Proposed condo a lightning rod in Little Italy

New condo developments haven't always been welcomed in established Ottawa neighbourhoods, and few projects have been more divisive than a proposed 35-storey building in Little Italy.
An artist's depiction of the condo tower as it might look on Preston Street at the proposed location. (Roderick Lahey Architect Inc.)

New condo developments haven't always been welcomed in established Ottawa neighbourhoods, and few projects have been more divisive than a proposed 35-storey building in Little Italy.

City on the Rise

Monday: Ottawa's condo boom 

Tuesday: Little Italy's lightning rod

Wednesday: Buyer beware

Thursday: Is there a condo glut?

Mastercraft Starwood Group wants to build "Soho Italia" just behind the archway of Little Italy on the site of an old parking lot on Preston Street.

The spot is currently zoned for 19-storeys for a commercial building, and 22-storeys for a residential building, according to Mastercraft Starwood.

But the developers have lobbied to have the area rezoned to allow the 35 storeys, which would make it the tallest building in Ottawa.

For local businesses in the Little Italy community, the promise of 220 new condo units and accompanying residents is enticing. 
An artist's concept of the Soho Italia, a 35-storey condominium tower. ((Roderick Lahey Architect Inc.))

"I mean what more can we ask for," said Rosa Pina at Simply Biscotti, "a lot more business, a lot more walking traffic, and that's definitely what we want."

Councillor wants to study downtown condo boom

Somerset Ward Coun. Diane Holmes, whose area includes Little Italy, said she has heard a flood of complaints about downtown condos like the one on Preston.

She estimated 4,000 condo units are being built in her ward and homeowners are less sanguine about the increased traffic and congestion that would result.

Roman Zakaluzny and his wife, who own a small home in Little Italy, said they worry the construction of a condo tower will rob them of them of their cozy neighbourhood.

"We see traffic is already intensely busy. we see with towers going up," he said. "Little Italy is known for its gardens, the gardens will now be in the shade for part of the day, part of the year."

Both the Preston Street Business Improvement Area and the Dalhousie Community Association have already come out in opposition to the project, which they say doesn't fit the character of the neighbourhood.