By Sue Stefko
In looking at the large, 300-vehicle parking lot bordered by Preston, Beech, Rochester and Aberdeen streets, many local residents have long mused this would be a perfect location for a grocery store. Arnon Development Corporation seems to agree.
Arnon has proposed to develop the site at 450 Rochester Street, which is directly across from Canada Lands Company’s planned Booth Street complex. The ambitious project, to be built in two phases, includes more than 500 housing units, 613 parking spots and 148 bicycle parking spaces. Perhaps of greatest interest to the community, phase one is anchored by 40,000 square feet of retail space. This includes an approximately 22,000 square-foot grocery store (which is slightly smaller than an average Metro); there may also be an LCBO or pharmacy, amenities currently lacking in the neighbourhood.
While which grocery chain it will be has not yet been confirmed, Arnon indicates it is in “very serious talks” with a major food retailer. This proposed development comes in the midst of extraordinary change and intensification in the area, with 7,000 new units planned or recently built within a half-kilometre of the project.
Peter Hume, an Arnon representative, emphasizes that Arnon wants its buildings to contribute to the vitality of the community. “That is why in our proposal for a new residential/commercial building in the heart of Little Italy we included elements that Arnon believes will strengthen the community – a full-service grocery store, family-friendly rental units and a partnership with the City of Ottawa to provide public parking for the Preston Street area,” he said. “Arnon believes these elements, among other benefits, will strengthen the neighbourhood and provide those basic services that families and neighbourhoods need.”
Arnon is indeed working with the city to provide more parking than will be needed by future residents in recognition of the loss of the current surface parking lot. The majority of parking spots will be below ground and will be available to both residents and visitors. However, the site is also well-positioned to take advantage of transit because it is within 600 metres of the Carling O-Train stop, as well as close to the new Gladstone Station scheduled to open in 2022. It is also near cycling paths like the Trillium Pathway, beside the O-Train line and Dow’s Lake/the Rideau canal.
Although there is no park or greenspace planned, two “urban plazas” are part of the proposal. The larger one is at the corner of Preston and Beech, and it includes a patio area, a water feature and seating; a smaller patio area, also with seating, is slated for the corner of Rochester and Beech. These areas are meant to animate the area and create new public spaces for events and activities.
Phase one, with construction commencing as early as spring 2021, proposes a variety of heights. There is a one-storey retail podium and a retail block of three storeys along Preston Street; residential portions will have six, nine and 15 stories. In total, 295 residential units are planned and are expected to be rentals. Phase two will be a 26-storey residential building with 245 units, which could be either rental or condominium units. This phase will be primarily residential in focus, with only about 6,000 square feet of commercial.
After site plan approval, expected before the end of March, Arnon could move relatively quickly towards construction. Unlike nearby projects proposed by Canada Lands Company (the Booth St. Complex) or the National Capital Commission (Lebreton Flats), Arnon will actually develop the site, speeding up the process. In addition, while many nearby sites had previous commercial/industrial/scientific uses and have contaminants that must be remediated, this property was previously residential in use. Environmental studies have concluded that contamination is not a concern and no remediation is required so once building permits are issued, Arnon can move to fulfil its vision for the site.
Sue Stefko is president of the Glebe Annex Community Association and a regular contributor to the Glebe Report.