By Doug Hallett
Concerns about traffic dominated a public meeting held by city council this week on a proposal for a second 18-storey condominium tower in the city’s downtown.
The Tricar Group of London, Ont., which is currently building an 18-storey condo tower at the northwest corner of Macdonell and Woolwich streets, wants zoning changes to allow it to build another 18-storey tower nearby at the southwest corner of Macdonell and Wellington streets. The vacant 1.4-acre site was once part of the Marsh Tire property.
The second building would contain 165 residential condos, as well as over 6,500 square feet of commercial space fronting onto Wellington.
Residents of Surrey Street East are upset by a late change to the development plans that would see their street become a main way for cars to get into and out of the tower’s three levels of parking, council was told. The original plan didn’t envision any access to the development from Surrey Street East, which was to remain a dead end.
If Surrey and Neeve streets become congested with traffic, it could “dramatically reduce the quality of life” in this area of old heritage homes, resident Bill Hulet told council. Surrey and Neeve should be preserved “pretty well as is,” he said.Senior city development planner Chris deVriendt said city officials had raised concerns about the original plan using Wellington Street as the main entrance for the proposed tower’s 238-space parking area. Their concern was over a sight-line problem linked to the curvature of Wellington.
DeVriendt said a traffic impact study hasn’t been completed on adding access from Surrey and having access to Wellington restricted to right-hand turns for both entering and exiting.
More discussion about traffic issues, which should include input from Surrey Street residents, is expected before the rezoning application returns to council, the meeting was told.
City planners and Tricar officials are looking at maybe reducing Wellington Street to a single lane of through traffic, along with new on-street parking for the businesses that will go in the new commercial space on the tower’s ground floor.
This potential lessening of the decades-old role of Wellington as a traffic bypass around the downtown core could result in more car traffic along Wyndham Street, the meeting was told.
Coun. Bob Bell said he’d like to see two-lane traffic maintained in both directions on Wellington, along with the addition of on-street parking for the new shops along Wellington. He also said he’s not convinced a “right-in, right-out” restriction for getting between Wellington and the tower’s parking area is the best solution.
Bell said he was “a bit nervous” about traffic issues related to the intersection of Wellington and Macdonell, considering nearby highrises are planned for both sides of the river.
His concerns included how the city would deal with getting pedestrians across that intersection.
Since the city’s first dwelling and its first schoolhouse were both located in the vicinity of the site of the proposed condo tower, Coun. Leanne Piper asked if public art recognizing this might be created at the new development.
Michael Hannay, an architect working for Tricar on the project, replied that there should be an opportunity for this.
Hannay said one of the challenges of designing the proposed tower is a 30-metre setback for residences required from the edge of the CN rail line that’s north of the site. Another challenge, he said, is high bedrock that makes it hard to build even a single level of underground parking there.
Tricar representative Krista Walkey said Riverhouse Condominiums, the 130-unit condo tower that’s now under construction, has sold well to the “empty-nest and young professional” sectors of the market.
The high level of local interest in owning condos in the first highrise that’s being built in line with the city’s new downtown secondary plan has been a relief to the Downtown Guelph Business Association, said its executive director, Marty Williams.
“I want to thank Tricar publicly for proving all my worries were for naught,” Williams told Monday’s meeting.
He also offered his strong support for the proposed second condo tower to be built in Guelph by Tricar, a developer of luxury condominiums and apartments suites in southwestern Ontario.
“It’s what we need. It’s what people want. It’s what the company has proven it can deliver on,” Williams said.
By Doug Hallett