Proposed Westboro drive-thru café 'completely inappropriate,' says Leiper

A proposed drive-thru coffee shop that would be added on to a heritage-designated Westboro gas station would make the neighbourhood significantly less walkable, Coun. Jeff Leiper says.

Developer wants to convert heritage gas station into high-end coffee shop, drawing concerns from councillor

A drive-thru coffee shop at this heritage gas station in Westboro would be "completely inappropriate" and would make the neighbourhood less walkable, according to Coun. Jeff Leiper. (Emily Ridlington/CBC)

An Ottawa city councillor says he's preparing to fight a proposal to build a drive-thru coffee shop on the site of a heritage-designated Westboro gas station.

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper told CBC Ottawa the proposed addition by developer Main and Main to the former Champlain Oil gas station is "completely inappropriate," and would make the neighbourhood significantly less walkable.

"The City of Ottawa has an official plan that says drive-thrus don't belong on traditional main streets. There's a reason for that," Leiper said Saturday.

"The impact in terms of greenhouse gases, idling cars, cars that are driving back and forth over a sidewalk in order to get to the drive-thru window — all of that makes for a much less-friendly pedestrian environment."

'Interesting example' of pre-war architecture

Built in 1934, the gas station at Richmond Road and Island Park Drive was described in a 2015 city report that advocated for its heritage status as "an interesting example" of pre-Second World War design.

Kitchisippi Coun. Jeff Leiper has concerns about plans to install a drive-thru coffee shop at Richmond Road and Island Park Drive. (Emily Ridlington/CBC)

"The service station at 70 Richmond is a good example of 1930s gas station architecture during the boom in the private ownership of automobiles, and one of the few that remain in Ottawa," the report said. 

"Its location along Richmond Road would have played an integral part in the connecting Ottawa with the neighbouring communities to the west."

Council unanimously passed the motion designating the currently-vacant station a heritage property in September 2015.

No issue with heritage element

According to documents posted on Leiper's website, Main and Main has applied for a zoning bylaw amendment to build a 65-square-metre addition and "convert the existing building into a restaurant." 

Vehicles would access the drive-thru lane on Richmond Road, and would exit on Island Park Drive, according to Main and Main's planning rationale.

"In converting the building from an automotive use into a restaurant, it advances the site towards a land use more in line with the objectives of the City of Ottawa's traditional main streets policy," the document says.

Leiper told CBC his issue isn't with the heritage element, calling the proposed high-end coffee shop a "sensitive addition" that would preserve the gas station's look and feel.

Rather, it's the impact on the neighbourhood he's concerned about.

'There's going to be an accident'

"Island Park is a gong show at the best of times during [the morning commute], when people are most likely to visit a drive-thru coffee shop," Leiper said.

Gord Johnson, who has lived near Richmond Road and Island Park Drive for eight years, echoed the councillor's worries.

This archival photo from the 1950s shows how the Richmond Road gas station would have looked while in operation. (City of Ottawa/John Newcomb Collection)

"I have seen so many close calls when traffic is trying to beat the light. You add another dynamic to that, like a drive-thru — it's a disaster. There's going to be an accident." 

Leiper said he's planning to consult with residents before the matter is brought before the city's planning committee in June.

Main and Main could not be reached for comment Saturday afternoon.

With files from Emily Ridlington


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