Rooms with an obscured view: Open house hosted for controversial condo plan

Parish Lane Development and Jeremy Eaton/CBC

The developers of a proposed condominium project on the site of the former Anglican Church Parish Hall say they've reduced the height of the project over concerns about the impact on one of the best views of St. John's.

An open house at The Rooms provincial archives and museum, held Wednesday by the project's developers, went over the effect the project will have on sightlines from The Rooms' southeast-facing viewing area, which would overlook the development.

"We've made some changes to the building since we had our public meeting in November. We've actually reduced the height of the building by 1.8 metres," Richard Pardy, CEO of Parish Lane Development, told CBC News.

"I think when people see what it really looks like they'll see that it will be a different view from The Rooms, but we're not impeding view of some of the critical parts of the city, including the harbour, the cathedral, the Narrows, Cabot Tower. I think we work really well with those and I think people can see that."

The proposal for a 40-apartment complex at 66-68 Queen's Rd. has drawn criticism from the public, and a petition started in November has garnered roughly 4,000 signatures from people opposed to it.

Jeremy Eaton/CBC

At a public meeting in late November, Pardy listened to dozens of people expressing concerns on a variety of aspects of the project, from saving the green space behind the current buildings to the historical significance of the buildings themselves.

Concerns of the potential blocking of the view from The Rooms were also raised. The Rooms' board of directors invited members of the public to the meeting on Wednesday so they could have a first-hand look at what could become of the view if St. John's city council approves the proposal.

Board chair Margaret Allan told CBC News it was important to host Wednesday's event as more of an open house rather than with a formal podium and question and answer set up.

Jeremy Eaton/CBC

"There's no doubt this is a change. This will be a change to the view. Whether it's a good or bad change is not really for me totally to decide. So what we want to do is understand those changes," said Allan.

"We can see that the architects have tried to preserve certain architectural features on the cityscape and to not impede say the view of the Narrows. But, there is a change, no doubt. The cityscape will change with this development."

Pardy said his company is still working through some final details with the city, including an engagement process with Heritage Newfoundland and Happy City St. John's. 

St. John's city council was expected to vote on the proposal by January, but Pardy said it could still be a month or two before the project hits council's agenda. 

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