By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, June 2022)
There is yet another development proposed for the Glebe Annex. While most of the development to date has been occurring at the south end of the neighbourhood, this one is planned for the north, close to the 417. It is situated at the north end of Bell St South, just as Orangeville turns into Bell. Four homes, 273 to 281 Bell, which date back to the 1890s, will be demolished to make way for two new (but connected) apartment buildings, one on Bell and the other backing onto the laneway at Arthur Ln South. The development leaves two existing homes, 269 and 271 Bell, which abut the highway, still in place. However, they are owned by the same developer, and are described as future development prospects in the proposal.
On the Bell St side, the developer plans to build a six-storey building containing 12 studio and 29 one-bedroom units. Ground floor units will have private patios. On Arthur Ln South, the building is planned to be four stories tall – one storey of above ground parking, and three storeys of living space above. For that portion, there are four one-bedroom units proposed, as well as four units that are two-stories and two-bedrooms, for a total of 49 units. The two buildings will have a courtyard in between, which will contain some landscaping as well as bike storage. The two buildings will be connected by a covered walkway at the second storey.
A number of environmental features are proposed for the development. This includes enhanced insulation, heating and cooling via a heat-pump and radiant heating/cooling, high thermal performance windows, low-flow water fixtures, high efficiency appliances, etc. Of note, no natural gas is expected on the site. The developer also commits to at least exploring the use of greywater recycling, semi-permeable paving, and other related measures. One refreshing change as compared to recent developments in the neighbourhood is the developer’s planned retention of the site’s existing mature tree – a fir tree on Bell. In a neighbourhood with a small and ever-dwindling tree canopy, this is much appreciated.
When it comes to height, the application comes in at current zoning requirements for the Arthur Lane side, but two stories over the permitted height for Bell. The site perhaps diverges the most from zoning requirements in providing only seven parking spaces, when 19 residential and four visitor spaces are required. To compensate, it provides 56 bicycle parking spaces in comparison to the requisite 25. Although more bike spaces are appreciated, the Glebe Annex isn’t an area served particularly well by transit, and still requires a fairly lengthy walk to access basic services like groceries. Considering the majority of Ottawa residents do not bike in the winter, this shortfall is concerning. This is particularly true given there is not enough availability for street parking permits should the majority of residents have vehicles. Another divergence from zoning is the shortage of multi-bedroom units. Zoning requires that in a building of this size, 12 units have two or more bedrooms, as compared to the four currently proposed. To encourage a family-friendly neighbourhood, it would be important to offer more units with two bedrooms.
All in all, there is much to like about the proposal. A number of these homes have been vacant for some time, and using this land more productively, and bringing life back to this area is a welcome change, to say nothing of making more rental units available in the midst of a housing crisis. The number and quality of proposed environmental features is also laudable. At the same time, it is difficult to lose yet more family dwellings to predominantly studio and one-bedroom units. The tiny neighbourhood already has 13 medium-rise condominium and apartment buildings, with a high rise and a medium rise in the process of being built, and the loss of four single-family homes is difficult to bear, in a neighbourhood that has been seeing fewer and fewer families move in, as single-family homes have been increasingly replaced by medium rise buildings across the neighbourhood. However, if it’s true that change is the only constant, the Glebe Annex certainly a good example, as the neighbourhood is undergoing a rapid transformation in a short period of time.
(Comments on the proposal are open until June 17th – please see the devapps site at: https://devapps.ottawa.ca/en/applications/D02-02-22-0033/details)
Rendering by Fotenn Planning and Design
Existing houses at 273-281 Bell St S. – photo by Sue Stefko