City launches Bank Street Height & Character Study

The city has launched a study of Bank Street height and character aimed at producing better policies and bylaws that reliably shape future Bank Street development. Photo: Liz McKeen

By Carolyn Mackenzie

The city has launched a long-awaited study of development on Bank Street.

Back in 2015, the Glebe Community Association (GCA) was told by city planning staff that Bank Street had little development potential and that the city would not take on any sort of localized planning study.

So the GCA kicked off Imagine Glebe to develop a vision for Bank Street that would provide guidance to development discussions that we knew were coming. Over 900 people participated and the consensus vision for Bank Street in the Glebe was…

“A historic main street in the heart of a vibrant urban village. A thriving social and commercial district that is welcoming and walk-able and features green spaces.”

Just some of the key elements included in the vision are:

Advocating for buildings that enhance the human scale and strengthen walkability;

Promoting the enhancement of the historic nature of Bank Street;

Minimizing negative impacts including undue shadowing, wind effects, building “loom”;

Achieving appropriate transition to low-rise residential areas (behind Bank Street buildings);

Promoting varied and attractive store fronts;

Enhancing and expanding seating and social areas as well as pedestrian space; and

Encouraging diversity by promoting mixed-use development and affordable housing.

On the heels of the ImagineGlebe effort, the city allowed rezoning of a few contentious developments on Bank Street. These projects include the “beer store” at eight storeys and the Fifth Avenue Court site at seven storeys. The four-storey maximum building height in the existing zoning bylaw was essentially ignored – and even the maximum six-storey building heights for Traditional Mainstreets was exceeded. General policies in the city’s Official Plan about the need to intensify were pointed to as a key rationale for approving these projects.

Many people asked, “Did the city not pay any attention to ImagineGlebe? What exactly is the city’s vision for Bank Street?”

The GCA has been advocating for the city to develop an answer to that question. In June 2018, the city agreed to move the Bank Street Height and Character Study forward. The GCA is very hopeful that this study will build upon the work of ImagineGlebe and the extensive survey data and detailed comments that people interested in the future of Bank Street provided.

The study objective is “to ensure that clear policy and zoning frameworks are in place to manage growth and redevelopment on Bank Street from the Queensway all the way south to Wilton Avenue.” The result will be area-specific policies and updated bylaws that should be relied upon with greater certainty for future development.

The city was asked at a well-attended Open House to kick off the study on February 21 what the intensification or density targets are for Bank Street in the Glebe. In other words, how much more density do we need on Bank Street to support the city’s overall growth, given the city projects we are likely to be 2-3 million people by 2050? Should this not be the starting point for the study? I believe the answer received was, in effect, that density and intensification targets are not relevant to this study and that Bank Street is already sufficiently dense to support existing and anticipated transit, make use of infrastructure, etc.

Bank Street in the Glebe

This is good news. It does not mean a development freeze – far from it! Most people agree that redevelopment of less attractive sites and development of empty parking lots will improve the streetscape. Some additional density would increase the vibrancy of Bank Street, by providing more “built-in” customers and clients to support our shops and restaurants. Development could also provide opportunities for additional office space, affordable housing, etc. But given we are already pretty dense, the Height and Character Study will be driven by a number of other factors, including (but not limited to) neighbourhood context, lot dimensions, existing built form, heritage protections, and the pedestrian environment.

This is where you come in!

The city is interested in receiving input that will shape recommendations for height and character on Bank Street.

What do you think? Please share your views and help shape Bank Street.

Go to the Glebe Community Association’s homepage at and follow the links to a quick survey to capture your comments (we’ll get them all to the city!)

Email the city’s lead planner, with your comments

Email and ask to be added to the stakeholder notification list to receive alerts about future phases of the public consultation for this study as well as a summary of “What we Heard” from the February 21 Open House.

Carolyn Mackenzie chairs the GCA’s Planning Committee and led an enthusiastic ImagineGlebe Committee.

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