Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Highrise project at former Greyhound terminal short on car parking, by design | CBC News

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Three highrise towers planned for the site of Ottawa’s demolished Greyhound bus terminal got the green light from a city committee on Wednesday, despite worries that the area’s roads are too dangerous for an expected onrush of cyclists.

Brigil is planning to build towers of 32, 34 and 36 storeys with 1,134 units on a city block fronting Catherine Street, between Kent and Lyon streets.

It would offer just 360 parking spaces for residents — less than half what was required under the zoning bylaw — but 1,164 bicycle parking spots.

The development team told councillors that they’re building towers for a 15-minute neighbourhood based around walking and cycling.

“This isn’t an automobile-driven project,” said John Moser of consultant GBA Group.

Roads dangerous for cyclists, councillor says

But Somerset Coun. Ariel Troster, who represents the area, said the area’s cycling infrastructure needs major work to keep all those peddling commuters safe as they head downtown on Kent Street.

“This is a massive neighbourhood-changing development bringing 2,000 people to a specific corner, with a 0.2 per person parking ratio, with the intention that people will use active transportation, and the north-south roads that are surrounding the site are extremely dangerous for cyclists,” she said. 

An artist’s rendering of Brigil’s development at 265 Catherine St. It would offer just 360 parking spaces for residents but 1,164 bicycle parking spots. (City of Ottawa)

“We cannot have bike and transit-oriented development without bike and transit-oriented infrastructure.”

She called Kent Street “like a four-lane highway through Centretown.” In her view, it needs a “road diet with dedicated cycling facilities.”

City staff looking at bike lanes

Coun. Jeff Leiper, who chairs the planning and housing committee, said building the towers will help create the pressure to make those changes a reality.

“One of the solutions to downtown revitalization is people, and a development like this has got the potential to create a very critical mass of people who are going to want services,” he said. “They are going to demand the safe infrastructure for getting around.”

Andrew McCreight, the city’s manager of development review (central), said city staff are hoping a renewal of Catherine Street will bring east-west cycling infrastructure to the site within a few years.

He noted that Lyon Street already has a southbound bike lane, and said staff are also looking at cycling infrastructure for Kent Street, though it’s not clear when or even whether that will happen.

An empty lot
The site of the former Greyhound station on Catherine Street, where Brigil is planning to build three towers of 32, 34 and 36 storeys. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

“It’s too early to tell. We just know that Kent Street has been flagged as something to look at,” McCreight said. “I don’t believe there’s any work plans on the books at this part … [but] a development of this nature can at least trigger that conversation.”

In his view, the site already has good access to retail, parks, cycling lanes and transit.

Project could be ready in 5 to 7 years

Troster thanked Brigil for making substantial changes to the project in light of resident concerns, including adding public washrooms, which she called “transformative.” 

Brigil also reduced building heights from an earlier proposal that included a 40-storey tower. One hundred units are intended to be affordable, with a maximum rent of about $1,550 per month.

An empty lot
Brigil’s planned development on this Catherine Street site is expected to include more than 1,100 units. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

In all, Troster called the new proposal “much, much better.”

But the Centretown Community Association still has concerns about the project. Its president, Mary Huang, said there could be more green space. In her view, the number of accessible and family-size units remains low, especially for a development so close to a school.

As for the prospect of so many residents living car free, she said that the area is “not yet a 15-minute neighbourhood.”

A drawing of a street and buildings
A rendering of the streetscape at Brigil’s proposed development at 265 Catherine St. If approved at council work would begin in the fall and take about five to seven years to finish. (City of Ottawa)

Brigil’s vice president of acquisitions and development, Jean-Luc Rivard, said the company is ready to begin work on the project this fall. He said it should take about five to seven years to finish.

He agreed with Troster that better bike infrastructure in the area would be good for the project.

Planning and housing committee voted in favour of Brigil’s requested zoning changes on Wednesday, including to allow a reduced number of parking spaces and increased building heights for the site.

Its recommendations still have to go to a full meeting of city council for final approval.

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