Apartment Tower on Verge of Approval

  • 02/10/17
  • |          Guelph

City planning staff are recommending approval of a proposed highrise apartment building on a small downtown lot between Yarmouth and Baker streets in downtown Guelph after the developer made changes to the project.

The building’s size has been reduced to 12 storeys and 75 units, down from last year’s 14-storey, 89-unit proposal for the 0.28-acre site at 45 Yarmouth St.

Another big change adds about 1,540 square feet of ground-floor commercial space along Baker Street, instead of the Baker Street frontage being used for parking purposes.

The original proposal was criticized for lacking ground-floor commercial space when it first came before council last April. The change adding ground-floor commercial “will help enliven this portion of Baker Street with an active pedestrian-oriented use,” says a new planning analysis from city hall.

The rezoning application goes to council’s Feb. 13 planning meeting, with city staff recommending final council approval of the project at that 6:30 p.m. meeting.

Ayerswood Development Corp., based in London, Ont., has been trying for many years to get the city’s approval to build on the site.

Around the turn of the century, council nixed a proposed nine-storey, 51-unit apartment building, saying it would be at odds with the city’s vision of itself as a “friendly-sized city.” Ayerswood appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, but the OMB sided with the city.

The provincial government’s Places to Grow legislation changed things, leading Guelph to approve a new Downtown Secondary Plan in 2012. This plan, which aims to promote downtown growth while also trying to protect the character of the city’s historic core, permits 12 storeys at 45 Yarmouth St.

The proposed apartment building would “provide intensification on a vacant and underutilized lot,” the city’s new planning analysis states. Building 75 residential units on the site “will contribute to achieving the minimum density target of 150 persons and jobs combined per hectare, as measured across the entire downtown.

“It is important to recognize that there are several downtown sites that are unlikely to be intensified significantly due to the heritage character of existing buildings and areas,” the analysis says.

“This proposed development represents appropriate density in a strategic location to contribute to reaching the minimum target for the entire downtown area. This new 12-storey residential apartment building, in combination with the ground floor commercial unit along the Baker Street frontage, will contribute to meeting the growth targets set for the downtown.”

The site is vacant, except for the northwesterly portion, which is used for parking. The adjacent nine-storey apartment building at 55 Yarmouth St. has an easement on title that requires 12 at-grade parking spaces to be provided at 45 Yarmouth St. for exclusive use of residents of 55 Yarmouth St. These 12 at-grade spaces, with access from Yarmouth Street, would continue to be provided in the proposed new apartment building for the exclusive use of residents of 55 Yarmouth St., says a city staff report.

For residents of the new building, 62 off-street parking spaces are to be built in three levels of underground parking.

The main pedestrian entrance and residential lobby is to be accessed from Yarmouth Street, with secondary access from Baker Street. Both Yarmouth and Baker are narrow one-way streets.

The proposed 12-storey apartment is next to the Raymond Sewing Machine Building, a three-storey heritage building at 37 Yarmouth St.

The new apartment building has been designed to “respect” the heritage building by “maintaining established building setbacks and by incorporating architectural elements from the adjacent building to assist in maintaining a level of consistency along the street,” the report says.

Aside from the changes in building size and the commercial space on Baker, it says, changes in the new building proposal include: a higher ground floor; increased setbacks of the apartment tower along both Baker and Yarmouth streets; additional articulation on the south façade of the tower, including balconies that wrap around the southwest and southeast corners of the building; and increased setback of the building’s mechanical penthouse from the east and west façade in order to reduce the overall massing of the building.

The 12-storey building “will not interfere with the protected views” to the Basilica of Our Lady, the report says.

The building will generate estimated annual property taxes of about $318,000, it says.

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