The “missing middle” problem in Robinson Village, or student residence by stealth

David Elden

Earlier this year the threat of a complete change in the neighbourhood’s existing demographic mix hung over Robinson Village (at the south end of Strathcona Park) and roused residents’ concerns.

Four separate Site Plan Control Proposals for residential rental projects were published for public consultation. All together the developments as originally proposed would add around 350 mostly small bachelor and one bedroom units to Robinson Village, completely changing the existing mix of people living in the neighbourhood. A large proportion of the residents responded to the City, with comments identifying a number of significant concerns, but focusing especially on the unit mix and parking.

Residents were concerned that the units are mainly aimed at the local U of O student rental market and will exacerbate Ottawa’s “missing middle” problem. The City of Ottawa R4 Zoning Review project “. . . seek[s] to fill a ‘missing middle’ range of affordable mid-density infill housing suitable to a wide range of household types, incomes and tenures, as directed by the Official Plan.”

All the proposals also require rezoning approvals to reduce – in some cases to near zero – the number of tenant parking spaces, while not providing car share or electric vehicle charging station spots. This was the second largest concern for existing residents, partly because it was felt that, notwithstanding the City’s push to active transportation, successful “missing middle” accommodation will still require some car use to reach amenities such as grocery shops, health care and recreational facilities, given the isolation of Robinson Village. As well, there is already considerable pressure on street parking for visitors and deliveries, during weekdays and the snow season.

On 16 September, the City notified residents that the rezoning applications for all the properties had been submitted, and invited comments. A number of changes to the unit mix and parking were included for 19 Robinson, 29 Robinson and 134 Robinson “. . . as a result of feedback from City staff, the public and the ward councillor.” 36 Robinson, by far the largest in height, and number and density of units, does not seem to have any changes from the earlier proposal.

Residents have until 14 October to respond to the rezoning applications. The applicants argue that changes have been made: to address the “missing middle” concern by adding two bedroom units, and parking by adding two places to some of the buildings.

Existing residents may still be concerned that 36 Robinson – the largest project, and closest to the stable residential part of Robinson Village – is unchanged, and that the changes to the other designs are inadequate to fully address their worries about a student residence by stealth.

Next public consultation: Councillor Fleury is holding another public consultation on the proposals on October 24 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Gymnasium at the Youville Centre, 150 Mann Ave. The applicant and a City planner will be in attendance. There will be display boards and a presentation highlighting the changes.

Details of an application can be found by searching for the address at