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Church Condo-versy Escalates

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By Laura Ryckewaert

Cathedral HillThe latest version of the condominium tower to be built as part of the Christ Church Anglican Cathedral’s development plan is reaching new heights – 24 floors to be exact.

The tower, part of the Cathedral Hill development project, was slated to be 17 storeys tall but has since grown seven floors in a new effort to make the building taller and skinnier, something which project manager Scott Demark says neighbours are asking for.

“It doesn’t affect (the neighbor’s) view as it goes up in the sky, its footprint affects their view,” says Demark. “Generally, the push has been to go for a smaller footprint and taller (structure).”

Stacking the development instead of spreading it out, Demark says, will allow for the heritage aspects on the church’s property to breathe.

The church’s land – bounded by Bronson Avenue to the west, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church to the east, Sparks Street to the south and Queen Street to the north – is part of a designated heritage block that includes a number of historical buildings. In addition to the nearly 180-year-old cathedral, there are Roper House, three smaller heritage houses and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on Sparks Street.

Eric Darwin, president of the Dalhousie Community Association, supports the development but says he’s worried about the effect it will have on the heritage character of the neighbourhood.

“None of these buildings are going to be modest or unobtrusive,” says Darwin, who is concerned the proposed buildings will be so high they’ll “dwarf the Cathedral and the remaining bits of heritage.”

At 24 storeys, the condo tower would become the tallest in the neighbourhood. Darwin says he’s also worried about the kind of precedent these new heights will set for the area.

“The city always says in its planning process that granting one building an extra floor doesn’t establish a precedent. Legally it may not be…but morally it’s a precedent,” says Darwin. “We know that the next building that comes along is going to start at 24.”

As a heritage area, height zoning for the church’s land is around five to seven storeys tall, significantly lower than the new heights being proposed for the Cathedral Hill condo tower.

Windmill Development Group is currently working out a zoning application to allow for the 24-storey condo tower as well as a smaller office tower (currently 12 storeys tall) also planned for the Cathedral Hill project.

Despite community concerns, Shane Parker, dean of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, says he thinks the proposed office and residential towers will actually enhance the cathedral by framing it. Parker says the development plan was a bit of a no-brainer solution to funding problems the church faces.

With rising maintenance and heating costs, “we found that our programs of ministry were being affected because we had to channel money into buildings instead,” says Parker.

By leasing their land to Windmill Development Group instead of selling it, Christ Church Cathedral is able to retain their ownership while receiving a continuous revenue stream.

Selling land for development is a common practice for churches in need of more revenue both in Centretown and across Canada, says Demark.

“We have a heritage building that has to be maintained forever,” says Parker. “Our land is the best asset we have to generate revenue.”

Darwin is currently drafting a letter to the city along with other members of the Dalhousie Community Association to suggest changes to the Cathedral Hill development plan. In addition to asking for a lower, 15-storey height on the condo tower the letter will also make suggestions regarding the need for affordable housing and infrastructure in the area.

Demark expects the city will have decided on the development’s zoning around late March at which point the project will begin to look at the architectural design and feel of the buildings.



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