Source: The Chronicle Herald
A date to begin construction on two Gottingen Street residential projects is unknown because they are in planning limbo, says the proponent.
Ross Cantwell, president of the Housing Trust of Nova Scotia, has proposed to build a 10-storey building at 2183 Gottingen, the former Met building, and a 10-storey building at the former Diamonds bar location at 2215 Gottingen.
The non-profit group purchased the sites in April 2010 for $3 million, money it received from the province under the Canada-Nova Scotia Co-operation Agreement on Economic Diversification because of its plan to offer half of the units as affordable housing.
The group demolished the old buildings in the spring of 2011 with the intention of beginning work later that year and, in the interim, submitted an application for a plan amendment and development agreement on both sites.
“We’ve done everything we can, developed our plans, and we’ve been sitting in a holding pattern for over a year with HRM,” Cantwell said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Cantwell said planners approached him early last year to help develop the Centre Plan, the third phase of the municipal HRM By Design document, which would include provisions relevant to his proposal.
That plan went “sideways” after the province tabled but did not pass legislation before the end of the fall session that would allow Halifax Regional Municipality to negotiate with developers outside of normal zoning rules in exchange for creating low-cost housing.
The practice of density bonusing already occurs in the downtown core, but that amendment would extend it to all areas that fall under the HRM By Design plan.
As a result, Cantwell said the group is “basically having to take things into our own hands.”
They have scheduled an open house at the Halifax North Public Library on Jan. 17 at 6 p.m.
“What we’re doing is we’re inviting the public in to hear a presentation about the Housing Trust and what it is that we do, and show them what it is we’re looking to do and try and get them to, basically, turn around and tell council they should move on with this thing because we’re sitting here dead in the water,” Cantwell said.
The plan is to build 116 units at the old Met site, 58 of them “modestly priced housing for the working poor,” with 20 of those allocated for the Performing Arts Lodge, which provides housing for seniors in performing arts, he said.
They plan to build 128 units on the Diamonds bar site, half of which will be at the market rate and the rest as affordable housing.
The group is bound by that number of affordable housing on each site by an agreement with the province in exchange for the $3 million to purchase the properties.
But under the existing plan, they are able to build a total of 70 units as-of-right on each site.
In addition, there is a 15-metre height restriction in the secondary plan for the harbour side of Gottingen Street and 12-metre restriction on neighbouring Maitland Street.
To make the project economically viable, Housing Trust is proposing to build up to 24 metres high.
“On both of these sites, the economics don’t work based on the current plan.”
A municipal official could not be reached for comment.