Centretown group, developer strike compromise on Kent Street building design

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A proposed apartment building on Kent Street in downtown Ottawa will now be built further back from the sidewalk, after the Centretown Citizens Community Association (CCCA) and the developer worked together to reach an agreement on the length of the setback.

The project, if it’s approved by city council, will involve tearing down two heritage homes at 443 and 447 Kent St. and replacing them with a 31-unit, four-storey development with a rear parking lot.

 

One of the Centretown community’s main concerns with an earlier design plan was how the front face of the building would be only 30 centimetres from the edge of the property line. Some residents told the committee at city hall studying the proposal on May 10 that this would have the building eclipse the sidewalk and neighbouring properties.

After the built heritage sub-committee ordered the building’s developers, Roca Homes, back to the drawing board, McLeod Street resident Mindy Sichel said the CCCA and Roca spent the next five weeks in consultations and negotiations. The two parties ultimately agreed on a new setback of 1.6-metres, which Sichel said is in keeping with the zoning bylaw’s requirements for that plot of land.

“It was a lot of work and a lot of people [were] very involved in discussing this… but I think it’s going to significantly improve the public space … in that part of Kent Street for pedestrians,” Sichel said in an interview Monday afternoon.

Sichel added the compromise is proof that community groups and developers — who she said can often butt heads on intensification projects — can successfully reach an outcome that “makes sense for everybody” and that maintains a “liveable” streetscape and neighbourhood.

Members of the built heritage sub-committee voted unanimously in favour of the revised design Monday.

Shawn Barber, who co-chairs the CCCA planning committee, told the heritage committee that the association still thinks that stretch of Kent Street, which falls within a heritage conservation district, “merits an even greater setback” than 1.6 metres. That said, the association is “keenly aware” of the pressing need for additional rental units in Centretown, he added.

“As the applicant has shown some flexibility in agreeing to meet the minimum zoning requirement, our community association is prepared to be flexible also and accept the proposal as it has been revised,” Barber said.

In a tweet Monday, Barber called the new negotiated setback a “big win” for the association.

Other changes to the new design plans presented Monday include the addition of two trees in front of the building.

Residents still trying to save maple tree

While the setback issue was resolved, Sichel said there’s still one major outstanding issue for residents: the fate of a large, mature maple tree that straddles the back of the Kent Street lot and the property of an adjacent McLeod Street home.

The development plan presented in May proposed removing the maple. This outraged the neighbours who share custody of the tree and who argue it’s “perfectly healthy.”

Barber said the CCCA is approving Roca’s revised design on the understanding the development group will continue to work “in good faith” with the community to keep the maple.

“There’s a lot of effort being put into saving that tree,” Sichel said. “We’re feeling positive about [it].”

The current design for the proposed development involves the removal of one maple tree that sits between two residences on McLeod Street.

Centretown Coun. Catherine McKenney has also said she feels strongly about preserving the tree, arguing it’s important to protect green space in the downtown core.

The Kent Street project now has to be reviewed by the planning committee. If approved, it will still have to get the green light from city council.

Catherine McKenney