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God’s new neighbour

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Fabulous view a lure for eco-minded tower at Cathedral Hill project Cathedral Hill

By Anita Murray, The Ottawa Citizen
Nov. 4, 2011

Seen from the Queen Street entrance, Cathedral Hill was designed to integrate with other buildings on the site.

The view is trumped by only that of Parliament Hill, but since you can’t live there, it’s no wonder buyers are already snapping up units at nearby Cathedral Hill.

Set atop the escarpment overlooking the Garden of the Provinces at the corner of Sparks Street and Bronson Avenue, the condo project has been designed precisely to take advantage of its location.

“Every corner of the building has a fantastic view,” says builder Jonathan Westeinde, president of Windmill Developments. Those views include the Ottawa River and the Gatineau Hills beyond, the Canadian War Museum, the Museum of Civilization and the parliamentary precinct.

But the contemporary 21-storey curved tower, along with accompanying townhomes and office tower, has also been designed to defer to Christ Church Cathedral, which has made its home on the site for 138 years. The Anglican Church chose to develop the land, bordered by Bronson, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church and Sparks and Queen streets, to generate income for its ministries.

Architect Gordon Stratford, of HOK Toronto, and Windmill Developments have worked toward creating a residential complex that fades into the background, allowing the church to remain a dominant fixture on the site.

“We see the cathedral as being the really unique element,” Stratford said earlier this year. “We didn’t want anything that would fight with the building. We wanted to respect and work with the heritage on the site.”

Westeinde says the condo tower has “got a shape that’s unique, but materials that sort of make it look opaque.”

Development of the site aims to transform a patchwork of parking lots and historic structures into a coherent urban block that integrates contemporary buildings with the cathedral.

Roper House, which serves as the bishop’s office and sales centre for the project, is preserved, along with Lauder Hall, a century-old building housing church offices and choir space. Also retained are the façades of two semi-detached houses that face Queen Street, which will front two of the 10 townhomes in the project.

What makes the project work is the demolition of Cathedral Hall, a 1950s building on Sparks Street. Replacing it will be a set of eight townhomes — the only residential addresses in the city to have a Sparks Street address — that will integrate into the condo tower behind them, allowing for a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape. A new parish hall is to be built by Windmill in the centre of the site.

After some give and take with the city’s urban design review panel to ensure the project would not overshadow the cathedral — the site is a designated heritage district — the development launched Tuesday, with almost 75 per cent of the 108 units that have been released already reserved. The tower will have 135 units in all.

Cathedral Hill is the seventh multi-residential project for Windmill Developments, an Ottawa-based, ecologically minded company founded in 2003. An industry leader in green building, all of Windmill’s residential projects, most of which are in Western Canada, have been built to at least LEED platinum standards, the highest level for green building under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Windmill is aiming for a LEED platinum designation with Cathedral Hill as well.

Forward thinking and innovation are two traits prized by Westeinde, a founding board member of the Canada Green Building Council.

“All of our projects have really pushed the bar a bit,” he says. “It brings a fair bit of innovation into the industry and moves that forward.”

That innovation is evident in the plans for Cathedral Hill.

Besides green building materials and practices, all of the units will have high-end kitchens with low-VOC cabinetry — “the one thing we really emphasize with our buildings is indoor air quality,” Westeinde says — high-efficiency, European-style appliances with hidden dishwasher and fridge, pull-up upper cabinets (one of the few upgrades) and Caesarstone or quartz countertops.

The kitchens were custom-designed by Toronto interior designer Andrea Kantelberg, who focuses on sustainable and green design options. “This isn’t a run-of-the-mill kitchen that you could just go buy anywhere,” says Westeinde.

Units will also feature hardwood and tile flooring, high-efficiency toilets and fixtures that use about 50-per-cent less water, glassed-in shower and soaker tub with Corian surround.

Another innovative option in some suites is a NanaWall, which replaces a standard patio door with a wall of glass that can be completely opened — a plus when dealing with smaller spaces. “You could basically just open up your suite right to the outdoors,” says Westeinde.

Cathedral Hill is aimed at empty nesters and executives, with floor plans larger than the smaller, more affordable condos aimed at first-time buyers. Units are one or two bedrooms, some with a den, and range from 638 square feet to 1,422 square feet. There is also the option of combining units if purchased before construction starts.

“If we just wanted to sell this thing we’d make them small, but we designed them intentionally to try to cater more toward the emptynester,” says Westeinde.

“So when we put our design together we already did designs that combined units so people could see … the option.”

Windmill has not yet released the upper-floor penthouses, terrace units, some lower-floor units and the townhouses.

Townhome residents will have access to amenities of the condo tower, which will include rooftop garden plots, a fitness centre, a movie theatre, wine storage, a dog washing room, an electric car charging station and a concierge.

Windmill is hoping to begin construction in February or March, with a fall 2013 occupancy.What: Condo tower and townhome development with one- and two-bedroom units, some with dens (townhomes to be released later)

Price: Starting from $275,793; condo fees estimated at 42 cents per square foot per month

Parking: $32,500

Where: Sales centre located at Roper House, beside Christ Church Cathedral at Queen Street and Bronson Avenue, entrance off Queen

Hours: Thursday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; weekends, noon to 5 p.m.; otherwise by appointment

Information: Call 613-566-7010 or visit

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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