Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dalhousie Report, March 2011

by Eric Darwin, President, Dalhousie Community Association



Exciting Guest Speakers:  The Dalhousie Community Association will hold its annual general meeting (AGM) on April 6, 2011. We are very excited that our guest speakers will be John Doran and Rick Morris of Domicile Developments. This firm has been active in Centretown, Dalhousie, and other wards for decades. They build townhouses, small and mid-rise apartments. Their talk will cover how much it costs to build infills, what factors determine "how big" and "how much" and "how tall", where the money goes, and what they do with the revenues. Should be very interesting and educational as condomania and infills appear throughout our neighborhoods.

The meeting begins at 7pm at the Dalhousie Community Centre, 3rd floor, 755 Somerset Street at Empress. This could be the best hour you spend this year! And the cookies are free.

High Rise Intensification: Soho Italia. The March meeting of the Dalhousie Community Association opened with a presentation by and discussion with the architect, Roderick Lahey, and developer representative Jeff Polowin. Recall that Mastercraft-Starwood’s Soho Italia proposal is for a 35 storey building near the intersection of Preston and Carling, opposite Dow’s Lake. Following the current developer trend in Ottawa, it is a very tall building on a very small lot. Readers can go to our website http://www.ottawadalhousie.ca/  to view pictures of the proposed development.

The development is controversial not just for its size, but the audacity of its rezoning request (surrounding properties have zonings of six floors or less). The developer is ignoring the on-going Carling-Bayview study, which includes zoning issues; and the City’s planning department, in favour of direct lobbying to politicians and a sophisticated marketing campaign to sway various groups into supporting the project. Their attempt get support from the Preston Street BIA failed, with the BIA electing to support continued low-rise development along the street with higher-rising development behind, much like the successful and popular Adobe-Xerox complex on Preston immediately south of the Queensway.

Your association decided to continue opposing the project as over-sized, and to request a meeting with city officials. We will try to set up the meeting in conjunction with the BIA and other neighborhood groups. We also hear rumours from other developers that if 35 floors is granted, they will ask to upzone all their properties to 35 floors too, which would become the new standard height for highrises in the City.

Next, members heard from the community safety committee. Problem areas continue to be the Gladstone area west of Bronson, and a “pipe lounge” on Preston. Action is being taken on both problem areas to control the hazards. Unfortunately, this often means encouraging the problems to move to someone else’s neighborhood. We are encouraged by a renewed sense of cooperation from landlords who seem keener now than ever before to have good commercial tenants and good relations with neighbours. The new manager at the Quickie at Bell and Gladstone is also working with us to make that corner safer.

Low rise intensification is also on the upswing in Dalhousie. A local property owner wants to sever the parking lot (access off Norman) behind his existing duplex (which faces Preston), and build three apartments on the “new” (approximately 33’x33’) lot. This removes some off-street private parking and the new units will not have parking. Community members discussed the merits of the infill, and the issue of private vs on-street parking at new developments. This proposed infill might actually protect Norman street from a highrise and preserve the low-rise residential nature of the block. The spot is tight but the project seems nice, and the local developer has a track record of decent infills. We decided to send a short note in support of the zoning and site plan. Again, our website www.OttawaDalhousie.ca has pictures. We also encourage Centretown and Dalhousie residents to go to the City’s website study on the problems with infills http://ottawa.ca/residents/public_consult/infill/findings_en.html  and submit their comments.

The association sent a letter of support to the foes of the Alta Vista Transportation Corridor. The current proposal before City Council calls for about $65 million of road construction from Riverside (near Hurdman Station) to the Hospital Complex. While we understand that some neighbours of the complex are upset with current excess traffic, we think the proposed road link is just the first part of the whole Alta Vista arterial which will facilitate and encourage more car-dependency and the concomitant nuisance in other neighbourhoods. In short: no more roads! We would much rather see the corridor used for a streetcar or similarly appropriate transit link.

Speaking of roads, our response is largely negative to the City’s proposals to “fix” Carling Avenue between the O-Train and Bronson Avenue. They propose to widen the road by removing much of the central grass median and pave it with turning lanes that are used mainly for about 90 minutes a day. For the other 22 hours a day, the six-lane road is way underused. It is silly to try to design roads just to handle the rush hour, there will never be enough space for rush hour and we are encouraging more commuters to drive.

While the Carling study team has tried to insert bike lanes in both directions, we have safety concerns, especially since the lanes peter out as you go up the hill towards Bronson, and the intersection at the top is a long way from being cyclist-friendly. We are going to ask for another meeting with the planners, part of which may include discussing a bi-directional multi-user path on the south side of Carling. We also want to carefully examine the pedestrian environment which remains hostile to walkers.

The Association also asked its president to appear before the City budget meetings to once again argue for immediate funding of the multi-user path under Somerset at the O-Train. It strikes us as bizarre to finish off five years of neighborhood mainstreet reconstruction in 2011 and then go back in 2012 to dig up Somerset again to install the pathway underpass. As much as City staff claims this is a logical engineering and financial sequence, we don’t think merchants, motorists, transit users, cyclists or pedestrians are likely to agree when they see new roads being dug up again. So much for taxpayer frugality. Perhaps some of the freed-up money from the Alta Vista project could be used this year to build this missing link for the cycling network.

The Association ran out of time to discuss the proposed high rise (17 floors) at the corner of Gloucester and Lyon Street. It would join two other apartment buildings of 12 stories on the same block. We hope to have an online discussion and submit a response to the zoning and site plan proposal. Photos and plans are available at http://www.ottawadalhousie.ca/ .

Next meeting of the DCA is 7pm April 6, 2011 at the Dalhousie Community Centre, corner of Empress and Somerset Streets. See the first paragraph of today’s report for news of our guest speakers. Mark your calendars to come hear Deep Throat in person.

1 comment:

  1. I can see that you are putting a lot of time and effort into your blog and detailed articles! Will be back often to read more updates!

    Arrielle P

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