Despite residents’ pleas and the city’s own studies, city councillors have given the green light to the third phase of the Breithaupt Block, a new office development by a leading local developer.
The development will put a 12-storey office tower and a five-storey parking garage on a one-hectare parcel on Breithaupt Street, next to homes on Breithaupt and Wellington streets, and across the street from homes on Moore Avenue.
David Messmer, who lives on Wellington, said he fears his backyard will be plunged into shadows cast by the tower, and his backyard will be dominated by the five-storey parking garage. “This is our home. This is where we spend most of our time,” he told council.
Several residents and councillors questioned why such an intense development would go ahead, after council previously approved a plan that called for much less intense development on the site.
The PARTS Central plan (for Planning Around Rapid Transit Stations) calls for development on that parcel to be low-rise residential closest to Wellington, and “innovation employment” along Breithaupt. Innovation employment would allow office and other uses, and a maximum height of 14 metres — less than a quarter of the height of the 60-metre office tower in the Breithaupt development.
“We’ve done so much great work on PARTS,” said Coun. Yvonne Fernandes. “That was a document that went through intensive engagement, both with the development industry, consultants, the neighbourhoods. Is this application to some degree ignoring all the work that was done?”
Residents said they’re frustrated about the work they put in helping shape the PARTS studies, only to see developments approved that contradict the plan.
“How can neighbours be expected to continue to participate in collaborative planning efforts if the results are ignored?” said Dawn Parker, who lives a couple of blocks from the development site.
The PARTS plans — there will eventually be five of them covering all areas close to LRT stations — don’t actually have any force in law, explained city planner Garett Stevenson, as the city hasn’t approved the secondary plans and other changes that would put the PARTS plans into effect.
Several residents said they could live with even a six-storey office tower.
Coun. Frank Etherington tried to delay consideration of the proposal for another month, to see if a compromise could be worked out.
But the move to defer was voted down 6-4, after Craig Beattie, a partner of Perimeter Development Corp., the developer behind the project, made it clear he saw no value in further delays.
“We put a lot of effort into this plan,” Beattie said. “We would have issue with stretching things out. I’m not sure what materially could be changed.”
Many councillors said they struggled with the decision, and praised Perimeter for its excellent work, from renovating the Walper Hotel to the award-winning “glass box” Breithaupt Phase 2.
“These sorts of decisions are by far my least favourite,” said Coun. Scott Davey. “It’s difficult to look residents in the eye and say, ‘This is for the betterment of the community and you’re going to suffer somewhat as a result.'”
Council voted 6-4 to allow the development. Coun. Sarah Marsh, who represents the area, didn’t vote because she lives within 120 metres of the project, and got legal advice that she should declare a conflict of interest.