Four and six-storey James Bay rental housing project approved despite some opposition

Four and six-storey James Bay rental housing project approved despite some opposition
Residents in James Bay were concerned about the loss of the plum trees that line the street in front of a now approved rental building project. (Hannah Lepine/CHEK NEWS)

A housing project in James Bay has been approved, following a public hearing where some residents voiced concerns including the loss of mature trees.

The housing, at 110 Menzies Street, 111 Croft Street and 450-458 Niagara Street, will consist of four-storey buildings along the street, with an additional six-storey building set back from the street front.

Once complete, it will bring approximately 137 rental units to the neighbourhood, which is triple the number of units currently at the site.

However, some residents raised concerns about the loss of trees in order for this project to be built. For the project, 23 trees would need to be cut down, seven of which are flowering plum trees.

Prior to the council meeting, residents raised concerns about the loss of the plum trees.

Greg Mitchell, senior developer manager with Primex, said since trees would need to be cut down, the design was altered to ensure enough space for sufficient root zones, so replacement trees could be planted.

Mitchell says part of the goal with the project is to build a wider sidewalk to improve accessibility in the neighbourhood, which is why the plum trees would need to be cut down.

“The existing sidewalk is quite narrow. I’ve certainly been reading some comments that people with wheelchairs find it difficult to traverse this or have to do so very carefully,” Mitchell said. “The idea was to create a much more pedestrian-friendly and animated streetscape.”

He says the plum trees on the street will be replaced, but the type of trees that will be replanted is yet to be determined.

“These trees are not in the best of health. They are beautiful. An arborist report identifies these trees as being in fair condition with lots of structural defects and at least four of them are suffering from a decay pathogen that can cause structural issues and long-term failure in the trees,” Mitchell said. “We understand the sentiment and we look forward to planting new trees in accordance with the city’s boulevard tree program.”

“The city will choose what species of trees replaced these ones here.”

Additionally, the plan calls for 68 trees to be planted to replace the 23 the will be cut down.

Some additional features the building will include are a courtyard with a dog run area, roof top residence space, bike parking stalls, cargo bike parking, and community gardens.

Since the building will necessitate tenants moving out of the existing building, the city requires the developer to assist in the relocation of tenants, as well as to offer tenants the right to return to one of the new units at below market rents.

To date, the developer has assisted 23 tenants to relocate, and is in the working with the remaining 10.

Councillors voted unanimously to support this project, though many raised concerns about the project.

Coun. Ben Isitt said while he supports the project, he was concerned that the units would be replacing existing buildings with “deeply affordable” rents.

Coun. Geoff Young noted council received lots of correspondence raising concerns about the trees. He says people should reach out to council about that to ask for an update to the tree preservation policies.

“In my view, the first line of our tree preservation policy for the city should be something along the lines of preserve traditional flowering tree landscapes through appropriate replacement of removed trees, where local residents support such preservation,” Young said, noting the policy instead prioritises native trees, fruit trees, trees with large canopies, and non-allergenic trees.

At the closure of the meeting, Mayor Lisa Helps noted this development permit will come back to council to be adopted in a future meeting.

“Let’s get those in front of us as soon as possible so that construction costs don’t escalate further,” she said.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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