Enthusiasm, Concern about 220 Dundurn South Redevelopment

Citizens greeted Denis Vranich's redevelopment plans for 220 Dundurn Street South with a mixture of optimism and wariness.

By Jason Allen
Published June 18, 2013

At a public meeting last night, developer Denis Vranich revealed his plans for the new development at 220 Dundurn Street South.

220 Dundurn Street South (RTH file photo)
220 Dundurn Street South (RTH file photo)

Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie kicked the evening off by introducing Vranich and two city planners who fielded a range of questions from the 40-50 people assembled.

The artist renderings depicted an upscale, well-appointed rental building meant to cater to single professionals and downsizing retirees. With features such as a yoga studio, meeting spaces, and likely LEED certification, Vranich's target market is young professionals working at the nearby MacMaster Innovation Park.

After the furor over the initial application, including the proposed extending of the existing building to five stories, and the raising of a single story garage to the same level, Vranich has resized both buildings down to four stories to fit within the 1997 re-zoning by-law.

As such, Vranich will not need a variance for the height, and has withdrawn all but one of his variance requests. The remaining request will be to increase the density by increasing the area of the buildings from the permitted 13,000 square meters to 17,000 square meters, down from the initial request of 27,000.

Vranich insists he needs the increased density to accommodate the increased number of single bedroom and bachelor suites he is looking to build, vs. the three-bedroom units that the density rules would currently support for that footprint.

Young Couples and Professional Singles

To Vranich, one-bedroom and bachelor suites are key to attracting his target market of young couples and professional singles, vs. three bedroom suites which he says would quickly fill up with students 'scraping together the money to live together.'

In Vranich's words, "I don't want to manage a building like that."

Much of the discussion last night surrounded parking, with one resident apparently taking a page out of a 1967 urban planning manual and insisting on more parking for building residents, ostensibly in an effort to reduce the amount of overflow parking on Chatham and Dundurn.

Her ideas proved unpopular compared to the desire for greater landscaped area on the property, which will currently be at 25.1% of the lot, 0.1% higher than required.

Other details proposed include: a high-tech underground garbage system that Vranich promises will all but eliminate odors and unsightliness; a bicycle parking area; a future dog-run that will be open to all area residents; and, if a technical variance is granted, permeable paving in the parking lot.

Concerns About Loss of Privacy

The one detail that was not well received is the 18 m high building that will be erected eight feet from the backyards of residents on the north side of Charlton. One resident counted 40 windows in the drawings that would then be overlooking their properties.

After a discussion of the minimal effort being made to mitigate the loss of privacy (a first floor visual barrier, and blinds), and tongue-in-cheek threats of nude yoga in one resident's back yard, it became clear that neither the city nor the developer were prepared to accommodate the concerns of these residents.

The planner who was present even went so far as to imply that because a four-storey building had been in the zoning for that property since 1997, it was a case of caveat emptor for those who had moved onto the street since then.

Enthusiastic Attendees

On the whole, many attendees were enthusiastic about the development itself, with architect and Tactical Urbanist Emma Cubbitt being the first of the evening to stand up and speak in favour of the proposal.

Other positive comments soon followed, and from all appearances, the long-standing blight on Dundurn is going to receive a very desirable make-over.

Final questions revolved around street level commercial space, which planners explained is outside of the zoning for the building.

Vranich has asked for mention to be made during the approval process of his desire for street level commercial, so that in the future, should he wish to apply to the city for rezoning to permit it, he will not be permitted to do so.

Lingering Concerns

All of this aside, anecdotal comments both as the meeting wound down, and since then on social media have focused on Vranich's less-than-stellar record of behaviour, both personally and professionally.

275 King Street Hess under renovations (RTH file photo)
275 King Street Hess under renovations (RTH file photo)

Many people mentioned his property at King and Hess, which was allowed to deteriorate to near dereliction before he began development on it last year, and his criminal convictions for sexual assault and prostitution related offences.

While many are excited about Vranich's proposals for 220 Dundurn, they are wary of his reputation.

Reinforcing this, last night's meeting came on the heels of a mea culpa of sorts from McHattie by email in response to the undesirability of the new condominium at 427 Aberdeen. The email read in part:

Many of you have expressed concern about the condominium development at 427 Aberdeen (Dundurn and Aberdeen). I have also been concerned that the developer did not finish the building in the manner we expected, despite the guidance provided by a citizen-driven community liaison committee early on.

As a result, neighbors are understandably concerned with what may unfold at 220 Dundurn.

At this point, the discussion goes back to the committee of adjustment on Thursday for approvals, after which Vranich insists he will be moving 'very quickly' to secure a building permit.

Councillor McHattie will also be striking a Community Liason Committee to provide final input into the plans, and feedback during the construction on issues such as noise abatement, dust control and lighting.

Applications to this committee will be accepted from residents beyond immediate neighbors, and interested parties are asked to wait for Ward 1 office manager Dale Brown's email to the Kirkendall email list for details on how to apply.

Jason Allen is a chronic hive whacker in the Kirkendall Neighbourhood.


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By jason (registered) | Posted June 18, 2013 at 12:46:27

any copy of the renderings available??

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By JasonAAllen (registered) - website | Posted June 18, 2013 at 12:57:28 in reply to Comment 89580

There were no copies available to take away - they were large poster sized illustrations. I suspect if you were to email Dale Brown she might be able to scare some up, although Dennis admitted some of them still reflected the old 5 storey configuration.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 18, 2013 at 13:03:50 in reply to Comment 89581

Ok, thx

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By Rational Optimist (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2013 at 14:37:56

"The planner who was present even went so far as to imply that because a four-storey building had been in the zoning for that property since 1997, it was a case of caveat emptor for those who had moved onto the street since then."

That's a really unfortunate thing to say, in my opinion. It seems like there has been little effort to mitigate the effects that this building will have on its neighbours. The development has not yet begun, and the developer (and one day manager…) is already proving not to be a good neighbour.

Compare this to the 107 Locke St proposal, a very appealing mixed use development which would be a great addition to Locke South, adding both residents and more commercial space. It won't be putting a big wall within eight feet of anyone's property, but is stalled because of people's increased concerns about the traffic it might cause.

427 Aberdeen I think will prove a nice addition to that important intersection. I don't want to discount anyone's concerns about aesthetics, but visible gas meters and insufficient light mitigation may pale to eventual concerns with 220 Dundurn. What does anyone expect to happen when the City gives the message to this convicted sex offender that it is completely acceptable to ignore legitimate complaints of adjacent neighbours?

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 18, 2013 at 22:26:51 in reply to Comment 89586

Compare this to the 107 Locke St proposal, a very appealing mixed use development which would be a great addition to Locke South, adding both residents and more commercial space. It won't be putting a big wall within eight feet of anyone's property, but is stalled because of people's increased concerns about the traffic it might cause.

I'm glad you shared this. I agree that any developer should want to be a great neighbour, but you kinda understand why some don't care. They could present the greatest development proposal in history and have some NIMBY group oppose it because it's not the status quo. Even if the status quo is derelict, run-down eye sores such as 220 Dundurn and 107 Locke (not saying that's the case with 220, just making the point). I wish the main building at 220 Dundurn was still planned to be 5-stories, but it makes sense for the builder to just stick with the already in place zoning for the property and avoid the headache. I imagine most folks in the area, regardless of where their backyards are, will agree that this could be a fantastic addition to the neighbourhood. And can we PLEASE get city hall to at least pretend that it's not 1970 and start allowing mixed-use development?? All the restrictions on retail is mind-boggling. Didn't Toronto already teach us this with the '2 Kings' plan?? And that was like 20 years ago.

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By Detalumis (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2013 at 15:21:19

That's a good one, you don't mix downsizing retirees and students in the same building. It will be a student only place, that's it. I am looking for a condo to buy in downtown but can't find anything that isn't uber tiny and that's not what downsizing people want to buy. I also don't want a rental. This city does not have many units for people who have the money to buy a larger place and don't want to live in the suburbs. If I want a small rental there are huge numbers to choose from already. The handful of times a decent sized condo gets built the units are presold before I hear about then and then show up on MLS for 100K over the price - sorry won't play that game. You could easily build larger condos in this location and have them sold.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted September 17, 2014 at 07:29:30 in reply to Comment 89592

That's a good one, you don't mix downsizing retirees and students in the same building. It will be a student only place, that's it.

Why doesn't one mix such uses? Because it's a bad idea? Because it's impractical?

I lived in a building on Main West as a student and was one of a number of students in a building mostly occupied by retirees and middle-aged people.

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By Catherine Griffin (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2013 at 22:04:02 in reply to Comment 89592

Hi there! Since I think you are really interested to have a new condo unit, I can refer to you someone I know who can help you. He is a professional so you won't regret it. His name is Carlos Montes and this is his number (403) 404-5555 he will be willing to help you.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 18, 2013 at 17:08:52 in reply to Comment 89592

Honestly, I wish the City could somehow incentivize building more student-appropriate highrises in Westdale. It's ridiculous what the student housing problem does to normal residential homes throughout ward 1.

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By Arts Quad (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2013 at 18:00:51 in reply to Comment 89595

Westdale should be a prime candidate for modern mid-rises. It always strikes me as weird that the neighbourhood basically stopped evolving architecturally so long ago.

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By Tim Versteeg (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2013 at 18:10:12

As one of those who will potentially be most affected by this development (and I counted 44 windows, not 40 as reported... :) ), I'm afraid I am much less optimistic than the majority of your report on the meeting reads. Bear in mind that Mr. Vranich has owned this property since 2007 and for the majority of that time has let it deteriorate...we residents which have backed onto 220 have lived with vagrancy, vandalism, varmints and a fire on the site in that time! Of course we want to see it developed! But even during the last 6-9 months (which I can only assume is when the developer received his demolition notice), we have lived with excessive generator noise at night to keep the light pollution of his spotlights running (in some cases with enough light in our upstairs bedrooms to read by in the middle of the night.) This is no indication to me that Mr. Vranich has any intention of working with his neighbours, respecting them in any way, or in fact has any intention of actually building the structures indicated in his fancy horse and pony show last night.

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By Pournographic Renderings (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2013 at 22:20:26

I'd love to see something similar to what was discussed last come to be on Dundurn, but wasn't 427 Aberdeen supposed to be a LEED certified yada yada etc. building when it was proposed as well?
It would be nice if the City actually had some way to ensure that the renderings and recitations at meetings like these actually came to be. Otherwise they're just displays of urbanist (or otherwise depending on the neighbourhood) pourn to get a shovel in the ground.
(Forgive the spellings if they get me past the spam blocker please.)

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 18, 2013 at 22:28:48

part of the problem is Hamilton has all sorts of crazy zoning laws that attempt to suburbanize the entire city, yet don't have some basic bylaws in place regarding ground floor parking garages, streetscape interaction, and of course retail is always a no-no. Heaven forbid someone open a cafe on the ground floor of a condo like every other city on earth.

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By Marko (registered) | Posted May 30, 2015 at 06:44:31

This will clear up some misinformation Im reading on here.

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