Minto's Glebe condo plan riles residents, boots businesses

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James Rigby, co-owner of the Dailey Method fitness studio, says he's worried the Minto demolition could mean he loses the investment he and his wife made in their business. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

8-storey condo development would force out some longtime commercial tenants of Fifth Avenue Court

By Matthew Kupfer, CBC News

A proposed eight-storey condo development at Fifth Avenue Court in the Glebe is being met with resistance from residents and concern from business owners who will be forced to leave if the development goes ahead.

Minto Properties is proposing an eight-storey residential building to replace an indoor courtyard and two-storey commercial property at Fifth Avenue and Bank Street with a mix of services.

The developer it said it won't be touching the heritage storefronts along Bank Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues.

However, the businesses in the back of the complex — including the Arrow and Loon pub, professional offices and a fitness studio — would have to leave.

James Rigby, who owns the Dailey Method fitness studio with his wife Sarah Thompson, said this follows an expensive renovation.

"We were very shocked, taken aback and concerned," he said.

"[We were] thinking we would have five to 10 years in the space to recoup our investment."

Fifth Avenue and Bank Street condo Jan 16, 2018

The proposed eight-storey condo development at Bank Street and Fifth Avenue. (Supplied)

Fifth and Bank Jan. 16, 2018

The corner of Fifth Avenue and Bank Street the evening of Jan. 16, 2018. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

He added they want to stay close to the clientele they've built up the neighbourhood, but can't begin looking for a new space until they officially know when they'll have to move out.

Yasmin Mansouri, executive director of Languages of Life, said her translation and interpretation business has been in the location for more than 37 years.

She expressed frustration at Minto's plans during a public consultation Tuesday night.

Jamie Smith, a Glebe resident, spoke at the consultation and said those businesses are part of what gives the Glebe its character.

Courtyard 'drag' on rents

Kevin Harper, a development manager for Minto, said the decision is based on under-performing rents in the back of the building and the costs of a courtyard that's a "missed opportunity."

"It's a drag on the rents for the rest of the spaces in the property and it's one of the reasons this property isn't performing as well as it should," Harper said.

Fifth and Bank Court courtyard Jan. 16, 2018

Minto says this courtyard, which includes a pub, a fitness studio and professional offices, has been a drag on the rents in the building. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

He said construction could start as soon as summer 2019, depending on how quickly the proposal moves through city hall.

"The tenants in the back [of the courtyard], their leases will be terminated," he said.

"Minto Properties is willing to provide whatever assistance they require to maybe relocate them in other Minto commercial properties or elsewhere."

Height unpopular with neighbours

The public consultation meeting at Fourth Avenue Baptist Church attracted more than 150 residents.

Dozens had to stand at the back of the auditorium.

Residents were unhappy Minto was asking for additional height on a traditional main street.

Current zoning for the corner is capped at four storeys, though the official plan for main streets can allow up to six.

Minto is asking for eight.

"The city has expressed an interest in designating the front piece of the property [as heritage]," Minto's Harper said.

"Basically, what this proposal does is take the floor area that could otherwise be developed on the front, moves it to the back of the site so the front can be preserved as-is two storeys."

Carolyn Mackenzie, chair of the Glebe Community Association's planning committee, said the neighbourhood doesn't need to give the developer credit for protecting that on its way to a heritage designation.

"I don't understand the basic logic of saying 'we should be given additional height' when it may not be appropriate," she said.

Coun. David Chernushenko, who represents the area, attended Tuesday's meeting and said he is concerned about the proposed height and a possible wind tunnel effect.  

Clive Doucet, his predecessor as Capital Ward councillor, also spoke at the meeting to announce he would be calling for a public inquiry into why the City of Ottawa doesn't enforce its own planning rules.