On October 9th, a public meeting was held at the AGB to introduce the ADI Developments 28 Story building proposal to the community.
There was a really good sized turn-out of residents to review the preliminary application from ADI Developments. Clearly the sentiment in the room was that this proposal was not a casual stab at a zoning change or height grab, no, it is being perceived as a disrespectful attempt to roll over a community for extreme financial gain.
Residents could barely contain themselves through the developer’s sales pitch before question/comment period. Out of that came a number of fantastic questions and comments that are worth highlighting.
First of note was Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward who stated emphatically that she was against the ADI proposal and would not support it — this was confidently stated as a Councillor but from the tone of her voice, it was also as a Core Precinct resident.
Question — Has ADI Developments engaged in the tactic of jamming a project directly to the OMB, bypassing community engagement, city planning and council decisions, in order to have the OMB rule without civic consultation? — YES
Though ADI’s representatives pretended not to understand the question, Bruce Krushelnicki the head of city planning noted that ADI did indeed recently play this strategy in our municipality to push a contentious project through.
Many residents focused on the position of the building with regard to traffic and access — asking if there was consideration for the already congested corner with bad sight lines and narrow streets. A resident pointed out that all in/out traffic concentrates around a single entry point similar to Bunton’s Wharf yet it is much closer to Lakeshore which will cause incredible congestion and lead to accidents.
Residents had done their homework and asked if the building encroached over the property line, over the street and neighbouring property. — YES
Indeed the building plan has the sides of the parking garage extending past the property line starting at the 2nd floor and up and again past the waste line of the tower it protrudes significant into the road.
What this means is that the city has not yet dealt with a plan that encroaches onto adjoining property or plane. It also means that people walking on street level would be under a roof around the perimeter of the property.
4. Mixed Use
Questions centred around mixed use looked at the retail component, a critical part of the city’s plan for mixed use density in that area.
The Official Plan is looking for buildings to have a significant mix of uses such as retail, professional and cultural in addition to residential.
The answer was that there is barely 3,000ft. of retail or as the architect asserted — “not a significant sized retail component”. When asked how the retail would be serviced, he cited a single door at the rear of the retail at the far west end inside the parking ramp. He admitted that if the retail were to be cut into multiple space (say 1,200ft as typical downtown) that the units would not have access and would use their front doors.
This is the same situation as the new senior’s residence build on Pine Street. The retail component was not designed with with rear utility/service access and will be relegated to service and stock their stores from the street entrance. What does this mean for narrow busy Pine Street? It will mean a constant stream of supplier and service vehicles jostling for illegal double parking on the south side of Pine and therefore blocking the already narrow street.
In the case of ADI’s 374 Martha, a similar situation will arise where trucks will undoubtedly double park on Lakeshore to service the street level retail.
A lot of time questions and comments were directed around parking and the underground and above ground levels that the building proposes — 8 stories of parking — 5 below and 3 above. This is a bigger parking building than the 7 level municipal parking structure on Locust which took 2 years to build.
Residents voiced concerns of the nature of this mega build — asking how many dump trucks would that take to empty such a 5 story hole. Though ADI was sadly dismissive of the resident’s query, it’s truly a good one. Having worked next to the parking garage build, as many of you may have lived beside other big builds, the effort to build down is immense.
The conclusion is simple. If the developer were to propose a building within the density proscribed by the city — it would be an easy 4 to 8 story build that wouldn’t require 5 levels of underground plus 3 stories above with a manageable parking requirement.
Building within the city’s official plan can meet density goals while being considerate of those that live here now. That was the plan.
In addition to build concerns, was also the amount of parking was grossly short for the types of units or amount of “bedrooms”. The city plan asks builders to offer 1.25 parking spaces per unit in the core area. The amount of spaces is higher in other areas of the city. This ADI proposal is grossly short of the 1.25 even though the bedroom count is similar to units outside of the core. The result is that this build is marketed to occupants that will likely have more tan 1 car and therefore the net loss of parking in the downtown will be significant.
The attitude of ADI was that residents and the downtown need to alter their attitude and habits and be less dependant on the car — suggesting in their presentation that in Toronto or Chicago, that those areas are less reliant. It was pointed out that those cities have a higher density and mix of public transportation options.
ADI was asked by residents to reconsider the proposal down to 8 stories or walk away. ADI said emphatically NO. Their intention is to build 28 stories and due to the trend of overbuilding and how it affects and inflates land prices, they likely have to.
They likely over-paid for the land because they were sure they could build high and jam this mega project onto the small lot for a maximum yield. They believe, in fact citing it several times, that the city has asked for this type of intensification. This isn’t the case, the city has not asked for 28 story buildings. The city has put forth a planning guideline that calls for 4 to 8 stories for that location.
A critical part of the city application process is community comments.
Staff appealed to the crowd that comments and concerns in writing is paramount since these are weighed by the city and importantly by the OMB. But these have a time limit and our deadline of comments is by November 14th. Why? Because ADI has pulled the trigger giving the city 180 days to pull together its review, research and consultations and vote on the application. This is tight. So to solicit and accept comments, they have to set a target date.
If the city is late in reporting on the application, it will automatically go to the OMB and if your comments aren’t in the deck, then there is no way of including them at the OMB. So tell everyone to get writing and comment to the planner on the project:
It is up to all of us to support the city and official plan through meetings and comments to ensure this build and others that will follow stay within the plan.