Bird’s eye view of the 26-storey proposal at Carling and Bronson, from the southeast with Bronson going north/south in the foreground Source: Applicant’s Site Plan Proposal (Fotenn Design and Build and Katasa Group)
By Sue Stefko
At a public consultation on September 22, the Katasa Group Design presented its plan to develop a 26-storey, 328-unit building with 174 parking spots at 774 Bronson Avenue on the southwest corner of the Carling intersection. The property combines three separate lots – two along Bronson south of Carling, as well as 557 Cambridge Street South – to form one large L-shaped lot extending from Bronson to Cambridge. The total area is about 4,560 square metres –that’s more than an acre, about the size of five and a half Canadian football fields.
Many may have heard Katasa mentioned in the news recently due to a coroner’s inquiry regarding COVID-19 deaths at its Maison Herron nursing home in Dorval, Quebec. The company plans to develop the lot in two phases. In phase one, at the corner of Bronson and Carling, they propose a 26-storey tower with 73 student rentals in the bottom 9 storeys, topped by 153 standard rental units. South of the tower, stretching west towards Cambridge Street South, the second stage would include 104 standard rental units in a nine-storey podium, which steps down to four storeys approaching Cambridge. Some student amenities are planned, as well as a small coffee shop facing Bronson.
Not surprisingly, nearby residents from Dow’s Lake, the Glebe and the Glebe Annex are unhappy with the massive scale of the development. The lots are currently zoned for between 6 and 12 storeys, a fraction of the proposed height. While seeking a significant increase in height, the developer is also seeking relief from setbacks in the zoning bylaw and high-rise zoning provisions, as the project does not conform with the city’s design guidelines for high-rise buildings.
Residents raised concerns regarding height and density, which do not fit with the existing low-rise residential neighbourhood. Considering all the towers planned for the stretch of Carling between Bronson and Preston, the development would contribute to the urban canyon effect, which has implications for wind, temperature, air quality, radio and satellite reception and sun shadowing – the Glebe Annex and the Glebe Collegiate sports field would be the most impacted by shadows from the proposed tower. Many noted that the Bronson and Carling intersection is already extremely busy and unsafe for pedestrians; this much more density would only make those problems worse.
Many other concerns were expressed relating to increased traffic that would exacerbate existing congestion at Bronson and Carling (especially given the massive amount of development planned for the area, including the new Civic Hospital) and also increase cut-through traffic in the Dow’s Lake neighbourhood. While the main entrance and exit from the development is planned for Bronson, there is also an exit at Cambridge. It will be impossible to travel west on Carling from the site and turning north on Bronson would be all but impossible, which means vehicles exiting on Cambridge w0uld wind their way through the Dow’s Lake neighbourhood.
A loading/unloading zone is also proposed for Cambridge, a residential street that is likely to be inundated with ride-sharing, food-delivery and package-delivery vehicles as well as moving vans and garbage trucks. Some mused that many problems would be solved by removing all or at least most parking. In that case, however, overflow parking would almost certainly end up clogging neighbouring streets.
The monolithic building provides little relief in terms of greenspace or public-amenity space. Three small trees near the corner of Bronson and Carling will be retained, and some additional trees will be planted on Cambridge. However, Katasa leaves little room for greenspace on the huge lot. Unlike nearby developments proposed by Canada Lands Company at the Booth Street Complex and 299 Carling, which propose parks, publicly accessible greenspace and amenities, this proposal’s only public “amenities” include a pedestrian walkway between Bronson and Cambridge and a small coffee shop – it does little to animate the street or corner.
On a positive note, some effort has been made to propose building materials to visually break up the building façade and red brick to better blend in with the neighbourhood. Some varied angles at the Carling and Bronson intersection add interest. Despite this, residents were near unanimous in expressing grave concerns about the proposal, which appears to be an extreme case of overdevelopment, given the site. The development team, for their part, promised to consider this feedback as they move forward. Very significant changes are required to make this proposal compatible with the community and a positive contribution to the streetscape.
Sue Stefko is president of the Glebe Annex Community Association.