By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, March 2020)
In looking at the large, 300 vehicle parking lot bordering Preston, Beech, Rochester and Aberdeen streets, many local residents have long mused that this would be a perfect location for a grocery store. It would seem that Arnon Development Corporation agrees.
Arnon put forward a proposal to develop the site at 450 Rochester St, which is directly across from Canada Lands Company’s planned Booth St. complex, late in 2019. The ambitious plan, which is to be built in two phases, includes a total of more than 500 housing units, 613 parking spots, and 148 bicycle parking spaces. Perhaps of largest interest to the community, phase one is anchored by 40,000 square feet of retail space. This includes an approximately 22,000 square foot grocery store (which is slightly smaller than an average Metro grocery store), as well as potentially an LCBO or pharmacy, amenities currently lacking in the neighbourhood. While a grocery store chain has not yet confirmed, Arnon indicates that it is in “very serious talks” with a major food retailer. This proposed development comes in the midst of extraordinary change and intensification in the area, with 7,000 new units planned or recently built within a half-kilometre of the project.
Peter Hume, an Arnon representative, emphasizes that Arnon wants their buildings to contribute to the vitality of the community. “That is why in our proposal for a new residential/commercial building in the heart of Little Italy we included elements that Arnon believes will strengthen the community – a full service grocery store, family friendly rental units and a partnership with the City of Ottawa to provide public parking for the Preston Street area.” He adds that, “Arnon believes these elements, among other benefits, will strengthen the neighbourhood and provide those basic services that families and neighbourhoods need.”
With respect to parking, Arnon is indeed working with the City to provide more parking for the site than needed by its future residents, in recognition of the loss of the current large surface parking lot. The majority of the parking spots will be below ground and will include parking for both visitors as well as residents. However, the site is also well-positioned to take advantage of transit, being within 600 metres of the Carling O-Train stop, as well as the planned Gladstone Station, scheduled to open in 2022. It is also near cycling infrastructure such as the multi-use pathways at the Trillium Pathway, alongside the O Train line, and Dow’s Lake/the Rideau canal.
Although there is no park or greenspace planned for the area, two ‘urban plazas’ are part of the proposed development. The larger of the two is on the corner of Preston and Beech, and includes a patio area, a water feature and seating. A smaller patio area, also with seating, is proposed for the corner of Rochester and Beech. These areas are meant to animate the area and create a new public space for events and activities.
Phase 1, with construction commencing potentially as early as spring 2021, proposes a variety of heights. There is a one-storey retail podium, and a retail block of three storeys along Preston St, with the residential portions will have six, nine and 15 stories. In total, 295 residential units are planned, and are expected to be rental units. Phase 2 will be a 26-storey residential building with 245 units, which could be either rental or condominium units. This phase will be primarily residential in focus, with only about 6000 square feet of commercial planned.
After site plan approval, expected prior to the end of March, Arnon can now move relatively quickly towards starting construction. Unlike nearby projects proposed by Canada Lands Company (such as the Booth St Complex) or the National Capital Commission (such as Lebreton Flats), Arnon will actually develop the site, speeding up the process. In addition, while many nearby sites had previous commercial/industrial/scientific uses, and thus have contaminants that must be remediated, in this case the property was previously residential in use. Therefore, environmental studies have concluded that contamination is not a concern, and remediation not required. As such, once building permits are issued, Arnon can move to fulfil its vision for the site.
Rendering: View from the southwest corner, at Preston and Beech. Source: Arnon Development Corporation and the GBA Group