Monday, January 17, 2011

DCA relating concerns about Christ Church Cathedral development

17 January 2011


Erin O’Connell,
Planning and Growth Management Department
City of Ottawa

Re: Cathedral Hill proposed development

At its January meeting, the Association discussed the proposed developments around Christ Church Cathedral. Our comments are based on a presentation in the fall by Mr Demark, and the public presentation last month.

We have several concerns.

• The entire Queen-Bronson-Sparks-Bay block is a heritage zone. It will become completely fragmented with this development. Roper House will be adjacent a tall condo, the Cathedral and its hall will be separated from other historic houses by an office tower, St Peters is squished off into a corner, and eventually there will be a modern high rise south of St Peters too. The heights of the buildings and their dominance totally change the character of the block. The underlying principle for this block should be to enhance the appreciation of the existing historical fabric.

• The proposed condo tower was presented to the DCA as 15 floors, which exceeded the height of the church tower but left the tower as a significant skyline element. We expressed our concerns then about the proposed condo being a bit too tall at that height. Subsequently the condo grew to 18 stories, lately it is 24 stories. The building now dominates the skyline and trivializes the Cathedral. This is not acceptable to this Association. Too much effort is being put into preserving the views of the condo owners at 85 Bronson, and not enough into shaping an attractive skyline that leaves a significant role for the Cathedral. We remind you that the skyline is very important as it is the first downtown line of development, sits high on an escarpment, and is visible from Wellington, Portage, Gatineau, the Western Parkway, the Flats …

• Just as the height limit on the South side of the block was broken by 95 Bronson for ostensibly valid reasons, it quickly became the new base line height for 85 Bronson. Once the Christ Church condo is approved at 24 floors that will become the de facto target height for all subsequent developers. This is not planning; it is ad hoc reacting to developers.

• This Association understands the rationale for constructing an office building east of the Cathedral. However, this breaks the Lyon Street office/residential dividing line. We expect that St Peters will follow with a request for an office tower on their parking lot, arguing the same grounds as Christ Church. We then expect other developers to want office buildings west of Lyon. Since Christ Church has no tenant for the office building, it need not be rezoned now but can be considered later, which will delay the offices-west-of-Lyon precedent. If the city is to allow this office building precedent, it should specify that it will entertain no further office towers until this one is fully occupied and that the exception is for the financial and public benefit of the historic properties and should reiterate that office structures will not be permitted elsewhere.

• Our Association appreciates and lauds the work of the Anglican diocese in its Cornerstone housing efforts. Nonetheless, there are flaws with a build-luxury-condos-here and put-affordable-housing-over-there approach. It results in reinforcing the economic disparity of existing neighborhoods. Cathedral Hill will become Ritzy Hill. We prefer that the Cathedral work out and arrangement with a non-profit housing provider for some of the condo units so that they remain affordable rentals. This initiative becomes even more affordable should the city approve the 24 storey height limit which will significantly increase the market value of the condos.

• We appreciate the efforts to preserve Roper House and Lauder Hall. We like that a townhouse façade is proposed for part of the structure on the Sparks Street side. We would like the existing houses on the south side to have their facades incorporated into the condo tower, amongst other measures to create a pedestrian scale street environment and to preserve a sense of history.

• We see no efforts to reinforce the historic elements through streetscaping or landscaping plans for the whole block. The finished result will be half high-rises and half historic low-rises. The city must intervene by sponsoring a coherent streetscaping, landscaping, and finishing theme for the block, to be implemented by the developers as they build.

• If the scale of development proposed were acceptable, we think the basic arrangement of the buildings on the site( as presented to us with a shorter condo) is well conceived

• The architecture of the new buildings must be complimentary to the gothic structure of the Cathedral and Hall.

Sincerely,

Eric Darwin
President, Dalhousie Community Association.

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