Proposed 12-storey hotel/parkade in downtown St. John's spurs debate at committee meeting

A request made by the owners of the Atlantic Place parking garage to add a four-storey hotel to the top of the existing structure is being debated by council.

A proposed four-storey hotel would sit on top of the existing eight-storey parking garage

The owners of the parking garage near Atlantic Place in St. John's are looking for permission to go beyond the 11-storey maximum in the downtown and add a hotel to the top of the building, making it 12 storeys. (Submitted by Marco)

A request made by the owners of a downtown parking garage to add a four-storey hotel to the top of the existing structure is being debated by St. John's city councillors.

The proposed structure would be nearly as tall as Atlantic Place next door, according to a report from the city, and rise 12 storeys, but there's a snag. Under the current district and zoning restrictions for that area, buildings can only be a maximum of 11 storeys unless an exemption is made.

The owners of the parking garage have proposed building a new hotel on top of the existing structure. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Coun. Hope Jamieson does not support the amendment, and was one of three councillors who voted to reject it.

"I've heard loud and clear, again and again, from residents that they really value the historic character of our downtown, and that the downtown is really the crown jewel of our city," Jamieson said on Wednesday.

"For that reason, I can't entertain any proposal that would suggest an increase in building heights in the downtown."

While the proposal meets the floor-area ratio requirements, if the height is allowed to pass, the downtown building control map in the municipal plan and development regulations would have to be amended to reflect the increase in storeys, according to the city.

Coun. Hope Jamieson said she doesn't support allowing the the new hotel project to be 12 storeys tall. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Jamieson admits if the building proposal were to remove one storey, making the new hotel three storeys tall and the entire project as a whole 11 storeys tall, the hotel proposal could go ahead.

"It's a matter of principle for me. While the regulations state this currently, I can't use my discretion as a member of council to say, 'Yeah sure, go higher,'" she said.

Breen not out

Mayor Danny Breen said the hotel proposal is worthy of going through the process of gathering information and details for the city and putting the idea out to the public for input.

"It may actually be good in starting the conversation about what we do in the downtown and what we can do in the future," Breen said.

Mayor Danny Breen wants to allow for the hotel proposal to get their data in order for the city. Then, Breen says, he wants to allow for public comment. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"I certainly go into every application with an open mind. What's proposed here now, I said in the meeting it's not exactly something that I personally like, but I'm one person. There's modifications that can be made, there's other changes that can be made."

The proposal included the promise to keep the 600 parking spaces already in the parking garage, and is something Breen says is a creative idea for a new hotel. 

"I think we owe it to the public to pursue getting the information for them so a proper decision can be made," he said. 

"On important issues like this, I don't like sitting down in a vacuum and making those decisions based on my own personal preferences. I'd like to see the homework done. I'd like to see what impact it will have."

A computer-generated image shows the proposed hotel expansion from Water Street. (Submitted by Marco)

With files from Here and Now

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