Construction could begin soon on downtown London’s largest residential development, transforming a parking lot once home to a modest shopping mall into a $300-million, three-tower showpiece.
The project was delayed after developer Ayerswood Development Corp. filed suit against city hall over the effect of its bus rapid transit plans on the site, but that issue appears to have been resolved — though the lawsuit remains on the books, with a spring court date.
The project’s first phase — a 25-storey tower with 137 units — could include a community space that would be tied into the Dundas Street flex street, a pedestrian- and events-friendly stretch of that street.
The tower, one of three planned by Ayerswood on the former London Mews site, has now cleared a major hurdle with a city hall advisory committee giving it the green light.
“This was very important. It allows us to go ahead with site plan approval for Phase 1,” said Casey Kulchycki, a planner with Zelinka Priamo, which represents Ayerswood. “Had this been refused, it would have delayed this even more.”
The company’s bid for site plan approval is expected to go to city council’s planning committee within weeks.
Construction could begin in late spring or early summer, Kulchycki said.
Ayerswood’s plan for the 25-storey tower was approved by city hall’s committee of adjustment, which considers applications by property owners for changes, called minor variances, that don’t conform with city rules.
The building would be set back 30 metres from Dundas Street.
Plans for the space between the building and Dundas include the creation of a community open space linking the project and the street that itself is going to become more of a community space.
Construction will begin this year to convert five blocks of Dundas between the Thames River and Wellington Street into the flex street.
Curbs and sidewalks will disappear, and trees and seating will be added to create a pedestrian-first zone known as Dundas Place.
“It is encouraging there is support for this right now,” said John Camara, general construction manager for Danforth London Ltd., owned by developer Tony Graat. Danforth is the parent firm of Ayerswood.
“I think we are pretty much there now, we can move into site plan approval. We are ready,” Camara said.
“We’ve been working on this for three or four years now, a long time, but we are optimistic we can now get the job done.”
John Fyfe-Millar, a committee of adjustment member, said the tower is an example of the type of project needed downtown.
“I think this is a great use for our downtown core. It puts to use that space for development, and that is something that is badly needed.”
The second and third phases, 32- and 35-storey towers, will dominate the intersection of King and Clarence streets, taking up what is now a parking lot. When completed, the project will have 700 units.
Danforth bought the site in 2014.
Ayerswood planned to seek site plan approval in 2016, but delayed the application when the city indicated its intention to put a hub for a proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) system at King and Clarence.
Danforth filed a $53-million lawsuit. In its statement of claim, the company contended that planned road widenings to accommodate the BRT system put its planned development in jeopardy.
The city has since announced the BRT hub will move a block east, to King and Wellington streets.
“The ongoing public consultation around BRT, businesses pushing back against the plan, delayed this, but we are happy today,” Kulchycki said. “There have been significant changes to the BRT that saw the impact on this site go away.
“They really wanted to get into the ground in 2016, but things happened.”
The city’s development services office also cheered the proposal at the committee, saying it’s consistent with its plans for that area.
“The proposed development meets the general intent of the zoning bylaw and London Plan (the city’s blueprint for its future),” said Ethan Ling, a development services official.
“It represents a desirable use of the land.”