February 2, 2016 7:34 pm
Updated: February 2, 2016 10:19 pm

High-rise proposals in Old Strathcona raise concerns for residents

WATCH ABOVE: A new development being proposed for Old Strathcona has some concerned it will forever change the character of the historic neighbourhood. Kendra Slugoski reports.

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EDMONTON – Plans have been drawn up to build a new, 16-storey building just off Whyte Avenue, but some area residents worry the height of the proposed high-rise would ruin the feel of Old Strathcona.

WestOak Development’s proposed Mezzo Tower could be approved as early as next month. The high-rise on 105 Street and 81 Avenue would be home to commercial space and housing, including some affordable housing.

“The need and the opportunity for some density and scale is just overwhelming,” developer Mathew McLash said.

WestOak Development’s proposed Mezzo Tower would sit on 105 Street just south of Whyte Avenue.

Courtesy, WestOak Development

Stantec also has proposals for the Whyte Avenue area, which would see two developments on the popular strip and two just south of it along 81 Avenue.

“We think adding more people in the area is really critical to the long term success of Whyte Avenue,” Simon O’Byrne with Stantec said. “If you don’t have enough critical mass of people living in the area then you’ll start seeing for lease signs.”

One of Stantec’s Whyte Avenue proposals.

Courtesy, Stantec

Right now, the bylaw only allows a maximum height of six storeys in the area. The Old Strathcona Foundation worries the new buildings would negatively impact the historic character of the neighbourhood.

“This is completely out of scope and context for our streetscape,” Karen Tabor, executive director of the Old Strathcona Foundation, told executive committee Tuesday. “Development should blend in as it approaches the historic core to ensure that we don’t become a pocket community surrounded by tall buildings.

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“We are not against infill and density but it cannot come at the expense of the experience that our streetscape provides.”

READ MORE: Proposed 20-storey residential tower being met with opposition in Old Strathcona

But McLash, who also owns two other pieces of land in the Whyte Avenue area, sees it differently.

“I have a dilapidated church that is falling down. I have a gravel parking lot and a very troublesome home that has been the focal point for illicit activity. Is that the character we’re trying to preserve for this neighbourhood? I don’t think so,” he said.

“Everyone wants the best thing for their community, there’s no doubt, there’s just so many different ways to get there.”

Mayor Don Iveson said the city has to be cautious when it comes to building up right on Whyte Avenue, but added there is potential in the area.

“I think we could be looking at some taller height. I think maybe not quite 20 storeys, (but rather in the) 10 to 15 kind of range along 81 Avenue. I think you see a lot of that in Vancouver, that sort of mid-rise, small high-rise,” Iveson said. “As long as they’re quite narrow and as long as the podiums activate the street, I think that’s worth looking at.”

McLash’s Mezzo Tower proposal will go before city council mid-March.

With files from Kendra Slugoski, Global News.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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