The City is hosting a design charrette and public meeting to present and discuss the preliminary redevelopment plans for the site.
By Ryan McGreal
Published June 26, 2014
Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla is hosting a design charrette and public information centre for the old City Motor Hotel site today to share and discuss the preliminary plans for the site. The design charrette will be held from 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM and the public information centre from 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM. Both events will be held at St. Columba Presbyterian Church, 1540 Main Street East. Interested residents are encouraged to attend.
The design calls for an eight-storey north tower with townhouses at street level, a six-storey south tower with retail at street level, and an interior parking lot.
The preliminary site plan, developed by architecture firm Toms + McNally Design, is based on six "key concepts":
Provide continuous street wall and connect the ground floor to the street by putting active uses on the ground floor.
Step buildings back to reduce shadowing of adjacent properties.
Respond to prominant locations on, and axis of the site.
Create a minimum two storey street wall, stepping back the facade above the base podium.
Provide for vehicular and pedestrian circulation.
Provide parking in the centre of the block.
The six key concepts are labeled on the following aerial views:
Aerial view of 55 Queenston Road looking northeast
Aerial view of 55 Queenston Road looking southwest
In addition, the design approach is based on the assumption that the city's light rail transit (LRT) plan for the east-west B-Line route will happen "and will increase pedestrian traffic around the site".
Another constraint the architects had to work around was the City's requirement for a large building setback from the street, based on the City's position that the site needs to accommodate possible future road widening. Their report states:
It is our opinion the additional required setback is detrimental to the City's stated goals in the various policy documents. The additional setback is detrimental in the creation of an urban street wall and disconnects the facade of the building from the street. In addition, the required setback removes approximately 4,500 sq. ft. of developable area from the site. We encourage the City to re-examine this requirement.
This is similar to the City's position when Harry Stinson tried to develop the Hamilton Grand at Main and John a few years ago. He had investors lined up and was working with the City on a site plan when the Public Works Department announced that Main street, already five lanes wide at that point, might need to be further widened and the building would have to be set back to accommodate it.
The architects also chafed against the low building height for the site. Noting that it sits "at the end of a long stretch of Main Street," they argue that good urban design principles indicate this prominent location in the "view corridor" warrants a tall, impressive building.
The City's Nodes and Corridors study, which was undertaken to develop a land use plan to support transit-oriented development around the LRT line, indicated that the site warrants a 12-storey building. However, the Official Plan limits the height to eight storeys.
Another challenge is the city's parking requirement. According to the City's current requirements, the plan would require 156 parking spots: 104 underground and another 52 in a surface lot. Again, the architects recommend adjusting those requirements based on the assumption that LRT will reduce the need to accommodate vehicles.
First, the future LRT system will attract residents that want to live close to public transit and may not have, or choose to have, a vehicle. Second, vehicle use is declining, especially in younger generations. For example, in the United States, drivers aged 16 to 34 drove 23 percent fewer miles in 2009 than in 2001.
The old City Motor Hotel was a 1960s-era motor hotel that was notorious for crime, violence, prostitution and drug use before the City expropriated it in 2012 and demolished it last summer.
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