Minto's Glebe condo plan riles residents, boots businesses

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James Rigby, co-owner of the Dailey Method fitness studio, says he's worried the Minto demolition could mean he loses the investment he and his wife made in their business. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

8-storey condo development would force out some longtime commercial tenants of Fifth Avenue Court

By Matthew Kupfer, CBC News

A proposed eight-storey condo development at Fifth Avenue Court in the Glebe is being met with resistance from residents and concern from business owners who will be forced to leave if the development goes ahead.

Minto Properties is proposing an eight-storey residential building to replace an indoor courtyard and two-storey commercial property at Fifth Avenue and Bank Street with a mix of services.

The developer it said it won't be touching the heritage storefronts along Bank Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues.

However, the businesses in the back of the complex — including the Arrow and Loon pub, professional offices and a fitness studio — would have to leave.

James Rigby, who owns the Dailey Method fitness studio with his wife Sarah Thompson, said this follows an expensive renovation.

"We were very shocked, taken aback and concerned," he said.

"[We were] thinking we would have five to 10 years in the space to recoup our investment."

Fifth Avenue and Bank Street condo Jan 16, 2018

The proposed eight-storey condo development at Bank Street and Fifth Avenue. (Supplied)

Fifth and Bank Jan. 16, 2018

The corner of Fifth Avenue and Bank Street the evening of Jan. 16, 2018. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

He added they want to stay close to the clientele they've built up the neighbourhood, but can't begin looking for a new space until they officially know when they'll have to move out.

Yasmin Mansouri, executive director of Languages of Life, said her translation and interpretation business has been in the location for more than 37 years.

She expressed frustration at Minto's plans during a public consultation Tuesday night.

Jamie Smith, a Glebe resident, spoke at the consultation and said those businesses are part of what gives the Glebe its character.

Courtyard 'drag' on rents

Kevin Harper, a development manager for Minto, said the decision is based on under-performing rents in the back of the building and the costs of a courtyard that's a "missed opportunity."

"It's a drag on the rents for the rest of the spaces in the property and it's one of the reasons this property isn't performing as well as it should," Harper said.

Fifth and Bank Court courtyard Jan. 16, 2018

Minto says this courtyard, which includes a pub, a fitness studio and professional offices, has been a drag on the rents in the building. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

He said construction could start as soon as summer 2019, depending on how quickly the proposal moves through city hall.

"The tenants in the back [of the courtyard], their leases will be terminated," he said.

"Minto Properties is willing to provide whatever assistance they require to maybe relocate them in other Minto commercial properties or elsewhere."

Height unpopular with neighbours

The public consultation meeting at Fourth Avenue Baptist Church attracted more than 150 residents.

Dozens had to stand at the back of the auditorium.

Residents were unhappy Minto was asking for additional height on a traditional main street.

Current zoning for the corner is capped at four storeys, though the official plan for main streets can allow up to six.

Minto is asking for eight.

"The city has expressed an interest in designating the front piece of the property [as heritage]," Minto's Harper said.

"Basically, what this proposal does is take the floor area that could otherwise be developed on the front, moves it to the back of the site so the front can be preserved as-is two storeys."

Carolyn Mackenzie, chair of the Glebe Community Association's planning committee, said the neighbourhood doesn't need to give the developer credit for protecting that on its way to a heritage designation.

"I don't understand the basic logic of saying 'we should be given additional height' when it may not be appropriate," she said.

Coun. David Chernushenko, who represents the area, attended Tuesday's meeting and said he is concerned about the proposed height and a possible wind tunnel effect.  

Clive Doucet, his predecessor as Capital Ward councillor, also spoke at the meeting to announce he would be calling for a public inquiry into why the City of Ottawa doesn't enforce its own planning rules.

Redevelopment plans mean the end for Fifth Avenue Court in the Glebe

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Interior of Fifth Avenue Court in January 2018. ERROL MCGIHON / POSTMEDIA NETWORK

David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

Minto wants to tear down its Fifth Avenue Court building in the Glebe, ending a 40-year run for an interesting public space that’s never quite lived up to its promise.

Under plans submitted to the city and now up for public comment, the commercial strip along Bank Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues (home to Von’s restaurant at one end and Pure Gelato at the other) stays intact but everything behind it goes. That’s a combined office and retail complex constructed in the late 1970s, with a fountain, benches and gardens in the middle.

Where the courtyard is now will be the lobby of an eight-storey condo building, plus other private things like a residents’ gym, party room, bike storage and garbage room, surrounded by a ring of ground-floor condo units. The courtyard is toast, which seems both a shame and inevitable.

FifthBankExterior of Fifth Avenue Court on Jan. 10, 2018.

The courtyard and its surrounding storefronts replaced a parking lot in about 1980, joining up with the Bank Street retail strip in an unusually creative effort for the time that combined old and new and added a bunch of room for people to just hang out.

Minto eyes eight-storey residential building on Fifth Avenue Court site in Glebe

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99 Fifth Ave.

Ottawa Business Journal

A rendering of the proposed redevelopment of 99 Fifth Avenue, as seen looking northeast from the corner of Bank Street.

Calling it “one of the most significant opportunities for intensification” along Bank Street in the Glebe, an Ottawa developer is looking to replace a 1980s-era commercial building with a taller residential structure between Fourth and Fifth avenues.

If the development – which first requires a rezoning of the property – goes ahead, Minto Communities would preserve the two-storey strip of retail buildings that run along Bank Street and were constructed between 1896 and 1909, according to a heritage review prepared as part of the firm’s development application.

The proposed 124-unit, eight-storey residential building at 99 Fifth Ave. would replace the Fifth Avenue Court building, also branded as Fifth + Bank, which was constructed on the site of a surface parking lot sometime around 1980. The structure currently features an indoor courtyard with several businesses spread out over two floors, including the Arrow and Loon Pub as well as a dentist, hair salon and eye-care professional.

The existing patios on the northeast corner of the property, serving Von’s Bistro, and on the south end, used by Pure Gelato, would be retained.

99 Fifth
A rendering of the proposed development, seen from Fifth Avenue looking north.

In Minto’s development application, planning consultant Fotenn argues that the redevelopment would “maintain the existing mainstreet character of Bank Street while achieving the city’s (intensification) objectives.”

The proposed residential building is designed by Toronto-based TACT Architecture and is billed as a way to provide a “sensitive” transition to the residential neighbourhood. The eight-storey structure would feature setbacks on the upper floors of the building’s east side so that it becomes narrower as it rises.

Minto is currently looking to rezone the property to increase the maximum allowable height from 15 metres to 25.95 metres, in addition to other changes.

Hopewell Avenue 'stealth' bunkhouse getting downsized

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Residents said they felt betrayed by the city when the expansion of this six-plex at 177 Hopewell Avenue grew from 12 bedrooms to 27. It has now been cut back to 16. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Nearby residents and city councillor fought plan for 27-bedroom apartment building

By Matthew Kupfer, CBC News

Residents of Old Ottawa South learned Monday night that a developer will scale back plans for a six-unit apartment building after neighbours raised concerns the project had ballooned from 12 to 27 bedrooms without consultation.

Coun. David Chernushenko called the growth of the project during the build "overdevelopment by stealth."

'Stealth' bunkhouse sneaking into Old Ottawa South, says councillor
Karen Stevens-Guille, who lives next door to the project at 177 Hopewell Ave., had enlisted neighbours and strangers on her street to write to the mayor, their councillor and the city against the proposal.

"At one point if I'd been told the bedroom count was going to go down this much, I would be opening up something bubbly to celebrate," she said. "But I think it's been such a long slog we're cautious about even feeling relief."

Stevens-Guille said she is grateful to all the letter-writers who helped make the change happen.

The former plan to expand the number of bedrooms was not illegal, according to city officials. The permission granted the developer by the city's committee of adjustment did not specifically limit the number of bedrooms, although at a committee hearing, a representative for the developer repeatedly told committee members that the plan was for six two-bedroom units.

Councillors put pressure on builder

Capital Ward Coun. David Chernushenko said he, Kitchissippi Ward Coun. Jeff Leiper and city staff met with the builder in an attempt to get the number of bedrooms reduced.

"Did we have the legal means after committee of adjustment gave him approval? Possibly not," Chernushenko said. "But there was certainly the ability to put pressure on him."

Ottawa city councillor lashes out at 'lying' developers
Coun. David Chernushenko said previously the incident had destroyed his trust in developers and consultants, and he continues to be wary.

"I'm more suspicious and cynical than I would like to be," Chernushenko said. "I'm not naive, but on the other hand, I'm not someone who goes through life expecting or assuming the worst from people. So it's disappointing I have to be far more that way now."

Further consultation wasn't required, builder says

Jordan Tannis, president of Concorde Properties, said he had followed the city's rules and blamed the dispute on miscommunication.

"Because of the way the process and the application went through, I wasn't required to seek any further community consultations and I wasn't required to seek any councillor consultations, neighbourhood consultations," Tannis said. "Once I had the approval for the envelope I was more or less allowed to go ahead."

"Any attempts to accuse me of misleading the public, misleading the councillor's office or what not, I think that's not fair because that's not what I did."

By reducing the number of bedrooms from 27 to 16, he is attempting to "right the wrong" and respond to concerns he heard from the community, Tannis said,

"Never will I hide behind the city bylaws and city officials or what not, or even the councillors. They have the hardest jobs around," Tannis said.

"Any time we can help them out and what not and make the process easier for everybody, that's something I'll work towards."

Need to restore confidence

Tannis said he doesn't think the project has damaged the reputation of developers or his company but suggested lessons could be learned from it.

He said he supports changing city policy so residents don't end up feeling "screwed."

Coun. Chernushenko said an interim control by-law to deal with the problem of so-called "bunkhouses" has reduced the risk of a builder adding bedrooms to a development, but the dispute on Hopewell Avenue shows there's still work to be done.

"It does highlight that there are still a number of things in the city's processes that have to be tightened in order to have a better planning process that residents can have some confidence in," he said.