By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, March 2023)
In the fall of 2021, the Katasa Groupe and Fotenn Planning + Design unveiled plans to develop 774 Bronson at the corner of Bronson, Carling and Cambridge Street South. The intent was to develop a 26-storey, 328-unit building with 174 parking spots. It was to be one huge building, over an acre in size, in an area which spanned three existing lots.
The community response was strong and swift, with concerns raised about the height (the existing three lots were zoned for between 6 and 12 storeys) and density, insufficient setbacks and step backs (the building would tower over nearby residences) and minimal green space. After receiving copious amounts of community feedback and working extensively with the Dow’s Lake Residents’ Association (DLRA), the development team returned with a revised site plan earlier this year.
While the plan still means increased density on the site, there have been several improvements. The main tower, at the corner of Bronson and Carling, has been reduced from 26 to 22 storeys and has been pushed south so it does not tower over the corner. There are now two buildings instead of a single monolithic one, providing more open space on the site. Setbacks have been increased along Bronson, enabling wider sidewalks and larger trees to be planted, and along Cambridge, giving more breathing room to single-family homes on that street. The retaining wall along Cambridge has been removed, making the ground floor at grade level, allowing for more greenspace and a less imposing façade. Increased setbacks and a smaller vehicular service ramp at Cambridge will also permit more landscaping than previously envisaged.
Overall, the number of units has been reduced by 50 to 278 total, and parking spaces have been cut by 41 to 133, with parking on two underground levels. There is now also some commercial or retail space on the ground floor at Carling and Bronson, in addition to the small café previously planned.
The general intent of the building remains. The first nine floors of the Bronson-facing building (Phase 1) will still be student accommodations. There will be 71 student units – the majority range from two- to four- bedroom, with a handful of five-bedroom units. Several student amenities are planned for the ground floor, including a gym and yoga area, movie room, games room, kitchen, lounge and study rooms.
The other two buildings will be used as standard residential rentals. Floors 10 to 22 of Phase 1 will contain 78 one-bedroom units and 39 two-bedrooms. The Phase 2 building facing Cambridge will be nine storeys, stepping down to four approaching Cambridge. It will contain 90 units – 66 one-bedrooms, 21 two- bedrooms and three studios.
It’s indisputable that the developer made some important concessions, which are welcomed, after input from the community. However, room for improvement remains – 22 storeys is still tall, and the tower will overshadow many other residential buildings as well as the Glebe Collegiate Institute sports field. The density of the building will increase traffic in the already congested Carling and Bronson area, particularly as transit in the area leaves much to be desired. The building will do little to accommodate families and there is room for much more commercial enterprise on the ground floor. Additionally, the DLRA wants all vehicular ingress and egress to be via Bronson to avoid traffic spilling over to Cambridge and other residential streets. To date, egress remains on Cambridge.
The current plan follows a long list of previous proposals for the site. In 2012, Montreal developer Samcon proposed two condominium buildings on two of the lots – one 12 storeys and the other six. Textbook suites in 2015 planned to build a student residence ranging from four to 12 storeys, with a mix of bachelors and one- to three-bedroom units. A year later, Jaber proposed executive apartments at 770 Bronson, initially requesting 15 storeys but reducing it to six after receiving opposition. After so many false starts, for better or worse, this time the developers seem committed to bringing their plans to fruition.