[Member Mavis Finnamore highlights that new Herongate re-development lacks affordable units. Over 50 low income families lost affordable market rental housing in Herongate- join us in the new year as Ottawa ACORN fights for inclusive zoning laws!]
Voices of worry and opposition drowned out a modicum of support for plans to construct 340 rental apartment units in Herongate.
Crime, privacy, parking, traffic, garbage, affordability, retail and tenant mix and building heights were among the worries raised over Timbercreek Management’s proposal to build a six-storey, three-building complex on a 1.6-hectare parcel at the corner of Heron Road and Sandalwood Drive.
The project is not compatible with the character of Alta Vista, largely comprised of single-family homes, said Dirk de Vos, one of more than 70 people who attended a Sept. 27 public meeting at the Jim Durrell Recreation Centre.
“Now here we have something that is massive, which is an intrusion and which, if it goes through, will be known in the future as the three monsters,” said de Vos, who has lived in Alta Vista for 45 years.
But Greg Rogers, senior vice-president of Timbercreek Management, said the company’s vision is “to build an alignment” between Alta Vista and the new Herongate apartments.
In keeping with that, the complex will be “fashion forward with natural materials” to make it feel like home, and feature an indoor saltwater pool, gym, clubhouse, second-floor lounge with a walkout patio and party room.
“Resort-style” amenities will include movie and music rooms, a library and workshop, an outdoor play structure and a landscaped central courtyard with barbecue areas.
“It’s kind of like a renewal,” Rogers said. “Who wants to move if you can’t move into something better?”
Retail space at the corner of one of the apartment buildings at Heron Road and Sandalwood Drive could become home to a coffee shop, convenience store or even a yoga study.
“It’s an opportunity for people to sit and enjoy – not a place to hang out and do bad things,” Rogers said, addressing concerns.
“If your coffee shop is not profitable, what guarantee do we have that a weed shop or a porn shop or some other undesirable commercial establishment won’t go in?” one woman asked.
“We’re not investing $100 million as a bet on rent,” Rogers replied. “This is an important investment for Timbercreek and its pension plans.”
The retail space is the subject of one of three minor variance applications. Timbercreek wants to boost the amount of allowed retail space and have it face Heron Road, as well as secure approvals to increase the height of the complex since the land slopes in places. It also wants to scale back underground parking from 1.4 spaces per unit to one. The company plans to add five car-share spots.
Given the influx of cars the residential community will bring, concerns were also raised at the meeting about traffic and side-street parking, which residents insist is already a problem in the area.
If the minor parking variance is not approved, there will be more at-grade parking and less landscaped space, Rogers said.
There were also worries over who will move into the apartments, and what measures will be implemented to prevent crime and loitering.
“This is a quiet street. I don’t want to see that,” said one woman. “We see the density and with that all I see is crime rising on my street.”
Rogers said the short answer to those concerns is price. Rents will reflect the “premium nature of the community,” and the pet-friendly units are expected to draw young professionals, young families and people who are downsizing. The property will house about 600 people.
“You know who’s going to live there? You are and other people in this room are going to live there,” said Rogers.
Members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, questioned Rogers about whether any of the units will be affordable.
“They will be offered at a premium price, reflective of their quality and size,” said Rogers, who noted the complex will include bachelor, one and two-bedroom units as well as two-bedroom units plus a den. The units will range in size from 65 to 116 square metres. “They will not meet any criteria for affordability.”
That didn’t sit well with Mavis Finnamore, an ACORN member who was one of the more than 50 families evicted last fall and winter from a townhouse complex demolished this year to make way for the new complex.
“Is this a way to build a community, pushing people out?” Finnamore told Metroland Media of her concerns. “Where are you pushing all these people?”
And in response to still more worries, Rogers said public feedback received so far has prompted changes to the plan, including a decision to set back one apartment block seven metres from Heron Road, which will eventually be widened by the city, as well as step back apartment levels.
As well, the number of units was reduced from 420 to 340, and unit sizes were bumped up.
Rogers was also questioned about the “mess” to the west, that is, the other Timbercreek-managed townhome complexes in Herongate.
The success of the current project will “seed change” throughout the area, dictating what happens to other sections of the 14.6-hectare property, he said.
If Timbercreek secures city approvals – the company is now at the site plan control application stage – construction could begin by the end of this year. A completion date is targeted for spring of 2018, said Rogers.
Residents asked for a follow-up meeting on the project to keep apprised of further changes. In response, Alta Vista Coun. Jean Cloutier said Timbercreek will have to apply to the city’s committee of adjustment and that meeting will be open to the public.