The Glebe Community Association and Canderel, the developer originally proposing construction of an eight-storey retirement residence on the site of the Beer Store and Mister Muffler on Bank Street, as well as a group of affected Monk Street residents, have reached a compromise agreement.
A step in the right direction? Yes, but it’s a little complicated.
Remember that this past May City Council voted to approve this project – the city’s staff report had supported the proposal. The Glebe Community Association (GCA) filed an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). So did the group of neighbours on the east side of Monk Street between the building and Thornton Avenue that would be impacted very directly.
An appeal is not impossible to win. But an appeal is very tough to win with council approval of the project and city staff supporting it, not to mention the more considerable resources of a developer. And losing would mean that we get exactly what was approved: eight storeys where the Beer Store is now, and six storeys where Mister Muffler is (the northern portion of the property along Bank Street). The GCA went back to review what we thought most needed improvement, and what if anything could be offered in return for these changes.
The Monk Street neighbours had been very vocal about being so closely “wrapped” in height. Sun shading, privacy and building “loom” impacts of the six storeys backing onto all of their backyards, as well as the sheer six-storey wall facing north towards them, were huge concerns. We also identified the impact of height on Bank Street, including sun shading on Bank Street sidewalks and how the building mass would impact the pedestrian experience – the devil is in the details of how successfully a building “lands” on the street. Is it compatible with the existing characteristics of the street? Importantly, if six storeys went up on the Mister Muffler portion of the lot, would this not encourage more six-plus-storey proposals and “more height marching up Bank Street”?
The GCA approached the developer and proposed:
reducing the building to four storeys where Mister Muffler is now, and
pushing back the upper storeys of the building that will occupy the Beer Store portion of the lot, to reduce the impact on Monk Street neighbours.
In return, we proposed a partial ninth storey closest to Lansdowne, set far enough back from Monk Street neighbours that they really wouldn’t see or be impacted by it. The incremental impact of this partial ninth storey, given that eight storeys was already approved, would not be considerable and would be worth the benefits gained by the proposed changes.
To his credit, Jeff Baum of Succession Developments, who acted as the lead for the development team, has always maintained an open dialogue with the GCA even when we have disagreed strongly. He was immediately receptive and after some refinements, agreed to the changes. So did the Monk Street neighbours. Baum also committed to landscaping and to providing the Monk Street neighbourhood with use of some of the unused land behind the new building and adjacent to their yards, effectively increasing the use of their backyards – another clear benefit.
We did not achieve everything we may have wanted – but looking at many factors, we believe this is a much better outcome. We will continue to review the finer details as the site plan is confirmed to try and make this building as successful as possible.
Development Pressure on Bank Street
If it wasn’t before, the significant pressure for development along Bank Street should now be obvious. The current zoning bylaw, which has a maximum height of 15 metres (roughly four storeys) and requires buildings to transition to low-rise homes nearby, is largely ignored.
“Spot rezoning,” or changing the rules on the fly without a larger plan, can’t actually be good planning. But it sure seems like a good way to encourage conflict between residents and the city. We encourage the City to avoid this by placing greater value on the fabric of established urban neighbourhoods like the Glebe, where intensification policies are having a big and not always positive impact. We desperately need a more robust approach to planning that will get intensification “right” by clarifying the “rules” and the expectations of the community.
In early summer, Mayor Watson wrote to the Glebe Report reminding residents that he had supported this community by voting against the Beer Store proposal. We appreciate this show of support, but what we really need now is a plan.
Carolyn Mackenzie is chair of the Planning Committee of the Glebe Community Association.