnist Ken Gray's hit the nail on the head. Yes, the revitalization of the main street fabric has been a tremendous boost to the retail fabric of Richmond Road and also Wellington West. However, at what cost?

The recent Ottawa Neighbourhood Study makes a point that this area has "little greenspace." So why aren't we preserving part of the convent's 5.2 acres for recreational space.

We learned during the Community Design Plan that the City of Ottawa said no when asked if there would be additional recreation space to accommodate this intensification the city wants.

Now we have 1,100 new residents plus a boutique hotel plus pubs, restaurants and other retail spots (in this one small area) and the staff required to operate them.

My wife and I were in the Glebe and Old Ottawa South the other day. The difference of seeing mostly two-storey buildings compared to what's happening in Westboro is noticeable and yet they retain that main street character while we are losing it. We keep hearing that traffic is not an issue and that intensification is good. Good intensification that enhances the community is what's good and we keep hoping something will be done to support the village before it's too late.

Gary Ludington,

Ottawa

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