Big change coming to Ottawa's Billings Bridge area

·3 min read
Lofty Riverside GP Inc. received planning committee approval to build a 26-storey tower on a six-storey podium on the east side of Bank Street at Riverside Drive. That's 10 storeys greater than allowed.  (City of Ottawa/Hobin Architects - image credit)
Lofty Riverside GP Inc. received planning committee approval to build a 26-storey tower on a six-storey podium on the east side of Bank Street at Riverside Drive. That's 10 storeys greater than allowed. (City of Ottawa/Hobin Architects - image credit)

Ottawa's planning committee approved a 26-storey tower at the intersection of Bank Street and Riverside Drive near Billings Bridge mall on Thursday, the first of many changes planned for that busy area.

Where a fast-food restaurant once operated, the planning committee approved giving Lofty Riverside GP Inc. extra height so it can build a tower with 326 apartments and 65 short-term rental hotel units. A co-working space would be located on the second floor of the podium.

"It brings more residents within the vicinity of the Billings Bridge transit hub, a very busy transit hub," said the area's councillor, Alta Vista's Jean Cloutier. The city has a goal to encourage intensification along transit.

Cloutier's main concern is traffic at the intersection, but said not allowing vehicles to access the building from Bank Street would make it safer.

More change is on the books. Across the street in Capital ward, the City of Ottawa has also received applications for towers that are 29 and 27 storeys high.

Meanwhile, the city is redesigning Bank Street and plans to rebuild its watermains. It plans to add cycling tracks from the Rideau River south to Ledbury Avenue.

Design panel found shortcomings

The Lofty Riverside project received all nine votes of approval by councillors on planning committee, even though the Alta Vista Community Association asked that it be held off until design issues are resolved.

The city's urban design review panel had found many shortcomings with the project in May, suggesting it needed to be better separated from the future towers across the street, or the area might "create more of a bottleneck than a gateway."

Coun. Shawn Menard was disappointed city staff didn't feel a holding provision should be put on the project.

"Yes, we want some of this type of development, but let's make sure we're getting it right," Menard said.

Hobin Architects
Hobin Architects

Architect Barry Hobin, who did the concept drawings for projects on both sides of Bank Street, disagreed they would create a canyon, as one resident described.

"They speak to the other. There is some yin and yang connection between these two projects," Hobin said.

Residents call for long-term perspective

The committee tackled several highrise projects in different parts of the city, approving them all.

Resident James Russell wondered if people will truly want to live in such highrises after the pandemic.

He was one of many residents who urged the city to think big-picture and long-term as it makes planning decisions.

"Your job at this committee is to shape the city in the long-term interests of its people, not to make ad-hoc decisions for short-term interests," he said.

Residents near the north end of the Glebe opposed a 16-storey highrise on Chamberlain Avenue. They have been working with the city on a study for building heights along their part of Bank Street, and that site called for six storeys. The study has not yet been approved however, and staff said it was not a policy to be followed.

On Centrepointe Drive near the future Baseline LRT station, residents opposed two towers that were 22 and 24 storeys by Richcraft Homes.

In return for the extra height at the Chamberlain development, Capital ward would receive $952,295 for affordable housing and traffic calming, while the Centrepointe project would bring $600,000 for traffic calming and the library branch.

All three files will go to full city council for approval on July 21.

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