A Story About Nine Storeys

Regional’s proposed Official Plan Amendment allowing nine storeys in front of the Deschâtelets residence was strenuously opposed by those attending a May 7 standing-room-only meeting of the OOE community association. Photo by John Dance

Regional’s proposed Official Plan Amendment allowing nine storeys in front of the Deschâtelets residence was strenuously opposed by those attending a May 7 standing-room-only meeting of the OOE community association. Photo by John Dance

By Ron Rose

More than 50 residents of Old Ottawa East (OOE) turned out to a meeting on May 7th to express their concerns about a proposed nine-storey building. The Regional Group, the developers of
Greystone Village, propose to construct the nine-storey building between Main Street and the Deschâtelets building. Residents were surprised because ever since purchasing the property in 2015,
Regional had indicated they planned to construct a six-storey building in that location. The land is zoned for a maximum of only six storeys, and the promotional material prepared by Regional, including the 3-D display in their presentation centre, had shown a six-storey building in that location.

The proposed nine-storey building is one of two located on the north side of the Grand Allee and does not block the protected Heritage views. Regional worked with city staff and the Urban Design Review Panel to create two smaller buildings rather than one massive building covering the entire block. This maintained most of the original floor area by redistributing it to the back of the property.

This was purposefully done to allow a view of the Grand Allee and a pedestrian connection to the Allee from Oblats Avenue and the Corners on Main. Between the two buildings, there is outdoor parking for the retail and restaurants on the ground floor, and space for delivery vehicles to park that keeps them off Oblats Avenue.

The two buildings benefited from consultation with a heritage expert, and the transition from the sixth floor to the ninth floor was accomplished by terracing the upper three floors away from the Grand Allee, according to Erin O’Connor, Manager, Land Development, Regional Group.

Monica Helm, who recently purchased a property at the adjacent Corners on Main development, was caught entirely off guard by Regional’s recent about-face. “Imagine our surprise when we discovered that there was a nine-storey building proposed directly across the street from our new home. We did our due diligence, consulted the existing zoning for that property, and checked out the display in the Greystone Presentation Centre. Everything pointed to a maximum of six storeys,” recalls Helm.

Many residents at the meeting were concerned that zoning, which is supposed to promote certainty, can change so quickly.

The Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA), which opposes this proposed building, organized the meeting to inform residents about the proposed changes and to discuss strategies for stating their concerns to the appropriate authorities. A large number of those present planned to write to the city to express their views and to copy those letters to their City Councillor.

Many residents also volunteered to speak against the proposal when it comes up for debate at the city’s Planning Committee. Social media accounts were created on the spot and will be used to inform the broader community about the changes and to ease communication flow among residents.

“This proposal to place a nine-storey building on that location came as quite a surprise, given the history of the community’s Design Plan and Secondary Plan for the site” said Michael Dawson, a resident familiar with the recent history of the site.

Early in the 21st century, when OOE residents realized that many of the institutional lands at the heart of their community might eventually be sold, they began work on a Community Development Plan (CDP). They collaborated with the city and with the owners of the institutional lands at that time, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (the Oblates) and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (the Sisters). The CDP spelled out how the community should develop. One of the key objectives of the plan was to preserve the historic Deschâtelets building and the tree-lined
Grande Allée joining it to Main Street.

The institutional lands were eventually purchased by developers in 2015, with Domicile Developments purchasing much of the land owned by the Sisters, and Regional purchasing the larger block of land belonging to the Oblates. As part of the CDP, the lands between the Deschâtelets Building and Main Street were zoned to allow a maximum height of six-storeys. The zoning was designed
to protect the views of the Deschâtelets Building, which has subsequently been designated as a historical building by the city, to protect the Grande Allée, and to provide a buffer between the Greystone buildings and the residents of Archville, which bordered the developments to the north.

“This is not just a question of three more storeys on a building”, said Phyllis Odenbach Sutton, the chair of OOECA. “The agreement to limit the height of buildings between Main Street and
the Deschâtelets building was the main selling point of an agreement between the previous owners of the property, the community of Old Ottawa East and the city. Everyone wanted to protect the view of the historic Deschâtelets building, and not overwhelm the neighbours to the north of Springhurst Avenue”.

“We would like the neighbourhood to take comfort that the lovely view of the Deschâtelets building from Main Street down the Grand Allee is protected under the Heritage Act, and Regional has
already dedicated those lands to the city as part of a larger public park. This vital preservation was deliberately done to maintain the view of Edifice Deschâtelets from Main Street,” said Regional’s O’Connor.

Now residents are anxiously waiting for their chance to state their views to the Planning Committee. Initially, the discussion was scheduled for July 11th, but that meeting has now been cancelled, so the presentations may happen as early as June.

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