Regina commission unanimously denies application to allow Cook Residence be turned into condos

·3 min read
The owner of the property has proposed changes that include keeping the existing front of the building facing Albert Street and removing a sunroom to the south. The building would also be moved so that a new foundation and underground garage could be built, then placed back on the new foundation.
The owner of the property has proposed changes that include keeping the existing front of the building facing Albert Street and removing a sunroom to the south. The building would also be moved so that a new foundation and underground garage could be built, then placed back on the new foundation.

(Matthew Howard/CBC - image credit)

The Regina Planning Commission unanimously rejected an application to allow the historic Cook Residence to be redeveloped into condos — an application that will now go to city council on Feb. 24 for a final vote.

The planning commission's decision was made Saturday, during a special sitting.

Carmen Lien, the building's owner, has proposed redeveloping the residence into a 16-unit apartment complex. The property was designated a municipal heritage property in October 2019.

Lien's proposal was to keep the existing front of the building facing Albert Street and remove a sunroom to the south. The building would be moved so that a new foundation and underground garage could be built, then placed back on the new foundation.

It also proposed developing the back and south part of the building with new additions, to create 16 units and three different entries. There would be 24 parking stalls underground with 10 above ground.

The sprawling two-storey building was designed by the architectural firm of Van Egmond & Storey.
The sprawling two-storey building was designed by the architectural firm of Van Egmond & Storey.

The sprawling two-storey building was designed by the architectural firm of Van Egmond & Storey.

"Our team is trying to save the cook residence," Lien told the commission and pointed to increasing property taxes several times, and investing $8 million during a pandemic.

City administration said while the zoning approval would fit in the Official Community Plan (OCP), the proposal doesn't, as it would be a significant change to a heritage property.

"The proposal does not sufficiently demonstrate compatibility with the surrounding built environment and administration's position is that the proposal is not consistent with the established character of the area and streetscape along the west side of Albert Street," the administration report to the commission said.

Eight delegations spoke to the commission, including Heritage Regina and the Lien. Coun. Shanon Zachidniak said she couldn't support the proposal as it is for many reasons.

"The number of adjustments to existing policy required for this development is a major red flag," Zachidniak said. "Can you imagine if developments regularly required this many amendments? These could set a very troubling precedent."

1,820 comments sent to the city

A form on the city's website where people could comment on the proposal, received 1,820 submissions, 1,105 of them anonymous.

A majority of people were supportive of the redevelopment, but most did so anonymously. A majority of people who were not anonymous were 'completely opposed' to the project.

The 600 people opposed highlighted concerns including:

  • Loss of heritage property/more of the heritage building should be restored.

  • Moving the structure is unnecessarily risky to the heritage property.

  • Development does not fit the neighbourhood historical character.

  • This will set a precedence for other rezoning.

  • City should not have considered the proposal when it does not conform to heritage requirements.

Comments from the 1,171 people supportive of the proposal included:

  • House is run down, so it's good there is investment in it.

  • Good for higher density to use the infrastructure and pay taxes, discourage urban sprawl.

  • Good mix of old and new in the design.

  • Units will bring younger population or empty nesters to the area.

  • City should not tell owners what they can do on their property.

Administration said that while rehabilitation of heritage homes can be expensive, the city provides up to 10 years in property tax exemptions and has payment incentives.