Eye on Development
Another stab at developing 244 Fountain Place
TCU Development Corp. is making another attempt to develop the property at 244 Fountain Place. This is a property that abuts Besserer Park to the north, 612 Besserer Street to the southwest, and 250 Fountain Place to the south.
Its first attempt was in November 2016 and featured two low-rise buildings with a courtyard between them. When that design was unsuccessful, TCU proposed a single six-storey building the following year. This was revised in 2018 and again was unsuccessful. The current design features a four-storey building with 20 dwelling units: twelve two-bedroom units, six one-bedrooms and two studios. TCU has a history of building student housing in Sandy Hill. This looks like another one.
TCU has a table showing 20 zoning provision for low-rise apartment buildings. This application does not conform to 11 out of the 20 zoning provisions! These non-conformances include: minimum lot width, minimum front yard and side yard setbacks, minimum amenity area, maximum driveway and pathway widths, and streetscape character. This is a large building shoehorned into a small lot.
TCU’s plan shows parking for two cars in the basement and three at the rear of the building. They show a driveway from Besserer Street through Besserer Park to access the three parking spaces. Several trees will be removed.
On-street parking is already scarce on Fountain Place. Although the application meets the zoning requirements for parking, it’s clear that a total of five parking spaces for 20 units will push parking for residents and visitors onto Besserer Street, Daly Avenue, and Wurtemburg Street. Those streets have one-hour daytime parking, necessitating frequent daytime turnover. Rideau Street provides no daytime parking. Neighbours living at 250 Fountain Place have suggested that the only solution is underground parking for this new development.
This property has quite a slope in the rear. The current proposal calls for retaining walls to be built on the northern and western slopes. Disturbing these treed slopes could cause earth movement and foundation problems for the uphill properties over time. Previously, the City experienced costly legal action dealing with slope stability on the same western steep slope affecting the former building at 612 Besserer Street.
One further thing to remember about Fountain Place is that it owes its name to a spring that used to run there. Farmers from Overbrook would water their horses. before climbing the hill on Rideau Street on the way to the ByWard Market to sell their goods. If the spring still exists, it reinforces the fact that there are soil stability issues that one needs to worry about in any construction abutting the hill.
Their plan is quite a stretch. It does not meet 11 zoning provisions, and the parking plan requires a driveway through public property, Besserer Park. Their 2018 application was non-conforming with only five zoning provisions and did not affect Besserer Park. TCU may be moving in the wrong direction.
Note: much of the commentary on this application was obtained from Michael Barnes, a Besserer Street resident.