Eye on Development

High-rise tower proposed for 641 Rideau

Michael Barnes

Theberge Homes has proposed that a 25-floor high-rise residential apartment tower be built at 641 Rideau Street, close to the Cummings Bridge. The existing five 3-floor red brick apartment buildings would be demolished. The plan calls for a tower to sit atop a 9-floor street fronting building podium, providing 311 apartments and 228 parking spaces in a 4-floor underground parking garage.

The proposal violates the City of Ottawa Official Plan and Uptown Rideau Street Secondary Plan. The Uptown Rideau Plan provides clear direction and what is being asked for is not permitted. The developer seeks a 321% height increase from 19 meters to 80 meters.

Furthermore, the proposal would radically increase the mass of the development by 40%. Again not permitted. The developer is applying the secondary plan’s provision of “density redistribution” to justify the large mass of the development. However, the proposal fails the “prerequisite minimum standards” for density redistribution; the lot must abut at least two public realms (public areas like streets) to use this provision. It does not. And therefore does not qualify for density redistribution.

In addition, facts should be clearly disclosed to the public. For example, The Transportation Impact Assessment Report notes, “During both the AM and PM peak hours, the study area intersections operate well.” No doubt the figures are accurate but the data was collected on January 14, 2021 from the intersections of Rideau Street at Wurtemburg, Charlotte and Cobourg Streets. No wonder the traffic was light that day; it was the first day of the Ontario wide stay at-home-order in the midst of a pandemic.

Shadow analysis is a planning submission requirement which provides a visual model of how the proposed development will cast its shadow. Unfortunately, all 29 shadow analysis images lack the North arrow for orientation and all 29 images fail to show the as-of-right height and massing shadowing and just show the proposed height shadowing. So it is impossible to determine the net increase in shadow against criteria for shadow sensitive areas such as parks and opens spaces. The study doesn’t appear to meet the required City standard.

Finally, directly across the street from the proposal is the only entire block of 2- and 2 ½-floor heritage homes on all of Rideau Street. The proposal violates the Secondary Plan in that, “buildings that line the street are a mix of heritage and new buildings, the latter achieving sensitivity to established neighbourhoods.” To propose a 25-floor new building facing these heritage homes and the adjoining Besserer-Wurtemburg Heritage Conservation District is totally insensitive. The vibrations from excavation and shoring work of a 4-floor underground garage are a concern for heritage properties. The developer failed to provide a geotechnical study as well.

To sum up: incompatible, noncompliant and insensitive, this application should be rejected.

Proposed development at 2 Robinson

For this large site the City has before it a huge development proposal for residential towers with 1600 units including ground-floor community and commercial space and a new municipal park. There has been consultation between the developer and community organizations—Action Sandy Hill, Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, Ottawa Community Housing, and Coopérative d’habitation Voisins—facilitated by Councillor Fleury. The 2 Robinson working group is now busy working on: transportation links, community facilities (both parks and gym), affordable housing, and height limits to influence the City Planning report which is due in August. To reach the group contact Cynthia Mitchell: or

— notes from Kathy Moyer