Plans for Cambridge's Gaslight District face some opposition

The City of Cambridge is hoping to take another step forward tonight in its redevelopment of the Gaslight District, but the plans are facing some opposition.

Development to be discussed at a planning and development committee meeting Tuesday night

An artistic rendering of part of the planned Gaslight District in Cambridge. The plans will be discussed at a planning and development meeting tonight. (

The City of Cambridge is hoping to take another step forward tonight in its redevelopment of the Gaslight District, but the plans are facing some opposition.

The plans call for two new residential towers of about 20 storeys and the demolition of portions of the Southworks and Tiger Brand properties.

City councillor Nicholas Ermeta is opposed to the size of the new building, which he said would ruin the city's views and skyline, while an area architect, Paul Sapounzi, thinks more of the old Southworks property needs to be preserved to maintain the historic character of the area.

However, Elaine Brunn Shaw, the director of planning for the City of Cambridge, said these concerns were taken into consideration in the proposal.

The plans will be discussed at a planning and development committee meeting Tuesday night before being presented to city council on June 13. There are 10 delegations registered to speak about the project.

Councillor Nicholas Ermeta says he's generally in favour of the project, but thinks the 20-storey towers are too tall and will compromise the picturesque views of downtown Galt.

A view of the proposed Gaslight District in Cambridge. (Grand Innovations/City of Cambridge)

"What I'd like to do is achieve the same number of units but in a different form," he told CBC K-W The Morning Edition's Craig Norris on Monday. "What I propose is to lower the two buildings from 20 floors to 10 floors and for the remainder of the unit,s examine the possibility of putting them on top of the heritage buildings in an area."

Ermeta added that additional pilings could be used to support the foundations of the older buildings if needed.

He says this technique is used in other cities, including Toronto, where they blend the old and the new.

"This is a sensitive urban landscape and I think we need to be extra creative about finding ways to achieve the numbers while preserving the character of the areas," Ermeta said.

'An important historic site'

The buildings in the redevelopment were first used as a machinery factory in 1859 and served several purposes until 1976, documents from the city state.

The site's historic purpose is being overlooked in this redevelopment, architect Paul Sapounzi said. Sapounzi sent a letter to the planning committee about his concerns.

"We really to be respectful to the heritage of this area," he told CBC News. "We need to look at the entire context, it's an important historic site which reached into the river and reaches beyond the community."

(HIP Developments )

One of his big concerns is the plan to remove much of the north facade of the Southworks building on Malcolm Street, now the boardwalk, which was an extension of the rain bridge, an offloading area and the main entrance to the facility and its courtyard.

The courtyard portion of this industrial complex was a "special urban oasis," he says, and removing the north facade fundamentally changes the space.

"You can't cut and paste buildings just to make development work," he said.

Design has been adjusted

However, Brunn Shaw says the project has the OK from the heritage committee as it is.

"The recommendation to council is that the demolition go ahead because the parts that will remain are still of heritage significance and they will be structurally sound," Brunn Shaw told Norris Tuesday. "And there'll also be a recommendation that the city designate these buildings as heritage buildings at the completion of the project in 2020 or 2021."

(HIP Developments)

Brunn Shaw says Ermeta's concerns about the visual impact of the 20-storey buildings have also been addressed by adjustments to design.

Instead of being parallel to one another, the buildings are now in more of an L shape, she said, and the scale of the buildings has been reduced in the upper stories, she said.

"(The developer has) reduced the height and reduced the size of the upper portions of the tower from storeys five and up, so that when people are walking in the area they don't feel overwhelmed by height of the buildings," Brunn Shaw said.

The views of the city were also taken into consideration throughout the project, she said, adding it was especially important that views of the church spires remain from public spaces like bridges along the Grand River.