The fate of a proposed $300-million downtown highrise, which would become the largest in Southwestern Ontario, could be decided at Council on Tuesday.
A city committee wants Council to delay the project, which would involve tearing down a row of Victorian-style townhouses on Talbot Street to make way for the new development.
However, a delay could mean the final decision would be made by the Ontario Municipal Board.
At issue is the location of the proposed development, a row of Victorian homes known as Camden Terrace on Talbot Street between Fullarton Street and Dufferin Avenue.
Heritage activists want to keep the 140-year-old homes, arguing they are an important part of London’s history. The developers, however, note the soil beneath the homes is contaminated and the houses have to be removed to clean the site.
In an effort to appease heritage activists, Rygar worked with city staff on a design that would see the facades of the homes rebuilt, brick-by-brick, and preserved as part of the lobby of the building that connects two residential towers.
Rygar Properties Inc. wants to build a nine-storey building, a 29-storey building and a 38-storey building, which would be the largest in southwestern Ontario. The design includes four storeys of underground parking and 1,000 square metre floor plates.
The development is supported by downtown business groups and city staff, who praised the proposed design, but reviews from heritage activists were not as positive.
The Planning and Environment Committee sent it back to staff for more study last week, a decision not supported by Councillor Tanya Park.
“I’m absolutely going to recognize the hard work that civic administration and the proponent did on this, and as I’ve proven in my work on Council, I have no problem putting a developer to task on a project, but in this case, I think that there was a lot of good will on the proponent’s end to work collaboratively with our staff to retain some elements of heritage along the Dufferin streetscape,” said Park.
Park notes that if they don’t make a decision on Tuesday, Rygar could trigger an OMB hearing since Council is mandated to make decisions on development applications within 120 days.
“I think there will be some very meaty debate on this, I think,” said Park. “I think the concerns about the OMB timeline is of significant concern, and should be a concern to Council because it is a big risk, because I don’t want our Council to lose local decision-making authority on a file.”
The project is expected to bring in $5 million in property taxes annually once it’s built.
It would also generate $10 million in development charges for the city, however those will be covered by the taxpayer and not Rygar.