By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, June 2023)
The Glebe Annex Community Association (GACA) is 10 years old, and its founding was marked at our Annual General Meeting in May.
The main guest speaker was Robert Bell from the Dow’s Lake Residents’ Association. Bell focused on the Katasa Groupe’s proposal for 774 Bronson. He explained that the community wanted to see the site developed, but in a reasonable way. The initial concept – a 26-storey building extending lot line to lot line, with almost no community amenities – was nearly universally despised. Residents criticized the proposed project as too big, ugly, car-centric and dense. Bell explained key steps taken by the DLRA to improve the proposal. These included engaging early and broadly with the local community, city residents (largely through the media), the developer, the local councillor and city staff. A notable step was hiring a lawyer with planning experience to make arguments that would resonate with planners.
Katasa unveiled its latest plan for 774 Bronson earlier this year, responding favourably to several of the proposed changes. This included a reduction in height from 26 storeys to 22, increasing the size of the setbacks and creating more open space on the site, which translates into wider sidewalks on Bronson, more trees, more greenspace and more breathing room for residential homes on Cambridge. There will also be fewer units (278 instead of 401), more commercial space, public pedestrian access through the site and fewer parking spaces. While the proposal isn’t perfect, and the process is not complete, concerted community involvement, strong councillor support and the willingness of city planners to engage have led to significant improvements.
Councillor Shawn Menard provided an update on a planned crosswalk at Henry and Bell Streets particularly designed to make it safer for pedestrians going to Dalhousie South Park or Abbas’ corner store. While funding details still need to be finalized, it is hoped the crosswalk could be in place this year. Menard also mentioned ongoing efforts to extend the number 10 bus route to the Rideau Centre.
The GACA president’s report included a synopsis of local development and the board’s activities. The Katasa Group’s ongoing build of a 16-storey, 168-unit retirement residence at 275 Carling is top of mind for many. While the five-storey parking garage was expected to be completed in late 2022, weather delays, a crane operator strike and a concrete shortage have delayed completion until late 2023. The whole project is expected to be finished next year.
Other planned projects have been delayed, including the redevelopment of vacant houses between 283 and 281 Bell Street South which were damaged by fire last September. Two buildings were planned for the site – a six-storey on Bell and a four-storey on Arthur Lane, with a total of 49 rental units. While the proposal seems to be on pause, the site was finally maintained in May, thanks to the efforts of a neighbour who engaged bylaw – vegetation was trimmed and junk, which had been there for many months, was removed.
Another project with an unknown timeline is 7 Maclean. After a site plan for a three-storey, seven-unit apartment building was approved in January 2020, the property was sold to Canci Realty in 2022. Since then, the lot has been cleared to create a temporary parking lot. Canci plans to add about 26 units and expand their current apartment building at 385 Bell. However, there are no firm dates planned, as the company is pursuing other projects first.
Another project with an unknown timeline is 299 Carling, which belongs to the Canada Lands Company. Four towers ranging from eight to 20 storeys are planned for the site, which has been for sale since the fall of 2021. Even if the site is not sold, Canada Lands intends to construct a public park on the site in 2024.
However, the neighbourhood is about more than just development. The president’s report also discussed other issues, including growing pains with the integration of the John Howard Society building into the community and efforts (largely led by the Lakelander condominium) to mitigate them. On transportation, the plan to re-open the Bronson on-ramp to the Queensway this summer and the off-ramp by the end of the year was also discussed. So were GACA plans to host another party in the park this August!