Ottawa

Vision for denser, taller Heron Gate draws mixed reviews

The Ottawa city councillor for Alta Vista says Timbercreek has "work to do" on its ambitious plan to redevelop the partially demolished Heron Gate neighbourhood.

Timbercreek wants to build 16 highrises, including 40-storey tower

Timbercreek wants to redevelop Heron Gate in phases over 25 years. The developer intends to keep just five existing buildings, all highrises. (Timbercreek)

The Ottawa city councillor for Alta Vista says Timbercreek has "work to do" on its ambitious plan to redevelop the partially demolished Heron Gate neighbourhood.

The city is currently accepting the public's comments about Timbercreek Asset Management Inc.'s vision for the 20-hectare wedge between Heron and Walkley roads.

The developer wants to construct 57 new buildings — including 16 towers — containing 5,500 units that will be both owned and rented.

Mavis Finnamore, who lived in Heron Gate for thirty years until her townhouse was razed, says the new development includes highrises that aren't suitable for bigger families. 1:11

They'll largely replace lowrise townhomes, some of which were knocked down following last year's controversial mass eviction that left many residents scrambling to find somewhere else to live.

Timbercreek says its 25-year plan would eventually see Heron Gate's population increase fourfold, with buildings ranging from new three-storey townhomes to a 40-storey tower.

Building heights would range from lowrise townhomes to a 40-storey tower. (Timbercreek)

"It is a lot of density in a relatively small area. Forty storeys, let me just say, that's very high. There's work to be done there," Coun. Jean Cloutier told CBC News.

Cloutier said he's sensitive to the impact Timbercreek's proposal would have on current Heron Gate residents, as well as people living on the north side of Heron Road.

The three highrises seen here would be among the five original buildings to survive demolition. All the lowrises would eventually fall to the wrecking ball. (Kate Porter/CBC)

'Out of character'

"It seems to me out of character for the entire neighbourhood," agreed Mavis Finnamore, who lived in Heron Gate for 30 years until her townhouse was razed.

"It's going to stick up like a sore thumb, really, because there's nothing really like that around there."

But Timbercreek is standing by its vision.

"This will be the largest project we've done," said Paul Popovici, the company's vice-president of real estate investment management.

Margaret Alluker says the highrise apartment where she now lives is not as suitable for her three children as their Heron Gate townhouse, which was demolished last fall. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Needed housing stock

Timbercreek plans to keep just five existing apartment towers containing about 1,000 units. The company is promising to make up to 20 per cent of the new housing affordable, and include three- and four- bedroom units suitable for families.

Eventually, the company sees the total number of units at the new Heron Gate rising to 6,000 or even 6,500.

"We all know more housing, in general, is required in Ottawa, and this is a way for us to play a role in meeting the housing needs of the City of Ottawa," Popovici said.

The first block of Timbercreek's redevelopment, a trio of six-storey buildings on Heron Road, is almost complete, offering a glimpse of what the new Heron Gate might look like. (Kate Porter/CBC)

The plan also includes a 1.6-hectare city park in the middle of the redevelopment.

At this early stage, Popovici would not say how much the project will cost, or if Timbercreek plans to sell off parcels.

The company intends to redevelop the site in phases, starting with the section left empty by the 2018 eviction.

Margaret Alluker, who used to live in a Heron Gate townhouse with her children, says living in a smaller apartment is a challenge. 0:49

Big adjustment

Timbercreek has promised a mix of housing, but there are fears among residents of the 500 or so lowrise units that remain that they'll be forced to move into highrise apartments.

That's the adjustment Margaret Alluker and her three children were forced to make after they were evicted last fall to make way for the demolition of their Heron Gate townhome.

"Here, [the kids] can't get out. No getting to the backyard, no front door. It's harder than the house before," Alluker said.

Timbercreek plans to begin redeveloping this area along Heron Road, between Baycrest and Sandalwood drives, where townhomes were demolished in 2018. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Many of her Heron Gate neighbours have several children or multiple generations living together, and can't all fit in a small highrise apartment.

Timbercreek has drawn up a social contract in which it promises not to demolish any remaining townhomes until it can relocate tenants to equivalent units at the same rent.

After the public comment period, the city will hold open houses this fall. The city's planning committee is expected to receive a recommendation from staff and deal with the plans for Heron Gate in early 2020.

Timbercreek is proposing various types of buildings for the Heron Gate site, including 16 new highrise towers. (Timbercreek and DIALOG)

About the Author

Kate Porter

Reporter

Kate Porter covers municipal affairs for CBC Ottawa. Over the past 15 years, she has also produced in-depth reports for radio, web and TV, regularly presented the radio news, and covered the arts beat.

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