Ottawa Citizen - Tenants face uncertain future as developer plans demolition

According to documents submitted to city hall by Fotenn Planning + Design, the potential demolition of Magee’s building and paving of the site is part of a larger plan to redevelop an existing parking lot nearby.

By Bruce Deachman


Riley Magee returned home from work one day about two weeks ago to find a sign affixed to his low-rise apartment building at 142 Nepean St., near O’Connor, notifying passersby that a developer planned to tear the building down and put in its place a parking lot. 

Magee reached out to his landlord, whose elderly father owned the building. He was told that the owner wanted to sell the building and essentially retire and move on to other things.

Magee, who has lived in the building for almost three years, wonders what he himself might be moving on to. His landlord indicated that if he’s put out of his home, he could expect to receive up to three months’ rent in compensation, but Magee doubts that that will go very far if he’s forced out of his spacious, if old, two-bedroom, $1,200/month apartment.

“Nothing against the landlord, but it’s disappointing for sure,” he said on Sunday. “The biggest disappointment is that this is pretty affordable living, especially for being so central.”

According to documents submitted to city hall by Fotenn Planning + Design, the potential demolition of Magee’s building and paving of the site is part of a larger plan to redevelop an existing parking lot nearby, to be replaced by a 27-storey mixed-use building with 295 residential units.

But the parking lot that the unnamed developer want to build on belongs to an 11-storey office building at 190 O’Connor St., adjacent to Magee’s building. The developer hopes to build a somewhat smaller replacement lot on the site of Magee’s building and two adjacent vacant lots.

Ryan Schroeder, who has lived in the Nepean Street low-rise since October, thinks the plan is ill-conceived and shortsighted.

“We‘re already surrounded by so many parking lots that are never full. So it’s kind of weird that they want to tear down affordable apartment buildings to put in parking for 30 people. It makes no sense.”

Fotenn’s planning documents indicate that tenants at 142 Nepean St. “will be given the option to rent at a neighbouring rental apartment operated by an affiliate of the proponent,” but neither Magee nor Schroeder, nor another resident, Teke Rerri, has been contacted about this, or anything else.

Rerri, in fact, just moved into the building last month, and similarly only learned of the potential demolition when the notice went up on the building.

“I just moved in, and now I’ll probably have to leave. I think it’s a little rude to leave your tenants in the dark like this.”

Schroeder, meanwhile, said he’s leery of the planning report’s promise to offer tenants housing elsewhere. “This was one of the very few affordable places that I could move into without breaking my bank every month. And this ‘option to relocate’ doesn’t say anything about where, how big or what the rent will be.”

Schroeder believes the solution is to leave his building standing and simply build fewer parking spaces.

“We already have a homeless problem, so why would you tear down affordable housing for people that already have trouble affording places to live?”

Reached Sunday, Coun. Catherine McKenney, whose Somerset ward includes the proposed development site, said she’s opposed to tearing down any housing to build parking lots.

“When I get an application like this, where you’re asking me, as a councillor, to support removing housing to build a parking lot — and I understand that you’re putting up a tower, with more housing, where a parking lot exists today, but once you grant someone a parking lot, I can tell you that in this city, you don’t lose it. The revenue generated from parking lots downtown is too great, and it means that we end up with these hard-surface parking areas all over our downtown.

“We know there’s a climate crisis,” McKenney added, “so we don’t need another parking lot. And we’re in a housing/homelessness crisis, so we don’t really need to lose more housing.

“There’s LRT, and parking lots all over the place. We do not need to replace a small residential building to put in more parking.”

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