Preston BIA to fight proposed 35-storey tower

A group representing local businesses on Preston Street say they will oppose plans to build a 35-storey condominium in the heart of the their neighbourhood.
An artist's depiction of the condo tower as it might look on Preston Street at the proposed location. (Roderick Lahey Architect Inc.)

A group representing local businesses on Ottawa's Preston Street say they will oppose plans to build a 35-storey tower in the heart of the their neighbourhood.

Preston Street Business Improvement Area executive director Lori Mellor said her group has never in its history opposed a building plan, but would do so now because of the scale of the building, which developer Mastercraft Starwood Group calls Soho Italia.

"We have a vision," said Mellor. "We have a plan. We've just undergone three years of really upsetting construction. To come this far and have someone come in and decide they should put density there is very frustrating to us."

An artist's concept of the Soho Italia, a 35-storey condominium tower. ((Roderick Lahey Architect Inc.))

Mastercraft Starwood Group pitched Mayor Jim Watson and city officials earlier this year on its plans to build the 35-storey condominium tower just behind the archway of Little Italy on the site of an old parking lot on Preston Street. The developer also approached community and business groups later.

An artist's conception for the project from architect Roderick Lahey shows a slim glass and concrete tower that resembles a stack of plates.

The spot is currently zoned for 19 storeys for a commercial building and 22 storeys for a residential building, so Mastercraft Starwood Group said it is filing a request next month with the city to get the plot rezoned to make way for the proposed structure.

'Would ruin the flavour of this street'

If completed, it would likely edge out tower C of Place de Ville, the 29-storey, 112 metre building, and the 32-storey, 108 metre-tall Minto Metropole in Westboro, as the tallest building in Ottawa.

While community groups have voiced their opposition to the plan, the members of the Preston Street BIA had been silent until Monday.

Mellor said the BIA wants to retain a village feel to the neighbourhood's main street.

"There's lots of land for high and dense around us, just not on Preston Street," she said.

Pub Italia owner Joe Cotroneo, who sits on the BIA's board of directors, said the building could set a precedent for future construction in the neighbourhood.

"If those type of structures were to come up and down this street, it would ruin the flavour of this street. If you don't remember the past, the future is gone. I mean, it's finished," said Cotroneo.

The developer said the community's culture will not be lost and has incorporated in its design a ground floor dedicated to a museum of Italian culture.

Mastercraft Starwood Group recently won a concession from the Ontario Municipal Board for another of its condo buildings in Ottawa.

Soho Lisgar, to be located on Lisgar Street between Bank Street and O'Connor, was granted an additional four stories. Shovels hit the ground on the 16-storey building in May.

With files from the CBC's Ashley Burke