Development at 70 Nicholas St. proposes a coffee shop for the community—and that’s it.

Cynthia Mitchell

It’s more of the same for a proposed development of 70 Nicholas St., a property owned by Cadillac Fairview and the site of the historic City of Ottawa Registry Office. That means a lack of affordable housing and minimal public amenities available to the community.

On March 1, more than 50 participants at an information session hosted by Councillor Mathieu Fleury learned more about the developer’s plans for the site. Located on the block bounded by Nicholas Street, Daly Avenue, Colonel By Drive, and the Mackenzie King Bridge, the site is currently home to green space and the registry office, built in 1874.

Barry Padolsky, the heritage architect for the development, addressed community concerns about the re-location of the registry office. According to Heritage Ottawa, the office would be moved some 10 metres to the north of the property to allow for its integration into the development. Discussions are ongoing as to how the building would actually be moved, but what is known is that it would remain a unique heritage site and be open to the public. A retail component is proposed for the registry office, most likely a coffee shop.

That’s where the community aspect to this development begins and ends and is where residents at the session voiced their frustration. The development includes two 21-storey rental apartment buildings, with a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, but no affordable units. The overall sentiment from residents was that the redevelopment represents more of the same: more high-end rentals, without any affordable housing or community benefits.

“I was pleased to see that the development will be a rental building, but really disappointed that none of the 21 floors in two towers are dedicated to affordable housing, considering how badly it’s needed,” notes Kristin Fardy, a Sandy Hill resident. “It’s unfortunate to lose the green space in that location, but this development would be a much more positive addition to the neighbourhood if lower-income neighbours were going to share in the benefits.”

Residents were also disappointed that the development’s plans don’t include public amenities besides the coffee shop. A gym, theatre, dog park, and lounge space on the top floor are proposed for the development, all of which will be for apartment residents only.

While further intensification is expected in our community under the City’s new Official Plan, development can’t only be about building physical structures and benefiting developers Ð it has to be about building community, too.

With the planner indicating they anticipate receiving approvals over the coming months and starting construction in the fall, we unfortunately won’t see any community benefits or affordable housing included at 70 Nicholas Street.

On a more optimistic note, an inclusionary zoning bylaw, which would mandate new developments to include a percentage of affordable units, is expected to be brought to the new Council in the fall. If passed, it could start to make a dent in the City’s affordable housing crisis.

The architectural rendering for a pair of proposed 21-storey residential towers at 70 Nicholas St. The City of Ottawa Registry Building can be seen incorporated into the building’s lower level.
Photo City of Ottawa