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)
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As such, Vranich will not need a variance for the height, and has withdrawn all but one of his variance requests.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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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