By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, October 2021)
At a public consultation on September 22nd, the Katasa Group Design presented their plan to develop a 26-storey, 328-unit building with 174 parking spots at 774 Bronson Avenue. The property combines three separate lots – two along Bronson south of Carling, as well as 557 Cambridge Street South. Together, they form one large L-shaped lot extending from Bronson through to Cambridge, with a total site area of approximately 4,560 square metres – larger than an acre, or more than 5½ Canadian-sized football fields.
Katasa (which many have heard mentioned in the news recently due to a coroner’s inquiry regarding deaths at the Maison Herron nursing home) plans to develop the lot in two phases. In phase one, at the corner of Bronson and Carling, they propose a 26-storey tower with 73 student rentals in the bottom nine stories, topped by 153 standard rental units in the tower. South of the main tower, and stretching west towards Cambridge St S., the second stage would include 104 standard rental units in a 9-storey podium, which steps down to 4 stories approaching Cambridge. Some student amenities are planned, as well as a small coffee shop facing Bronson.
Not surprisingly, nearby residents from Dow’s Lake, the Glebe and the Glebe Annex are unhappy with the massive scale of the development. The lots are currently zoned for between 6 and 12 stories – a fraction of the proposed height. While seeking a significant increase in height, the development is also seeking relief from setbacks in the zoning by-law and high-rise zoning provisions, and it does not conform to the city’s design guidelines for high-rise buildings.
Residents raised concerns regarding height and density, which do not fit with the existing low-rise residential neighbourhood. 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 sun shadowing – with the Glebe Annex neighbourhood and the Glebe Collegiate sports field the most impacted by shadows from the proposed tower. Many noted that the Bronson and Carling intersection is already extremely unpleasant and unsafe for pedestrians – introducing this much more density would only make that problem worse.
Many other concerns were expressed relating to traffic – exacerbating existing congestion at Bronson and Carling (anticipating the massive amount of development planned for the area, including the new Civic Hospital), but also regarding expected cut-through traffic in the Dow’s Lake neighbourhood. While the main ingress and egress is planned for Bronson, there is also egress at Cambridge. It will be impossible to travel west on Carling from the site, and turning north on Bronson is all but impossible, which will result in vehicles exiting on Cambridge to wind their way through the Dow’s Lake neighbourhood. A loading/unloading zone is also proposed for Cambridge, a residential street which is likely to be inundated with ride sharing, food delivery, and package delivery vehicles, in addition to being used for moving vans and garbage. Some mused that in this downtown location, perhaps many problems would be solved by removing all, or at least the vast majority of, parking. However, until there are significant improvements to transit/biking/pedestrian links, overflow parking would almost certainly land on neighbouring streets.
The monolithic building provides little relief in terms of greenspace or public amenity space. Three small trees near the corner of Bronson and Carling will be retained, and some additional trees planted on Cambridge. However, Katasa leaves little room for greenspace on the almost 50,000 square foot lot. 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’s only public ‘amenities’ include a pedestrian connection between Bronson and Cambridge, and a small coffee shop – it does little to animate the street or corner.
On a positive note, some effort has been made to propose building materials to visually break up the building façade, and red brick to better blend in with the neighbourhood. Some varied angles at the Carling Bronson intersection add interest. Despite this, residents were near unanimous in expressing grave concerns about the proposal, which appears to be an extreme case of overdevelopment, given the site. The development team, for their part, promised to consider this feedback as they move forward. Very significant changes are required to make this proposal compatible with the community and a positive contribution to the streetscape.
Photo: South east bird’s eye – A view of the proposal from the south-east, showing Bronson Avenue going north/south in the foreground (source: Applicant’s Site Plan Proposal – presumably Fotenn Design and Build and the Katasa Group)