New design panel praises Claridge project on Nepean

A proposed 27−storey residential tower in Centretown that’s lauded by its developer, but criticized by the area councillor got praised at the first meeting of a city design panel that’s meant to help smooth over intensification disputes.

Members of the new urban design review panel at City Hall on Thursday said they liked the proposed architecture of the building, which includes a 233−unit tower and seven levels of underground parking that Claridge Homes wants to build at 89 and 91 Nepean St.

The panel includes architects, landscape architects and an urban planner, along with a “green technologies” specialist and a heritage conservation specialist.

They offered opinions on everything from the building’s proposed setbacks from the street to a rooftop garden and said they supported a “two buildings in one” look that’s achieved by using brick on one half of the tower and aluminum on the other.

Although their comments aren’t binding on the future of the development, city officials and the developer are supposed to consider them as the project moves forward.

   
 

The 10−member permanent design review panel was approved by council in October, following a pilot project, and is aimed at improving the design of new buildings in the city.

Part of each meeting is open to the public, but members of the public don’t get to speak and few if any community members attended on Thursday.

Panel members also made suggestions regarding a proposed 20−storey condominium development on Lisgar Street close to City Hall. The Claridge development would be built on two lots near Metcalfe Street. One lot is now being used as a temporary sales centre for another development, while the other contains shrubs and grass.

Development on the lots is governed by limits on density, rather than height, and a zoning amendment is required for the height and other aspects of the proposal.

New design panel praises Claridge project on Nepean; Architecture of tower proposed for Centre1to0w4n pleases Claridge vice−president Neil Malhotra described the proposed development as “very positive intensification, the kind of architecture the city always seems to be asking for” and said it’s an “iconic” building.

But Somerset Councillor Diane Holmes is critical of the plan and has argued that the application should be rejected, calling the requested sizes a “gross overdevelopment of this small lot.”

Holmes wrote to city staff that she sees “no public benefit in approving this development.”

And since the proposal is within an area that’s currently being studied for a community design plan, “it should be reviewed in that context,” she wrote.

The mid−Centretown community design plan −− meant to guide day−to−day planning decisions in the neighbourhood −− is looking at an area bounded by Elgin Street, Kent Street, Gloucester Street and Highway 417, and is expected to go to council for sign−off in fall 2011.

The consultant for the study, Toronto urban−design expert George Dark (who’s also guiding the design of the Lansdowne Park redevelopment), said he’s reviewing issues such as building height, open space, one−way streets, streetscaping, street tree planting, cycling, walking, and amenities.

The Claridge zoning application is expected to be considered in the New Year by council’s planning and environment committee.

Staff are collecting feedback before submitting a report to the committee.

The design review panel analyses larger development projects in the city. The original urban design review panel was a two−year pilot project created in 2005, but it ultimately ended at the end of 2009 after seven of its 10 members quit, saying they weren’t able to make a difference.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

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