For auction: One slightly used space ship. Low mileage. Proceeds to aid affordable housing in Cambridge.
That’s the sign that could soon be slapped on the iconic rocket in front of the Satelite Motel at 195 Hespeler Rd., as plans were put forward Tuesday to redevelop the property.
The motel’s days are numbered and the property is instead being considered for a mixed-use residential development that would include affordable housing. Those plans were officially unveiled at Tuesday’s city planning meeting where the controversial project drew the ire of neighbours who argued it will lower their property values.
NHDG Hespeler Inc. is seeking to rezone the commercial property for high-density residential use, which would allow the construction of two new apartment buildings on the site. A total of 128 apartments would be created as well as some offices. The buildings would be six and eight storeys in height.
“We thought it would be appropriate to have a good wide range of affordability levels on the site, said Tim Welch, representing Home Concept Property Management.
As part of the project, 55 of the units would be earmarked for affordable housing, while the occupants of the bulk of the units available pay market value rents. The buildings will also have a geothermal heating and cooling system.
The affordable housing element makes the project eligible for provincial and federal funding. Waterloo Region will also drop its development charges on the project, and the project can also take advantage of the city’s financial incentive plan for affordable housing, which includes an exemption of all planning application fees, development charges and a Tax Increment Grant (TIG).
Welch is part of the team working on the project. HCPM, a sister agency of Housing Cambridge, recently completed affordable housing projects on Hespeler Road and Margaret Street.
Welch told the meeting of the 55 affordable rental housing units, 33 would be one-bedroom units and 22 would be two-bedroom units. There would be 11 barrier-free units and two fully-modified units. Fourteen of the single-bedroom units would be rented for about $450 a month, plus hydro. Another 19 single-bedroom units would pay rent at 90 per cent of market value, or about $825 a month, and 22 two-bedroom units would be rented at about $1,300 a month. The remaining units would pay full market rent.
As part of the proposal, the developers have asked for a reduction in the number of parking spots required, as many of the residents living in the affordable housing units would not have cars and would rely on public transit. Welch noted fewer parking spots were needed in other affordable housing developments operated by Cambridge Housing.
“We are desperately in need of affordable housing,” said Coun. Pam Wolf, who asked when the project would get underway.
If city approvals and finances can be set into place Welch suggested the project could be underway by March.
Not everyone was happy to see the project come forward. The meeting also heard from two concerned neighbours.
Munch Avenue resident Jakoba Wilbur argued the historic rocket has been on the site since the 1950s and should be designated as a heritage landmark and left where it is.
“Commercial is the best use and gives the highest tax base,” she said. “Why is the proposal to change commercial at 195 (Hespeler Rd.) to residential, subsidized at the taxpayer expense?”
Wilbur suggested the change would lead to greater crime, drug use and trash in the neighbourhood.
“Affordable housing has a negative impact on surrounding property values,” she said. “I suggest a 10-year tax holiday for surrounding homeowners for property value loss.”
Wilbur went on to suggest the new apartment buildings should have no balconies on its south side. She noted south-facing windows along one wing of the Satellite Motel have been blocked off, giving neighbouring residents privacy. She asked that if the apartment project proceeds it not have reduced parking, and that a concrete privacy fence be installed to curtail noise and light pollution.
Wilbur said noise from Hespeler Road, according to a sound study, exceeds Ministry of Environment sound limits.
“Removing the existing building will have a substantial noise impact on the residents living on Munch,” she said.
Wilbur said people would have problems accessing the property coming southbound on Hespeler Road.
Fellow Munch Avenue resident Steve Halicki told the meeting the current low-density neighbourhood is about “to go through substantial change with this proposal if it does not incorporate some significant modifications.”
He called for the regrading of the site to reduce the effects of potential toxic storm water run-off. He too wanted a three- to five-metre concrete fence to mitigate noise and light pollution.
“The proposed project would work much better if it was destined to be built at Shade and Kerr streets in downtown Galt,” Halicki said. “The Satelite Motel site is prime commercial land on the most important commercial thoroughfare in Cambridge.”
Coun. Jan Liggett has asked city staff to look at rejigging the plans regarding the fencing.
Wolf said providing more affordable housing is the first solution to addressing some of the city’s social problems.
Planning committee chair Donna Reid fully supports the project.
“I’m looking forward to it because it’s greatly needed.”
The project has been referred to staff for further review and a recommendation is expected back in September.