Vision for denser, taller Heron Gate draws mixed reviews
Timbercreek wants to build 16 highrises, including 40-storey tower
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.
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.
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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.
"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.
'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.
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 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.
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.
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.