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Panel recommendations

The City’s Design Review Panel meets the first Thursday of every month at City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa. Recommendations from the Formal Design Review are provided here.

February 1, 2019

951 Gladstone Avenue | Formal Review | Zoning & Official Plan Amendment to permit the construction of three residential towers (30, 35 & 41 storeys) and the restoration of a heritage building | Trinity; Hobin Architecture; Fotenn Planning + Design

Summary

  • The Panel is very supportive of the preservation and restoration of the Standard Bread Company building, and incorporating this heritage building as an iconic part of the development.
  • The Panel is supportive of increased density on this site, but is concerned with the height and scale of the proposed project, given the surrounding context. The impacts of similar intensification projects on the other side of the railway tracks must be considered. Particular contextual concerns are as follows:
    • The surrounding streetscape fabric is characterized by narrow streets, particularly in comparison to the nearby Carling-Preston area, where similar densities exist or are approved;
    • The future Gladstone station will be a neighbourhood transit station on the Trillium Line, rather than a major transit hub. The opinion of the Panel is that densities of the scale proposed are more appropriate within the vicinity of major transit hubs.
  • The combination of light industrial uses and the long history of artist’s spaces, has helped to define this site with a charming live-work characteristic. The Panel recommends that these uses are reintegrated into the program, which would allow the development to make a positive impact, and better integrate into the surrounding area.
  • As the first major redevelopment project within close proximity to the future Gladstone station, the Panel considers this a precedent setting development. There is heightened importance with respect to the approach to heritage conservation, increased density, the establishment of setbacks, and the design of the public realm. Given the precedent setting nature of this site and its prominence within the area, the Panel recommends a dedicated focused review session involving Panel members and potentially members of the Tall Building Review Panel.

Gladstone Treatment & Standard Bread Company Building

  • The Panel recommends redesigning the podium of the tower along Gladstone Avenue, in order to better tie-in the new building to the existing Standard Bread Company building. The Panel emphasizes the need to allow the heritage building to stand out with a three dimensional expression, and the need for the podium to better establish a transition to the surrounding neighbourhood:
    • Lower the streetwall of the podium height to three to four storeys in order to relate better to the heritage building
    • Setback the podium to be more consistent with the setback of the heritage building and achieve a wider sidewalk
    • Extend the brick cladding down to the ground
  • The Panel is concerned with the conflict created between the MUP, the plaza, the underground connection, and the pedestrian link to the transit station. Avoid compromising the success of the plaza by reexamining these connections to ensure a better circulation of pedestrians, particularly in relation to the sidewalk:
    • Increase the sidewalk widths along Gladstone
    • Explore opportunities to establish a more prominent plaza
    • Place emphasis on connecting the development to the street, rather than the proposed pedestrian bridge
  • Recognizing the potential for spatial displacement, the Panel advises that space for artists and other stable industrial users are considered, and integrated into the programming.

Overall Site Plan & Tower Design

  • The Panel advises taking cues from the Canadian Bank Note Limited building, and the residential neighbourhood to the west in order to better transition this development into the larger context:
    • Consider grade related units along the street that tie into the existing residential neighbourhood, and avoid blank walls at grade.
  • The Panel is of the opinion that the proposed tower designs could better  refer to specifics characteristics of the site:
    • More emphasis on distinguishing the Gladstone tower from the other two is encouraged. Consider bringing the brick material from the podium up into the tower;
    • Weave the development into the neighbourhood by providing east-west linkages between the towers.
  • Since there is not a provision of a park, nor relief at the ground plane, the Panel recommends the full tower separation distance of 25 metres, as recommended in the City’s High-Rise Building Guidelines, be respected. No compelling rational for a reduction to 22 metres has been presented. The required setback on the north property line is also recommended.
  • The Panel believes that the ground plane is overbuilt in its current form, with a particular concern regarding the proposed loading area for a future grocery store. It is the opinion of the Panel that the site is not conducive to the frequency of truck traffic that would be generated by this use.
  • The Panel highlights the potentially limiting noise related requirements triggered by the close proximity to the Canadian Bank Note Limited building, as there will likely be design limitations on balconies, as well as the location and size of openings, etc.
  • The Panel suggests that Liberty Village in Toronto represents a similar type of development, linking existing industrial uses with a new residential community. Some lessons can be learned in terms of establishing a more human scale, as well as with respect to limiting shadows, to ensure a higher quality of life for residents.

Parks, Open Space & Relation to MUP

  • The Panel strongly supports the introduction of an on-site park, despite the transit oriented nature of the development. Parks are vital in order to support the future population which will include dogs, children, seniors, etc.
  • The Panel recognizes the dimensions of this site result in a ‘superblock’, and it is the opinion of the Panel that more porosity is needed. It is advised that the block be broken up into a series of blocks, particularly form Loretta Avenue to the MUP.
  • In order to enhance the linkage to the MUP, and the integration of the MUP into the development, the Panel suggests the following:
    • Treat the MUP as a tree lined promenade on the edge of the development, using recent projects at Carling and Preston as examples as to how to integrate this feature into the plan
    • Internalize the loading between Tower 1 and 2, and create a POPS that connects into the MUP
    • Add grade related units or other program that helps animate  the MUP and enhance its safety
    • Consider additional greenspaces and parks that connect Loretta to the MUP
    • Current site organization results in the MUP being shaded all afternoon. Consider alternatives that result in less shading

 

811 Gladstone Avenue | Formal Review | Site Plan to construct a six storey apartment building and two stacked townhouse blocks | Ottawa Community Housing; Hobin Architecture; CSW; Fotenn Planning + Design

Summary

  • The Panel is pleased with the well thought-out approach to this project, particularly in terms of the general massing, and the response to the existing urban context. Improvements are recommended with respect to the relationship to the public realm, the quality of the public and private amenity spaces, the porosity through the site, and certain architectural elements associated with the proposed sustainability measures. The Panel also understands the importance of this site and its program. The following comments should be considered with the intent of making an already very good project even better.

Relationship to Public Realm

  • The Panel believes there is a greater opportunity for this proposal to establish a continuity of commercial uses along Gladstone, between the nodes of Preston and Bronson. The Panel advises that the Gladstone Avenue edge of the proposed apartment building should be able to transition over time. It is important to rethink the units adjacent to the street in order to create an urban edge, rather than a garden edge:
    • There is particular concern regarding the configuration of the concrete ramp and planter treatment at the base of the Gladstone and Rochester corner, as it precludes the ground level space from being converted to commercial uses in the future;
    • The Panel suggests establishing more immediate access points to the ground level units, so that they feel more commercial in use;
    • Consider adding commercial space to the ground floor, while shifting the amenity space to the second level. This would result in the possibility contiguous indoor-outdoor amenity space that receives sunlight all year.
  • There is some concern regarding the design of the porch/ramp feature along Gladstone. The Panel suggests studying the element more to improve its usefulness – perhaps add a trellis, and adjust its scale or shape, as it appears pinched towards the entrance. This element does not work so well in relation to the orthogonal building.
  • The Panel suggests careful consideration of the streetscape elements such as the bus stop, street lights, and access ramp, to ensure a well-lit, accessible, and safe building that accommodates a wide mix of ages and abilities, including those with limited visual abilities.
    • Consider a canopy from the building towards the bus stop.
  • The Panel recommends that the street trees be moved to the outside of the sidewalk, closer to the street (instead of having planters along the building edge). This will better establish the main street potential for this segment of the Gladstone. Although the goal is an urban edge to the property, some trees should be kept in the forecourt.
  • The Panel highlights the importance of the long view toward this site, along Gladstone Avenue from the east. The proposed elevation has the potential to respond to the jog in the road. Consider ways to better articulate this highly visible part of the east façade.
  • The Panel advises removal of the planters with the concrete curbed walls.

Site Porosity

  • The Panel suggest carving out more space for lobbies and entrances within the buildings, and then providing linkages from these spaces to the exterior, particularly to the courtyard.
  • The Panel recommends opening up the north south access through the site. Suggestions from the Panel include reducing the surface parking area, and replacing this area with contiguous landscaping.
    • Another suggestion from a Panel member is to create a porte cochère that can allow for a stronger connection from Gladstone, northward through the site.
  • Overall, the establishment of a friendly, crisscross pedestrian flow through the site is recommended by the Panel, and is likely dependent on the removal of some of the proposed surface parking.

Private & Public Amenity

  • The Panel suggests increasing the amount of green amenity within the project, and minimizing the surface parking. At minimum four parking spaces should be removed. One option is to limit the surface parking to one aisle rather than two. The goal is to establish a more park like pedestrian friendly setting throughout the site.
    • The garden edge between the parking area and the units requires enhancement, as the current narrow strip will result in headlights shining into lower level bedrooms.
  • The Panel suggests providing private outdoor amenity space, such as balconies and terraces, in order to improve the quality of life for residents – including those units facing Balsam. This will also take pressure off the use of the shared outdoor amenities.
  • The Panel has suggests that the transitional spaces need to be more generous. The porches coming out of units on the building facing Balsam are too tight. The public spaces, including the landings, need to be more generous for users, as it can be expected that that some residents will have strollers, and other items requiring more space. The Panel sees the offering of these well thought out and spacious elements as a way of changing the residents’ perception of their home.
  • The Panel suggests looking at flipping the location of the amenity spaces so that these areas step out directly to courtyard.
  • There is some concern from the Panel that the space between buildings will be dark. Further CPTED concerns were raised with respect to the pathway between this development and the neighbouring property to the east. Turn the glass around the corners in order to put ‘eyes on the street’ as a way of addressing safety concerns.
  • The Panel recommends establishing direct access to the units at the rear, facing Balsam. This design would give these buildings more of a residential ‘house’ feel, as opposed to looking institutional. Otherwise, there is concern that outdoor spaces adjacent to the rear façade will be used for storage.

Architectural Expression and Sustainability

  • The Panel is of the opinion that the height, the access to the building, and the flexibility of the spaces is generally very good. The passive house architectural aspirations are also commendable. The Panel does have some specific recommendations however, in order to improve the quality of the architecture:
    • Additional glazing is suggested within the deep window openings along the Gladstone façade. Currently, the glazing area is very limited, despite the relatively large openings, as there are spandrel panels in place of larger windows;
    • In place of black cladding material on the middle section of the building facing Gladstone, the Panel suggests a grey colour to avoid heat gain;
    • Consider integrating the photovoltaic panels as a design element, rather than an add-on to the roof. This will require some roofs to be partially sloped.
  • The Panel suggests that improvements can be made to the plaza, and other spaces in front of the building facing Gladstone. The treatment on the ground floor seems institutional, and the Panel advises designing the front façade of the building so that the stigma of social housing is avoided in the architectural expression.

 

100 Argyle Avenue | Formal Review | Zoning & Official Plan Amendment application to construct a 21 storey building | Colonnade Bridgeport; rla / architecture; Fotenn Planning + Design

Summary

  • The Panel acknowledges the difficulty of developing this narrow site within the established policy framework, however does not accept the rational brought forth for the development of the proposed tower. It is the opinion of the Panel that a development on this block should consist of street oriented mid-rise buildings, with north to south oriented units. This would ensure a relatively consistent streetwall on Argyle Avenue, opposite the Museum of Nature, which is a designated National Historic Site. The proposed four sided high-rise building would overwhelm this landmark.

Heritage Conservation

  • The Panel is of the opinion that the proposed tower is not in keeping with the character surrounding the Museum of Nature, and does not represent an appropriate response to the heritage context.
  • The Panel has diverse opinions with respect to the proposed lowering and repositioning of the heritage building on site:
    • One member of the Panel believes that moving the building closer to the street, if the overall composition of the project is executed properly, can reinforce and strengthen the urban edge;
    • Another member believes the proposed reconstruction and lowering of the building dilutes the heritage conservation intentions, particularly as the lowering of the building represents a significant departure from the original façade proportions.
  • One Panel member suggested that the inspiration photo on Slide 18 showing the heritage building contained within a vitrine is an interesting approach that could resolve the requirement to move the building, as well as allowing for the retention of the limestone walls.
  • The Panel is supportive of the parti layout on Slide 20 that indicates a double height space, with shared access to the rooftop amenity, rather than the direct access from units, as indicated on the floor plans.
  • The Panel is generally supportive of the lack of formality of the proposed design, but does feel there are missed opportunities to pick up on the symmetry of the heritage building, as well as take other design cues from the Museum of Nature.  
  • The Panel suggests referencing the Montgomery Square and the Gladstone Library projects in Toronto, specifically for the way the grades are dealt with - by introducing ramps and creating plazas, rather than lower the heritage building.

Montgomery Square
Montgomery Square
Gladstone Library Toronto
Gladstone Library, Toronto

Urban Context and Transition

  • The Panel is concerned that this proposal will represent a height anomaly within the context of the Museum of Nature, as there is currently consistency within the streetscape, characterized by medium scale height. The nearby YMCA building is an exception:
    • The Panel does not agree with the comparison to New York’s Central Park, as, surrounding the park there is a consistent perimeter zone of tall buildings. One suggestion is that High Park in Toronto would be a more relatable comparison of context;
    • A fabric building fronting the museum, with north-south oriented units is most appropriate for this site. If a development over nine storeys is proposed, the nine storey datum should be strongly reflected in the design to ensure compatibility with the streetscape and the museum;
    • The visual impact of this tower on the view from within the Museum of Nature is also an important consideration of the Panel, and there is concern that this tower has negative impacts in this regard.
  • The Panel has concerns with the significant shadow impact on the surface parking lot of Museum of Nature directly across the street. There is a likelihood that the entire property from O’Connor Street to Elgin Street will eventually be recaptured as greenspace as the museum property evolves. It is the opinion of the Panel that the location of the current parking lot is a mistake, and this area should be protected from negative impacts in order to preserve its potential.
  • The Panel believes that the three metre side yard setbacks are insufficient for the proposed tower, as it does not provide sufficient tower separation, given the potential for the adjacent lots to redevelop.
  • In order to ensure compatibility on the block and make this development a model for future developments on the street, the Panel suggests confirming that the proposed street trees line up with existing trees. Also, if the heritage building is to be moved, the building should align with adjacent buildings to establish a streetwall. Finally, consider the availability and location of on-street parking.

Architectural Expression and Floor Plan

  • The Panel appreciates the use of stone and masonry, but believes the architectural expression of the tower should be more deferential and quieter. Borrowing some of the formal language and symmetry from the heritage building, and from surrounding buildings, such as the Museum of Nature or the Windsor Arms, would also improve the tower expression.
  • The Panel recommends better treatment for the floors immediately above the heritage building:
    • Reconsider the two-storey relief, as the proportions create an awkward relationship between the tower and the base;
    • Remove the units adjacent to the rooftop terrace;
    • Consider a relief floor with extensive glazing, creating a ‘glass break’ between the base and the tower.
  • The Panel is concerned with the quality of life implications with respect to the units oriented toward the side lot lines, where the setbacks are limited. Redesign the floor plan so that units are oriented exclusively to the north and south.
  • Rather than integrating the mechanical penthouse, the Panel suggests pushing it back away from the museum.

January 11, 2019

180 Metcalfe Street | Formal Review | Site Plan and Minor Variances to construct a 24 storey residential building with retail uses at grade, above a six storey heritage building | JADCO Group; rla / architecture; FOTENN Planning + Design 

Summary

  • The Panel believes that the most significant challenge of the development is the appropriateness of the design response to the fine, very handsome heritage building. The Panel emphasizes the importance an intervention that is simple, complimentary, and emphasizes the primacy of the Medical Arts Building in the overall built form composition. The Panel recommends that the design elements of the heritage building inform the design of the new podium and that the tower be light and simple in expression. Further attention to the public realm, and the landscape scheme is also required.

The Panel is pleased to hear that the proposed tower is Curtainwall (as opposed to window wall). The simplicity of the proposed tower will relay upon this higher quality cladding material.

Podium

  • The Panel is of the opinion that the current approach of contrasting the new podium design with the heritage building is not successfully creating a sympathetic composition that gives primacy to this remarkable heritage asset. The Panel recommends that the new podium be deliberately more compatible with the heritage building creating a stronger base expression, rather than establishing a strong visual connection between the new podium and the new tower.
    • Ensure that the vertical expressions in the new podium do not appear to exceed the height of the heritage building.
    • Use a lighter colour brick that compliments the masonry of the heritage building, but still differentiates it. The proposed black brick contrasts too much with the heritage building, and is not sustainable.
    • Consider reinstating the piers that were part of the approved heritage permit proposal, and extend those masonry piers to the ground. Consider longer expanses of glazing across the podium that are broken up by the piers.
  • In terms of programming, the Panel finds there are opportunities to ensure more active uses at the street level.
    • The residential amenity area in the podium could be made more open and inviting to the public, to avoid ‘dead’ spaces at the street level. As an example, consider a publically accessible gym that could partner with the residents association to cater to both the residents of the building and the public at large. This would result in amenity space that better engages with the street.
    • Another suggestions from the Panel is to consider reducing the space on the ground floor allocated to the amenity, and instead introduce two-storey townhouse units along Nepean Street. This would result in a more active street façade and allow the two-storey datum line from the heritage building to be referenced and extended across the new podium.
    • The Panel also suggests utilizing the Medical Arts Building as a grand lobby space, while integrating a unique two-storey commercial space, possibly a café, into the heritage building. The Panel sees this approach as a good way to activate Metcalfe Street, at an intersection that faces a relatively successful commercial square on the other side of the street. 

Tower Design

  • The Panel very much appreciates the direction toward simplifying the tower expression and is particularly supportive of the use of glass curtain wall. It is the opinion of the Panel, however, that an even quieter tower expression is needed to emphasize the primacy of the heritage building. Consider the introduction of a reveal floor to better differentiate the tower from the podium.
  • With respect to the Metcalfe Street elevation, the Panel has some concerns with the tower offset in terms of the symmetrical façade treatment of both the heritage building and the tower. The Panel suggests correcting this misalignment by changing the façade treatment of the tower to better compliment the Metcalfe façade of the Art Deco Medical Arts Building.
    • One suggestion is to remove the balconies from the Metcalfe elevation, and instead bring these balconies to both the north and south elevations creating a clean glass tower as a backdrop to the heritage building
    • Alternatively, the Panel suggests extending the balconies across the entire span of the Metcalfe façade.
    • Use sandblasted glass for balcony railings to provide privacy for residents, and hide clutter.
  • The Panel is concerned with misalignments between the vertical elements on the tower and those on the podium, and recommends eliminating the ones on the tower. It is the Panel’s opinion that these changes would result in a pristine sophisticated tower that respects the exuberant expression of the heritage building. The use of glass curtain wall supports this clean, simplified approach.
  • Given the visibility of this tower, particularly from the south and east, the Panel suggests carefully considering a lighting scheme that accentuates the top of the building at night and during the dark months of the year. Emphasis should also be placed on appropriately lighting the heritage attributes of the Medical Arts Building.
  • To better differentiate the tower from the podium, the Panel suggests a glass reveal floor, slightly inset from the rest of the tower.

Landscape

  • The Panel is supportive of continuing the street trees along Metcalfe Street, however recommends careful consideration of placement and species, in order to avoid blocking too much of the view toward the main entrance of the building.
  • The Panel recommends removing the trees proposed on the rooftop of the heritage building, and considering an alternative landscape plan for this space that is less visibly intrusive.
  • The Panel emphasizes the need for clear walking and site lines within the public realm, particularly for the visibly impaired. Understanding the challenge of transitioning from a more residential sidewalk condition (to the west) to a commercial sidewalk, the Panel has concerns with this transition occurring at the driveway access point along Nepean Street. Street tree placement along Nepean should consider the site lines of pedestrians coming from the west. Reconsider the need for these trees along Nepean, if alternate positioning is not feasible.

1545 Bank | Formal Review | Site Plan application to construct an eight storey residential building with commercial uses at grade | FES Group; chmiel architects; Novatech Engineering Consultants Ltd.

Summary

  • The Panel is supportive of many of the big moves associated with this proposal, such as the introduction of retail at the corner to animate Bank Street, the residential and parking garage entrance off Evans Avenue, as well as the street tree treatments and associated streetscape amenities.
  • The Panel sees this project as precedent and context setting as this will be a building that starts to establish an urban character in a suburban area. Given this context, the building will serve as a long view termination from many vantage points for many years to come and the Panel suggests that all four elevations be designed to reflect this visibility. Further consideration should also be given to transition this building from the commercial character of Bank Street to the low-rise established residential neighbourhood to the east, is required.

Transition and Architectural Expression

  • The Panel is concerned with the compatibility of this building relative to the the low-rise residential neighbourhood to the east. There is particular concern because this will likely be an isolated building for the short-to-long term, and the prospect of development on the adjacent dental office site is very low.
    • The Panel suggests lowering the corner of the building along Evans Avenue to serve as a height transition.  This will set an important precedent for how new buildings on Bank Street respond to the adjacent residential areas.
  • The Panel feels very strongly that the blank end wall are not appropriate, and that design alterations are required in order to improve these long view conditions and to create a positive transition toward both the residential neighbourhood to the east, and the adjacent property to the north along Bank Street.
    • Lower the wing of the building along Evans Avenue to four or six storeys, and redesign the units so that they wrap the corner. Introduce glazing and consider wrapping balconies to this side façade, as a gesture to the residential neighbourhood. Consider some smaller units to avoid significant reductions to the unit count. In order to achieve these revisions to the Evans side façade, it will be necessary to simplify the structural grid of the building, opening up efficiencies. This can be achieved by:
      • Relocating the elevator shafts to line up with the main portion of the building along Bank Street;
      • Moving the mechanical penthouse to the north, parallel with Bank Street, and away from the residential area;
      • Relocating the staircase to an internal location.
    • The Panel suggests paying more attention to the north façade and avoid the appearance of ‘slicing’ off the building. Wrap the materials and architectural detailing from the Bank Street façade to this side wall. 
  • Once it is relocated to the main portion of the building, the Panel recommends lowering the mechanical penthouse. The mechanical penthouse could be integrated towards the corner of the building along an axis, thus easing the bulkiness in relation to both the commercial property to the north, and the residential area to the east.
  • The Panel agrees that the overall approach to the design of the front façade, a base of three stories with five stories above, is appropriate. Consider, however, stepping back or introducing a terrace at the top floor.
  • The Panel suggests exploring rooftop lighting schemes that can help emphasize the architecture of the building.

Materiality

  • To ensure the building has a more residential and less commercial look, the Panel suggests using brick, natural materials, and other colour accents.
    • Specifically, the Panel recommends more brick cladding (particularly on the lower portions of the building) in order to reflect the character of the adjacent residential neighbourhood, and better integrate the building into its surroundings.
  • The Panel suggests articulating a stronger top, middle and bottom expression through material changes, which can help to break up the massing of the building.

Public Realm and Amenity

  • The Panel appreciates the pubic space associated with the café at the corner, and generally is supportive of the proposed public realm initiatives. With appropriate coordination of the hydro pads, gas metres, grills, and the bus stop, the overall impact on the adjacent streets can be quite positive.
    • Add street furniture and coordinated lighting to further enhance the public realm.
    • Ensure coordination with the City as it relates to road widening intentions.
  • The Panel has some concern with the disconnect between where the new sidewalk meets the existing sidewalk to the north of the site. Also, ensure that the pedestrian flow, is smooth at the corner of Bank and Evans, as the dogleg at the corner seems to be slightly awkward.
  • The Panel has some concerns with the limited setback between this site and the adjacent dental practice property on Evans. Requirements for shoring and screening may require more space on this side.
  • The Panel suggests adding more lighting or introducing bollards to better establish an urban condition that attracts people to the site.
  • Consider introducing sustainable initiatives such as adding a garden to the rooftop amenity space.