Ottawa Citizen: Controversial application to turn downtown six-plex into parking lot returns to planning committee Thursday
Posted August 25, 2022
Posted August 25, 2022
Developers Glenview and Taggart will report back to the City of Ottawa’s planning committee Thursday on the thinking they’ve done about their proposal to replace a six-unit apartment building in the city’s core with an office parking lot.
It’s a proposal planning committee members weren’t eager to endorse when it came before them in July, and one that’s been met with community pushback.
Now, it seems the committee will have to vote on the plan, despite encouraging the developers to get more creative with their approach to establishing replacement parking for tenants of a Glenview office building. Those tenants would lose their spots to a proposed 300-unit apartment building the developers want to erect down the street.
In a joint statement provided to this newspaper Tuesday, the developers said they “look forward to presenting to planning committee the options that the project partners have reviewed and considered,” but they were still wedded to the ask they initially brought to committee, which was to green-light the demolition of the six-plex at 142 Nepean St. and amend the site’s zoning to allow for it to be replaced by a new, next-door parking lot for the tenants of the office building at 190 O’Connor St.
They noted the building at 142 Nepean is 70 years old, “in poor working condition in need of significant repair and upkeep.”
Glenview told planning committee in July that shutting down the parking proposal would also mean their 300-unit apartment plan for nearby 108 Nepean St. would not proceed.
“It’s not a threat, it’s simply a commercial reality that we are dealing with,” said Glenview’s Mark Shabinsky, at the time.
Committee members endorsed the 108 Nepean application while deferring until their next meeting any vote on the parking plan, challenging the developers to consider revising it with time still to go ahead of council’s consideration of the file on Aug. 31.
In their statement Tuesday, the developers said “for the development to move forward, Glenview is contractually obligated to provide a suitable parking alternative to offer its commercial tenants, which has been deemed to be the lots at 142, 144 and 148 Nepean Street.”
Catherine McKenney, currently the councillor for the area and a candidate for mayor, challenged that position in a speech at a rally Tuesday organized by social justice organization ACORN.
“They do not need (that site) for parking … Downtown is filled with surface parking lots,” said McKenney. “What we are being asked to do on Thursday is say ‘yes’ to taking down six units of affordable market rental, that people live in, for parking.”
The Centretown Community Association has also voiced that it “vigorously opposes” the proposal.
Written up in a memorandum of understanding with city staff, the developers have proposed relocation agreements for those still living at 142 Nepean St. that include $15,000, a paid move into a unit of the same bedroom count in the nearby Wentworth Plaza or Imperial Apartments, rent discounted for five years to match what they paid at 142 Nepean, and access to one of the 25 “affordable” units slated for the new Glenview-Taggart development, provided the tenants haven’t moved again by the time the building is completed.
At this point, just three units in the six-plex remain occupied, according to a current tenant who did not want to be named for family reasons.
What they’ve left behind and what three households are still living in are affordable market units that need to be preserved, McKenney argued Tuesday, speaking to reporters after the ACORN rally.
If committee and council deny the developers the permissions they need to carry out their parking plans, it’s no guarantee against the future redevelopment of the aging apartment building at 142 Nepean St.
“142 is close to its end of life,” planning committee co-chair Scott Moffatt pointed out at the July committee meeting. “At some point, a council is going to … have a decision that has to be made on its future. Even if there’s a way to have a stay of execution now, that decision will come, you can’t avoid that.”
At that time, Moffatt shared his opinion that the “highest and best use” of the site “is a future residential building, not a parking lot. But that’s not the application before us today.”
Indeed, what committee is being asked to vote on at this time, McKenney said, is taking down six units for parking.
“And it’s egregious. There is not a modern city anywhere that I can think of that would say yes.”
Article by Taylor Blewett for the Ottawa Citizen