City council approved a rezoning application on Monday for a developer looking to transform an old car dealership on Edmonton’s trendiest street into a high-rise development.
After hearing arguments from both sides of the debate on the Southpark on Whyte proposal, councillors voted 10-2 (one councillor was absent) to allow One Properties to exceed the four-storey height restriction for buildings in Old Strathcona.
Debate over the contentious development proposal had been going on for months. The Southpark on Whyte plan will see two high-rise residential buildings be erected at 81 Avenue and 106 Street and a former car dealership lot at Whyte Avenue and 106 Street be converted into a pair of low-rise retail buildings.
“I would say we’re pursuing design excellence at Southpark on Whyte,” One Properties’ Tom Burr said.
“We’re convinced that what Whyte Avenue needs to have a sustainable, viable future, is people. People who live there and who also work there and they shop there.”
The high-rise buildings being planned will be between 17 and 19 storeys high and will consist of about 840 residential units. The low-rise buildings will be between four and six storeys high.
Critics argued the development was too tall for the neighbourhood, citing potential issues to do with sun and shade. They also argued it could threaten the character of the popular community.
“There’s an arbitrariness to the kind of decisions we’re making here which I don’t think are good planning and this is not about saying no – it’s never been about saying no to density in this area – it’s about recognizing that we have a really important asset here and making sure we take care of it,” said Coun. Ben Henderson, whose riding the development will be built in.
“I really respect the public input we’ve received and that there is a diversity of views from people who want to keep the height capped at four storeys throughout the entire area, but in terms of what’s economically feasible and what’s going to create the most streetlife, density is a good thing and in this case, it’s going to prime business activity and streetlife in the neighbourhood,” Mayor Don Iveson said.
A vote on the rezoning application had previously been delayed because councillors wanted to see how the proposal fit in with Plan Whyte, a document city staff are working on to set guidelines for future development in the southside neighbourhood.
One Properties said its Southpark on Whyte investment would amount to about $250 million.
The developer said it hopes to begin demolition work before the end of 2017 and to have the buildings complete by 2022. If One Properties does not complete the development within 10 years, the zoning approval will be revoked.
-With files from Vinesh Pratap.