DCA objects to Soho Italia

Councilor Diane Holmes
Councilor Peter Hume
Councilor Katherine Hobbs                            8 Feb 2011

Re: the Soho Italia proposal by Starwood Mastercraft, 500 Preston Street

The Dalhousie Community Association (DCA) discussed this project at the 2 Feb 2011 meeting and unanimously agreed that it is objectionable on numerous grounds.

Firstly, the City is supposed to plan for its future using an Official Plan, supported by lower level plans. Neither the OP nor the CDP for the area call for high rises at the south end of Preston Street. Indeed, the zoning for the Carling and O-Train corridors was recently revised by the City as part of the CDP. And the CDP itself is still ongoing, a work in progress. Surely the correct planning procedure would be for the developer to request an amendment to the OP or similar neighborhood wide rezoning if they desire to promote a “Vancouver style” collection of tall condo towers. Instead, they are asking for a one-off rezoning, which will unleash speculation frenzy in this area. Lacking a persuasive case for spot rezoning, the City must maintain its current zoning for the area and entertain rezoning only through its normal neighborhood planning procedures.

Second, the proposal for a 35 storey tower built right up to the very edges of the sidewalk with no setbacks (indeed, the proponent calls for his building to overhang the public sidewalk) is totally contradictory to the Traditional Mainstreet designation in the OP and zoning, as well as the intent and letter of the on-going Bayview-Carling CDP. What is the purpose of gathering the citizens and land owners and planners together for multi-year planning processes if everything can be overturned based on the lobbying of a single developer? (Recall too that this site was spot rezoned from six to 20+ stories just a few years ago). The City has seen numerous challenges to its planning process in recent years. Public confidence has been shaken about the validity of the strategic planning process and its results. Approving such a drastic challenge to the planning process will further destroy the City’s reputation. We have not yet found a planner to support the idea that a 350’ wall rising straight up from the sidewalk edge constitutes good mainstreet development.

Third, the proposal for the tallest building in Ottawa needs to be assessed in a neighborhood context, not just as a one-site anomaly. What will the impact of this -- and other -- tall buildings be on the pedestrian environment, sidewalk patios, and two-storey traditional homes immediately adjacent the site? What will be the impact of these buildings on on-street parking for the restaurant trade? We note that the balconies of the proposed Soho Italia building extend to within 12” of the lot line; how then will adjacent lots be developable? Note that this community association is not opposed to high rise developments per se. We support intensification, especially along transit corridors, and for the conversion of brownfields to urban mixed-use spaces. Just because Starwood is a late-comer to the Ottawa condo market does not mean the city must inappropriately upzone lands or trash its neighborhood plans for the developer. Neighborhoods last forever, developers come and go. Will Council go for short-term buzz or leave a legacy of long-term vital neighborhoods?

Fourth, the City’s intensification goals can be reached by building within its current planned growth areas. The proposed 35 storey tower is merely the equivalent of 3 eight to ten storey mid-rise buildings, which are much more compatible with their neighbors and for which there is an abundance of appropriate lands. We question why the developer wants to build such a huge building on such a small lot in an area not zoned for that.

We urge our political leadership to show resilience and support for the OP strategic and neighborhood planning processes. This development proposal by Starwood is very high profile. It will be watched closely. The City’s decision will send a clear message to citizens, associations, and developers.

Does the City jump to rezone at the behest of developers, or does it plan for a rational city that works for all citizens?

Eric Darwin


  1. Your blog is very informative, I have learned so much from it. It is like daily newspaper :). Added to fav's.

    Deirdre G

  2. Nothing surprises me about this property.It has really been nothing but an empty lot since the city buses stopped using it as a turn around point for the #3 years ago.Now all this crap being proposed once again for the almighty tax dollar.Would we expect anything less from our beloved planners?The only thing that makes them move is MONEY,tax money!Its not about making the area cosmetically look better,or help improve business etc,its only about the almight tax dollar.How can someone try to tell homeowners/longtime residents that its GOOD for the area.
    1.My dead end street is already a speedway.
    2.Simple things such as correcting small issues such as signage is ignored.
    3.Once again,parking for these marvelous dwellings are going to be where?Remember we have less now after the reconstruction and you have to pay(more city revenue with a negative effect on residents).
    4.Balconies on a lot line,30 floors up?Whos liable for personal damage for *accidental* debris hurting someone?Liabitlity issues.Knowing the city and its band of clowns,its a moot topic untill something happens and the buck is passed.
    5.Building access from Sidney,has anyone from the city tried to turn left or right from that street during the week?Once again ACCESS to the building I am sure is being treated as trivial.

    Yes the city and times are changing but,lets face it,this is not Toronto,Vancouver,Montreal etc,we dont need something of that calibre in this area,in height.I keep seeing in other blogs that the Metropole on Scott St was sneered due to the unsightly look of it,well,it seems that there are those that think that a massive oversized structure such as the SOHO is a good idea,obviously its about money and those gripping about being residental dinosaurs have no vested interests down in that area.I remember the fight Charlesfort Developments had when building on Kent street due to area residents fighting hard to stop the buildings going up,he almost gave up,very costly for permits,lawyers,architects for revisions of plans etc,its costly to the developer no matter how well known they are.We can only hope that someone sees a hiccup in the app and cuts this short before we hear something like "Who would have thought?"


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