GACA feedback on the proposed development at 774 Bronson

28 September 2021

Mr. Gauthier,

The Glebe Annex Community Association has significant concerns with the proposed development at 774 Bronson (Application # D02-02-21-0068) for many reasons, including:

  •  extraordinary height of the proposed building
  •  traffic
  •  an increasingly hostile environment to pedestrians
  •  the lack of greenspace and community amenities

Height

  • Zoning in these lots allow buildings of 6 and 12 stories – but the proposed 774 Bronson development, at 26 stories is far in excess.
  • Current prevailing zoning is the product of extensive community consultations, and a project that respected existing rules would have full social license. This zoning was totally disregarded by the developer.
  • This height is incongruent with the height and character of the existing low-rise homes, without any adequate transitioning or integration into the adjoining neighbourhood. Rather, the development just imposes a mass of concrete on the east side of Cambridge, presenting a stark and severe transition from existing homes.
  • This development site is at the top of a large hill, exacerbating the shadow effect and impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood. It would impose considerable shadowing in the Glebe Annex.
  • The proposed project does not meet the city’s Design Guidelines for High-rise Buildings:
    • It provides insufficient setbacks and transition on the west side.
    • It does not provide adequate separation distances to current and future adjacent buildings.
    • It does not abut the public realm to things such as parks, plazas and privately owned public spaces (POPS) on at least two sides.
    • Unlike the recommendations of those guidelines, it does not include sustainable design standards, such as the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) rating system.
  • The proposed development does not meet the proximity to transit thresholds that would allow for a considerable variance from existing zoning on Arterial Mainstreets: the development is 900m from the Carling O-Train station – more than twice the 400m specified in the city’s policy, and it does not abut a major urban facility.
  • While Carling is listed as a transit priority corridor, it is a future ‘transit priority corridor with isolated measures’ – the least effective variety of transit priority infrastructure. Although Carling is supposed to gain a rapid bus lane, that lane ends at the development site – Bronson and Carling, which is of little use to most (anyone travelling north, or east, or south). It may be useful going west, which is away from the major employment centre in the urban core. Using the O-train to travel to downtown would be lengthy, circuitous, and require a number of connections. (For instance, one would have to take a rapid bus going west (away from downtown), go to the Carling O-Train station to take a train to travel north-west (again, largely away from downtown), change stations, and then take yet another train on the Confederation line to the city centre.) This is just not practical or time-effective.
  • Furthermore, Bronson Avenue is poorly serviced by buses, and even the infrequent service along that street does not connect the area directly to the urban downtown core, requiring passengers to transfer to light rail for one or two stops, which doubles or triples the total travel time compared to a direct bus route. Even the infrequent evening service ends before midnight 6 days a week, more than two hours before the LRT stops running, effectively ruling out its use as a means of transportation home from late night activities in the downtown core by residents and Carleton University students alike.
  • While it is true that this development is at the terminus of a future transit priority corridor with isolated measures, because it is located at the terminus, and because it connects on the east side to Bronson, which is poorly served by transit, it has very little practical application for the majority of residents. This should not be used as justification for such a development – any improvements in public transit as currently planned would do little to encourage people who will live here to use public transit.
  • While the project’s proponents have leaned on elements of the new Official Plan to justify a high-rise building at this location, the new Plan includes stipulations that this proposal does not meet.
    • The new Official Plan states that high-rise buildings should have a floorplate size of, “750 square metres for residential buildings and 2000 square metres for commercial buildings, with larger floorplates permitted with increased separation distances. Space at-grade should be provided for soft landscaping and trees.”
    • The floorplate in this development would take up the vast majority of the site’s 4,563 square metres, and there is little separation between this building and those nearby, which are not other high-rise buildings, although the draft official plan implies the distance should be between towers – likely because it is inappropriate and incongruent to have a high-rise adjacent to a one- or two-story single-family home.
    • There is exceedingly little space for soft landscaping. Although there are a few trees planned to be planted on one side of this development, the setbacks are meagre, and the developed area stretches beyond what is currently allowable.
    • Although the developer only includes the tower area as part of its floorplate in the site plan applicate, the floorplate is part of the overall single, massive, proposed building. The developer seems to be choosing the parts of planning guidance that best justify their intent, even if inconsistent.
  • Notwithstanding the above points, the application must be judged against the Official Plan that is currently in force.  The Official Plan only permits intensification where it will complement the existing pattern and scale of development, such that it is compatible with the “existing community character so that it enhances and builds upon desirable established patterns of built form and open spaces,” and not result in “undue adverse affects.” These tests are not met by the current proposal.
  • Whether considering existing plans or the future Official Plan, there is nothing to reasonably justify a building of this size at this location. That is for good reason – this building does not belong there. It is not within the zone of an existing secondary plan to encourage more development, it is part of the General Urban Area, adjacent to an existing low-rise residential neighbourhood, and it sets a dangerous precedent.
  • The proposal represents a significant over-development of the site by essentially filling the majority of the built space on three merged lots, but still requesting relief from setback for the side-yard and interior side yard setbacks.

Traffic

  • A 328-unit building that includes 174 parking spaces would contribute significantly to the overburdened Carling and Bronson intersection, which is already straining to cope with existing traffic. Considering the massive amount of development planned for the area, including:
  • The Preston/Carling area has been approved for more than a dozen condominium towers with up to 2,000 units;
    • A 16-storey, 168-unit retirement residence (275 Carling) is under construction;
    • The Canada Lands Company (CLC) is planning for more than one million square feet of residential, commercial and retail on Booth St Complex site;
    • The CLC 299 Carling site is expected to contain 530 residential units; and,
    • The Ottawa Hospital’s new Civic Hospital Campus anticipates 1 million visitors each year, many coming by car. This development will cause additional traffic problems for already overburdened streets.
  • Cars exiting onto Cambridge and then eastbound Carling will have to cross several lanes if going northbound on Bronson. In heavy traffic, that will be difficult.
  • Cars on northbound Bronson will block traffic behind them as they wait for a chance to turn left into the parking garage in the face of unrelenting southbound traffic on Bronson.
  • While the main ingress and egress for vehicles is planned for Bronson, cars will also be able to leave via Cambridge.
  • Given that turning left to go north on Bronson is all but impossible, and it will actually be impossible to travel west on Carling from the site, vehicles will wind their way through the Dow’s Lake neighbourhood to get to their desired destination.
  • Furthermore, the loading/unloading zone proposed for Cambridge, a small residential street, is likely to be inundated with ride sharing, food delivery, and package delivery vehicles, in addition to being used for moving vans and garbage, contributing to much increased traffic, noise, and frustration by local residents.

Increasingly hostile environment to pedestrians

  • Considering all the towers planned for the stretch of Carling between Bronson and Preston, the development would contribute to the urban canyon effect – which has implications for wind, temperature, air quality, radio and satellite reception, and of course, light – with the Glebe Annex and the Glebe Collegiate sports field the most impacted by shadows from the proposed tower.
  • Bronson is already an extremely unpleasant and unsafe place for pedestrians to be and introducing this much more traffic would only make that problem worse, with our most vulnerable, children and the elderly, perhaps most at risk.
  • There are over 1500 students at Glebe Collegiate and many of them use the Carling/Bronson intersection several times a day – this puts them at increased risk.
  • With the development of the 168-unit retirement residence at 275 Carling, and the 140 units at Kings Daughter’s and Sons for low-income seniors, our elderly, many of our city’s most vulnerable will be at risk by increased traffic and congestion in this area.
  • Congestion and long wait times leads to driver frustration and risk-taking behaviours, further putting these vulnerable populations at risk.

Greenspace and amenities

  • The monolithic building provides little relief in terms of greenspace. Although three small trees near the corner of Bronson and Carling will be retained, and some additional trees are to be planted on Cambridge, there is far too little greenspace on the almost 50,000 square foot – more than 1 acre – lot. This is unacceptable.
  • Despite combining 3 already large lots and disappearing with them are all the setbacks originally included in these, permitting a far larger, more intense development, the developer is still asking for relief of setbacks. This too is unacceptable.
  • The developer should also commit to LEED environmental standards, as recommended in the high-rise guidelines, and commit to adhere to bird safe design, according to the city’s guidelines.
  • Community amenities as a whole are not existent this proposal – there is almost nothing (save perhaps a coffee shop and a connection between Cambridge and Bronson) that benefits the community. Unlike nearby developments proposed by Canada Lands Company at the Booth St. Complex and 299 Carling, which propose parks, publicly accessible greenspace and amenities, this proposal falls well short in this regard.

Thank-you for your consideration of our concerns.

Sincerely,

Sue Stefko
President
Glebe Annex Community Association