Traffic concerns remain as committee approves 20-storey highrise on Richmond Road

An illustration of the proposed highrise building at 929 Richmond Road. City of Ottawa

The city’s planning committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a 20-storey highrise to be built at the intersection of Richmond Road and Woodroffe Avenue – a mixed-use development some residents are concerned will worsen existing traffic problems at that major intersection.

The 929 Richmond Road project has been a work-in-progress for more than five years and a number of changes have been made to the design in response to feedback from public consultations – including re-shaping the building and adding more green space on the site. But the design also evolved from 14 to 20 storeys.

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Some residents say having many vehicles turn into and out of the site’s two exits on Richmond Road and Woodroffe Avenue will “compound” congestion at the intersection.

Dianna LeBreton, who lives on Woodroffe Ave just north of the proposed building, said that increase in traffic will be a “death trap” for the community.

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“It is going to be disastrous,” LeBreton told the planning committee. “This is going to be a nightmare. There’s just too much density.”

Melissa Hugh, the development officer for the Woodroffe North Community Association, said the largest traffic concern among residents is specifically left turns in and out of the tower’s parking garage entrance on Woodroffe Avenue.

City staff said the Richmond Road entrance will be limited to right turns only and that they are still working on how to manage traffic flow on Woodroffe.

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The proposed highrise will be located close to the future New Orchard light rail station, which will be built during the second phase of Ottawa’s LRT construction. But LeBreton argued that the western LRT extension won’t eliminate traffic issues in the area because a lot of drivers using Woodroffe Avenue are commuting to and from Quebec via the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.

Coun. Mark Taylor pointed out that the entire Richmond Road corridor will “essentially” be removed and replaced with “a complete street” that will incorporate traffic controls, bike segregation and pedestrian segregation. He said he expects that overhaul will solve a lot of the traffic problems in question, but conceded the street work won’t occur until after 2021 – likely a year or two after the highrise is completed.

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Latest building design strikes a ‘good balance,’ says community association

As with many proposed highrise developments, the height of the building has also been criticized. LeBreton argued the development is “just too high and too dense” for the size of the site. She said it would be an “eyesore” for nearby residents, insisting the building won’t blend with either the streetscape along Richmond Road or the adjacent residential neighbourhood of Woodroffe North.

While the project may not get LeBreton’s stamp of approval, it does have the support of the Woodroffe North Community Association.

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Hugh said the developer and the architect addressed the majority of issues that residents initially raised with a number of design changes – including the introduction of a four-storey podium (up from two storeys), setting the building further back from the sidewalk and re-designing access to the rear parking lot for service and commercial vehicles.

“I think we’ve got a good balance between what the original building was going to be and where it is now,” Hugh told reporters following the committee meeting, adding that residents’ concerns about traffic still stand.

Taylor applauded communication between the city, the community and developers on the 929 Richmond Road development – calling it a “rare act of collaboration.” He said he was also pleased to see the developer opt to offer mid- to high-end rental units instead of high-end condos, which was the original plan.

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Committee approves new development plan for areas near Cleary, New Orchard LRT stops

Ahead of the Line 1 LRT expansion to the west and anticipated intensification along the Richmond Road corridor as a result, the planning committee on Tuesday also approved a new “area-specific policy” for lands around the future Cleary and New Orchard LRT stations.

The area in question is bordered by the Ottawa River to the north, Cleary Avenue to the east, Byron Avenue to the south and the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway to the west. It includes neighbourhoods like Ambleside, Woodroffe North, Woodpark, McKellar Park and Carlingwood – and straddles both Kitchissippi and Bay wards.

The new plan would govern any future development and place limits on new builds in those areas to ensure they would be in keeping with the neighbourhood’s character. Both Taylor and Coun. Jeff Leiper said they support the new guidelines.

Policies and amendments approved by the planning committee are still subject to approval by city council. Council’s next meeting is Wednesday morning.

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