Sandy Hill student towers to go virtually parking-free

The City of Ottawa's planning committee has agreed to slash minimum parking requirements for a pair of student highrises proposed for Sandy Hill, allowing the development to go ahead with barely a dozen spots for vehicles.

Student highrises will have just 1 parking spot for every 20 units

Textbook Student Suites Inc. is proposing two towers containing 275 units at 256 Rideau St. and 211 Besserer St. (City of Ottawa)

The City of Ottawa's planning committee has agreed to slash minimum parking requirements for a pair of student highrises proposed for Sandy Hill, allowing the development to go ahead with barely a dozen spots for vehicles.

Textbook Student Suites Inc. wants to build a pair of narrow, 26-storey towers — one where the Dworkin Furs store once stood at 256 Rideau St., the other at 211 Besserer St. — with 275 units geared towards students at the nearby University of Ottawa.

Under the current zoning bylaw for the area, the development should have 164 parking spaces. But today's decision will allow the project to proceed with just 14 short-term visitor spots, or one for every 20 units.

City staff supported the move because both the campus and the future Rideau light rail station will be just 400 metres away, and because they felt there is enough on-street parking in the area already.

Existing on-street parking shortage

Not everyone approved of the plan, however.

Janet Bradley, a lawyer for another developer, Claridge Homes, called the reduction in parking "drastic." She argued it would compound an existing on-street parking shortage in the growing neighbourhood.

"It contributes to parking on residential streets. It leads to illegal parking. It leads to double parking. It leads to a cruising around effect," said Bradley. "It's not good planning."

Coun. Rick Chiarelli, whose ward includes the main campus of Algonquin College, also expressed frustration.

"You have a constant problem that everyone complains about," said Chiarelli, who described students driving up and down residential streets in his ward looking for spots, and homeowners calling bylaw when parked cars exceed the three-hour on-street limit.

City reviewing parking requirements

However Chiarelli was the only member of the committee to vote against reducing parking requirements for the Sandy Hill development.

"Quite frankly, I like it. I think we should do more of this to get our students proper housing," said Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley.

Coun. Jean Cloutier said given the billions of dollars the city is investing in light rail, car-free student apartments make sense, especially so close to campus.

Staff reminded councillors that multi-residential buildings in Centretown are already exempt from minimum parking requirements, and the city is undertaking a development review of similarly dense areas to weed out inconsistencies in the zoning rules.

The planning committee's decision regarding the proposed buildings on Rideau and Besserer streets still needs the approval of city council.