Richcraft Drops Plan to put Sales Centre at Temporary Park, Sandy Hill Community Opposed Proposal for Rideau Street Site

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[06-June-2013] Click here to view original article.

EMC News Ottawa East by Laura Mueller – Richcraft will drop its plan to build a sales centre in a temporary park it is constructing on Rideau Street in Sandy Hill after the community strongly opposed it.

The developer has offered to extend the lifespan of the soon-to-bebuilt temporary park to six or seven years from the current three years if Richcraft gained residents’ support to add an office to sell units for a condo it plans to build nearby at Rideau and Cobourg streets.

But around 300 residents who attended the annual general meeting of the local community association on May 16 made up their minds before hearing a presentation given by Richcraft representatives the following week.

Around 20 people attended that meeting to reiterate Action Sandy Hill’s position that the developer must live up to its commitment to provide a temporary park for three years.

Kevin Yemm, a representative from Richcraft, said the company plans to complete the park and open it by July 1. While the site looks unfinished, Richcraft’s Steve Grandmont said much of the groundwork has been laid and the majority of the work that remains is simply landscaping.

Residents at the meeting were angry that the park is still not in place, despite a an initial deadline last fall for completion of the park. But the city didn’t meet its own deadline to approve the park agreement, so that eliminated the park-completion deadline, Yemm said. The city’s planning manager hasn’t imposed a new deadline.

Yemm said the request to add a sales centre would maximize Richcraft’s business opportunities by ensuring it has a highly visible, consistent location for a sales centre for the Rideau/Cobourg condo project, and afterwards it could potentially be used to pre-sell units for a future building on the site of the park at Rideau and Charlotte.

But Yemm said the addition of the sales centre could also benefit the community by ensuring the parklike setting would be maintained for a longer period. He also said that a sales centre could benefit the park by bringing electricity and lighting, which are not part of the park plan approved by the city. Yemm offered to make a presentation at the May 16 Action Sandy Hill annual general meeting, but was turned down because there was no room on the agenda.

Those potential benefits didn’t convince residents at the meeting, who were more concerned about the addition of parking and car traffic to the site and the loss of about a third of the green space they were promised.

“The community has said ‘no,’ in no uncertain terms,” said Sally Southey, who was recently elected to the Action Sandy Hill board.

“I just think the sales centre will make an ugly entrance to the community,” said Vivian Clark, another resident.

Grandmont insisted there would be no way to retain the park and add a sales centre after the three-year park lease agreement with the city ends.

“Either way, I have to relocate my sales centre here in three years,” Grandmont said.

“I’m not going to take (the park) out and rebuild.”

Several people at the May 27 meeting accused Richcraft of planning to put a sales centre in the park all along, but Yemm said that was never the plan.

When negotiations for a temporary park began, a project to reconstruct Rideau Street was not imminent. When that road reconstruction was fast-tracked, it created the infrastructure capacity to move forward with the condo project and that means a sales centre is now needed, Yemm said.

The park will cost around $70,000 for Richcraft to construct and the company will pay the city $10,000 each year for three years to maintain the park.

Grandmont said Richcraft wants to be seen as a member of the Sandy Hill community. Residents said they would like to have a more productive relationship with the developer, but better communication is needed.

“So far, Richcraft has given us vacant sites and empty buildings,” Rollins said. “We are going to have to deal with each other for a few years to come … we would like it to be productive.”