Saturday, December 12, 2009

Central Phase II - what do you think?

Buried at the end of the previous post, I mentioned that Councillor Holmes orgnized a public meeting at Centretown United Church for the builders of the Central condominiums to share their plans to build a second building at Bank and McLeod.

Here's a panoramic view of the area on Bank Street, looking East (click to enlarge). On the left is the Metropolitan Bible Church, under disassembly/demolition, then McLeod Street, then the Medical Building at 340 McLeod with large parking lot at Bank, then the CLV building (whose tenants include Vistek, where I got this new camera), the tower of Centretown United, and finally Bank Street. This is across the street from Tommy & Lefebvre's flagship store, under reconstruction after the fire this past March.

Below is a rendering of roughly how this same view might look. On the left is the Central Phase I (permits already approved, construction underway) with the Metropolitan Bible Church's façade retained. In the middle, across McLeod Street, would be Central Phase II, separated from the CLV building by the CLV building's parking lot.

Thanks to Natalie at FoTenn for getting me a electronic copies of the panels from Tuesday's presentation. The graphics were prepared by Core Architects, the Toronto-based firm whose Ottawa developments include the East Market building, the Mondrian, and of course the Central Phase I. Note that the renderings are all preliminary, and no applications have been submitted to the City at this point.

Here's the site as it sits today at Bank and McLeod. That brown building with the tall windows is the Medical building, and it has sat vacant for eight years. Along the Bank Street frontage is a large parking lot, all part of the same parcel as the Medical building. David Wex of the development company said they purchased the site a month or so ago, with some final paperwork left. Note the bike cutout on McLeod at Bank, so cyclists can go straight or turn left from McLeod, but motorists must turn right. This will likely be retained.

A corollary of the building having been vacant for eight years is that these signs at Bank Street are unnecessary clutter. (This photo was taken last December, before the reconstruction)

Here's a view of the site and zoning from the City of Ottawa's eMap application. You can see that the medical building and the parking lot are all the same property, and the way the parking lots fit together like a jigsaw.

The eMaps property report shows that the zoning is TM H(19) - Traditional Mainstreet, maximum 6 floors, maximum height 19m, with a Heritage Overlay. The developers will be asking for variances for an additional two storeys, plus a reduction in setback requirements along Bank.

As for the proposed development, they want to build on the popularity of the Central Phase I development (Matt Richling has a good writeup of it on his Ottawa Real Estate blog), which has already sold 200 units of 240. Instead of the U-shaped building of Phase I, Phase II will be an L-shaped building of similar style hugging McLeod and Bank streets. The medical building will be leased or sold (and if they can't find any takers, they'll consider a Central Phase III). Here's a comparison of Phases I and II, again from the Core Architects document:

340 McLeod Street and 453 Bank Street - Statistics Summary

Date: 08 December 2009
Projects: 09-205 and 07-160
 Central Phase 1Central Phase 2
Total Residential Units237131
Total Floors98
Building Height31.8m (Top of Level 9)28.7m (Top of Level 8)
Parking138 spaces provided for residential parking
40 spaces provided for retail parking
91 spaces of which 67 are residential and 24 visitor
Commercial Area (m2)1,856688.4
And here's an aerial rendering from Core Architects of what the two buildings are proposed to look like on the site. We're looking West, with Phase I on the right, and Phase II on the left, with the Medical building in front of it.

Here's another rendering of the street view looking West along McLeod toward Bank. The Medical building holds up better to the mass of Phase II than the houses on McLeod do to Phase I.

For comparison, here's a similar angle in Google Street View (the embedded street view was causing errors, so you'll have to click to explore):

Now, it's hard to make it out in this flat elevation, but we're looking at the building from the South, with Bank Street on the left and 340 McLeod on the right. The bottom of the "L" is at the left in red brick, and the rest of the building is further back. In the spirit of the LEED design principles, the developers are planning to build a Green Wall along the single-storey wall abutting the CLV parking lot. Above this first storey will be a landscaped courtyard for the residents.

On the ground floor of the building, they've got some interesting proposals going on, as shown in the rendering below. The greyish area represents ground-floor retail. They're suggesting the possibility of an urban-format grocery store in that space. The red bit is the lobby, and the yellow squares are "loft-houses," essentially two-storey townhouses at the base of the condo tower with entrances on McLeod. At the back of the site (inside the building) is the entrance to the two-level parking garage, which will have room for residents and visitors (retail parking for both phases will be provided in the Phase I building, which has only sold 70-80 parking spots of the 138 allocated to residences, leaving many available to add to the 40 spots already reserved for public parking). Lastly, a loading dock at the south-east corner of the building interior will share the same set of doors as the garage.

The timeline for the applications process was described on this panel. We're currently in the 'pre-consultations' phase, and the developers expect to submit their applications around the end of January 2010. This is when the formal public process will begin. At the meeting, Councillor Holmes suggested that residents should wait for the applications to be submitted before sending comments to the City, but I am of the opinion that it's never too early.

There was a wide variety of opinions expressed by those in attendance at the meeting on Tuesday. Some neighbours to the site were worried about the building being two stories higher than what the zoning allowed. A couple of people who recently bought houses in the area enthusiastically welcomed the increase to their property's values, "so keep going," they said. Other concerns included the loss of parking and whether the green wall would get enough light to survive, or if it instead would become an alley attracting graffiti.

The proponents said that the pair of developments would create an "European feel" with a consistent building form across multiple streets.

What do you think?

The CCCA's Planning and Development Review Committee will be discussing this proposal, likely at their January committee meeting, and I'd like to hear feedback from residents to bring to the committee to inform the Community Association's position. Leave your comments in the "comments" section below, or drop me an e-mail at Centretown.Ottawa -at- gmail -dot- com

Lastly, here's the latest view of the Metropolitan Bible Church. They've finished dismantling the top of the Façade and have removed the scaffolding.


  1. I prefer condos over a surface parking lot. I think they should trash the old medical tower -- its obsolete -- and build more new residential there.

    I really like the green wall -- it will have some visibility facing the parking lot, but I would like to so some of it facing a street or area where more people might see it.

    -Eric Darwin

  2. I like the looks of this, myself. That part of Bank has always been a little bit barren, and it's good to see developers showing an interest in it. I suppose you could call it a little tall for the site, but eight stories isn't exactly massive, and I think it should fit Bank Street fine, especially if they do a good job with the street level of the buildings. And given that Phase II will replace a parking lot, I say go for it.

    (Oh, and for what it's worth, I don't quite live nearby [I'm over by Elgin], but I'm by the area enough to be pretty familiar with it)

  3. Love it. This is my walking route, and the most desolate strech of bank street north of the rideau river

  4. Fantastic and innovative design. Well done! In terms of architecture, Core Architects have developed a knack for designing some of the most interesting condos in Ottawa in recent years.

    That part of bank street has been "under-animated" for as long as I can remember (early 80s), so this hopefully will be a step towards giving some much needed life to the immediate area.

  5. Looks really good... I love the work that Core Architects is doing in Ottawa. Can't wait to see more parking lots and 1-2 storey buildings get redeveloped. Maybe this will help get projects like the James Street Feed Company going.

  6. Great Information! Keep pounding the pavement! I think a phase 2 for Central would be a great addition especially to that part of Bank! And the idea of the green wall is a great start. Would like to see more "green" from developers moving forward!

  7. I couldd't be happier with what is happening with this stretch of Bank -- often referred to as "mid Bank". Gentification seems to be flowing up from the Glebe rather than down from Wellington. I am certain that the next blocks to go will be btw Gladstone and Somerset. I'd like to see some sort of natural flow for pedestrians btw this block of Bank and the Glebe -- perhaps new lighting under the Queensway underpass, some unique tiling or mosaics that would serve as a formal entry btw the two neighbourhoods. I am very pleased wth the innovative residential buildings being introduced to this long forgotten -- but soon to be very popular area of centretown.