Floorplans and additional images are now available:
Also, check the Ottawa Citizen for an article on the developer, himself a Vanier native, and the journey towards developing the site:
Just a few blocks from where he grew up, builder stretches his wings and delves into the condo market
By Sheila Brady, The Ottawa Citizen January 27, 2012
Guy Whissel got an early Christmas present when the City of Ottawa gave its blessing for a most unusual condo that will sit on a triangular chunk of land tucked behind Montreal Road and the Vanier Parkway.
There was no fancy paper wrapped around the Dec. 23 approval for the eight-storey Sonia, but it was the best gift for the owner of Longwood Development Corporation.
The $25-million, red-brick-and-glass condo is all about generous curves, rounded white stone banding and an imposing concave glass entrance facing Montgomery Street at McArthur Avenue. There are hopes the sleek 70-unit building will also refresh McArthur, adding a unique residential face to a busy street.
“It’s a very unusual site and the developer and architect should be commended for taking it on,” says David Leinster, chair of the 10-member, city-appointed Urban Design Review Panel that examined the plans twice over the past year, making suggestions to massage the exterior, while taking into consideration the neighbourhood.
The first meeting, a mandatory appearance held behind closed doors, was held last January. Then the panel, made up of five architects, two landscape architects, an urban planner, an environmental expert and a heritage conservationist, suggested a more public face for the McArthur side of the building and more planting. Whissel and his longtime colleague, architect Douglas Hardie, worked with city planners, coming up with a plan for two apartments facing McArthur.
“They have done a good job and hopefully the Sonia will become a bit of a game changer on McArthur and in a neighbourhood that is in a bit of a transition,” says Leinster. “It’s not like other towers that we have looked at that will sit smack up against a two-storey home and are out of context.”
The site, a triangular piece of land, was the first challenge, says Hardie. Then Whissel pressed for curves to soften the building, which he hopes will attract younger buyers and area residents who want to downsize and avoid the higher prices of downtown condos. Prices start in the low $200,000s.
“I have always liked angles and curves. It’s pleasing to the eye,” says Whissel, 55, who grew up a few blocks away.
During the design, Hardie borrowed inspiration from the famous flatiron Fuller building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and the historical red brick Gooderham building on the edge of Toronto’s financial district.
“The shape of the land dictated the design and then we took a glimpse at these two buildings and softened and rounded the curves,” says Hardie.
Adds Whissel: “Ottawa has been criticized as dull and boring. I wanted to do something different. There are too many buildings that look like bunkers.”
Whissel has always liked design, earning papers as an architectural technologist from Algonquin College before launching into the construction industry in 1977. He first joined homebuilding giant Minto Developments and then launched Longwood in 1988, carving out a solid reputation for single homes and bungalow townhomes for active boomers.
The Sonia (named after his wife, Nicole Sonia) is his first condo project.
The only thing that would have made Whissel happier would have been a faster process, since the condo didn’t step on any city bylaws or rile any neighbours. It’s been 18 months since he approached school chum Mike Seguin to buy the land where Seguin ran a service station for more than two decades.
“I thought it was going to be a slam dunk,” says Whissel, one of the first applicants to wind through the approval process of the city’s Urban Design Review Panel.
“We were massaging the plan,” says Leinster, adding the panel was never opposed to the project.
Whissel was stunned by the critique at the first meeting, while Hardie, a veteran of peer reviews, took away the suggestions, incorporating them into a more refined plan. Both, however, refused to budge on moving the main entrance from Montgomery to the busier McArthur.
“That change would have affected the inside layout for the elevators,” says Hardie. The team also refused to back down from the large concave glass wall forming the main entrance, even though the design panel said it was facing north and would be an energy loser.
“We can work through that with the right materials,” says Hardie.
The Sonia will include two floors of underground parking and common areas, including a party area on the main floor and a workout area.
Prices will range from the low $200,000s for a 561-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath apartment, going up to $490,000 for a 1,129-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath condo. Condos on the fifth floor facing McArthur will also feature huge outdoor terraces.
Underground parking is $29,000 and condo fees are expected to range between $214 and $375, depending on the size of the condo.
The sales centre is set to open Jan. 28 and a wiser Whissel is already aggressively looking for another property in the area.
The Sonia by the Rideau
What: Eight-storey condo, with 70 units
Builder: Longwood Development Corporation
Prices: Starting in the low $200,000s for 561-square-foot, one-bedroom up to $490,000 for two bedrooms and 1,129 square feet
Fees: Parking is $29,000; condo fees expected to range between $214 and $375
Location: 450 Montgomery St.
Sales centre: Monday to Thursday, noon to 6 p.m.; weekends, noon to 5 p.m. Closed Fridays.
Information: Call 613-421-9736 or visit soniacondos.com.
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