Developer hires heritage friendly architect

By Roman Zakaluzny

A new heritage-friendly architect hired by Ashcroft Homes may bode well for the proposed development at 320 McLeod St., according to Coun. Elisabeth Arnold.

The development has been the bane of local residents for more than a year.

The hiring came after Ashcroft learned that its request to change zoning bylaws to accommodate a nine-storey building on the corner of O’Connor and McLeod streets was recommended for refusal by a city report in September. Ashcroft asked that further discussion on the development by the city be delayed until architect Barry Padolsky submits a modified design.

“I think Mr. Padolsky’s reputation is good,” says Arnold, who agrees with the report’s findings.

“He’s done a lot of projects in Centretown that people have admired. He’s done a lot of work in heritage areas.”

“It is safe to say that this is a very positive development.”

Padolsky is well known in city redevelopment circles and his firm has won more than a dozen heritage awards for its work.

His extensive portfolio includes restorations of the Museum of Nature, the Bank street and Cummings bridges, and the private residence of former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King on Somerset Street.

“We work to incorporate the heritage character of Ottawa, to ensure that things are compatible,” says Padolsky.

“I’m there to try to mediate, to take the city’s policies, and design a plan acceptable to the developer, the city and the residents.”

David Flemming, president of Heritage Ottawa, a lobby group that opposed Ashcroft’s first three proposals, is aware of Padolsky’s experience.

“He’s a fellow who has a very good heritage background…I don’t know if that’ll make a difference, however.”

Flemming says any new structure must keep the “flavour” of existing ones. But, he adds, it was mainly an issue of height, not design, that got residents up in arms.

This nine-floor building was Ashcroft’s third design proposal for the same site. Initially, they had asked for a 20-floor building, which was lowered to 13, and then dropped to nine. They’ll submit a fourth proposal in January with Padolsky.

Some residents think Ashcroft owner David Choo was just testing the waters with the first three tries.

“Those were just opening gambits to see what he could get away with,” says Miller MacPherson, who lives across the street from the site.

“Only after those tries will he consider other things.”

Choo could not be reached for comment.

MacPherson’s home would fall under the building’s shadow, but he says he would have been against it even if he lived seven blocks away.

“These are the kinds of developments that kill downtown lifestyles,” he says.

“I’m sure there are developments that could make Ashcroft lots of money, fit in with surrounding homes and satisfy most.”

Arnold says Ashcroft’s proposal was rejected for many reasons.

“Height is just one of the issues,” says Arnold.

“There was no architectural detail (in the proposal) on how it would incorporate the flavour of the neighbourhood,” she says.

Dwight Hodge, a neighbour who lives a block away on Argyle Street, disagrees.

“The whole area’s mixed,” says Hodge. “There’s parking lots. There’s Victorian houses.

“Five or six houses (east on McLeod) is a terrible building, with a huge parking lot fronting onto Bank Street,” he says, noting that Ashcroft’s parking lot was underground.

“The Ashcroft buildings, while somewhat banal, are reasonably well designed and attractive. They are not brutalist concrete monstrosities sitting in the middle of a parking lot.”

Arnold says she isn’t anti-development and is hopeful that a solution can be found.

She says a meeting with the community will be scheduled as soon as possible.