A proposed 16 storey residential and commercial tower has members of several Old Strathcona community organizations worried that the community's long and successful historical integrity will be compromised.
The proposed location for the building is 81 Avenue and 105 Street. The Strathcona Presbyterian Church, which was built in the 1940s and closed last September, currently sits on the site.
The executive director of the Old Strathcona Foundation, Karen Tabor, is opposed to the tower as it's currently being proposed. She says the foundation would not support a building of that height so close to the provincial heritage area adding, “If it's moving forward, our stance would be to strongly be against anything of that height
In a recent meeting with the building's developer several community organizations discussed their thoughts while also hearing the developer's proposals. Tabor was in attendance and believes the developer wanted to get community feedback and she made it clear that a tower like the one being planned would not be backed by the community.
It seems the project is still in the early phase of development. The developer has release no plans and offered little information on the project. And so far no plans or forms have been submitted to city planners.
Several sites not far from the church are also home to tall buildings, including the eight storey Metterra Hotel on Whyte Avenue and an approved six story building on the former Esso Station. Karen Tabor explained that both are about a block away and the latter is built on contaminated property.
The Old Strathcona Foundation is planning to talk about the building in an upcoming meeting. But Tabor has said that the building is not unrelatable to the area. She explained that the tower doesn't match the nature of the surrounding area, nor does it add to it. “It's out of context in this community,” she added.
Also in attendance at the recent developer's meeting was the executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association Murray Davison. He believes the building will be primarily apartments or condominiums on the top while commercial space will occupy the lower part. And while the proposed height of the tower concerns him, he believes that it could be designed properly so as not to be an issue.
Davison hopes to gather community groups to discuss possible plans for moving forward so that everyone is happy. He believes that if the tower is done the right way, it will add life to the streets. But he understands the concerns adding, “It just has to be designed properly.”
The reason this is such a contentious issue is that the church site officially sits outside of the designated provincial historic area. The provincial historic area consists of the land around Whyte Avenue, which the church site is just outside of.
Ben Henderson, Councillor for Ward 8 which includes Old Strathcona, agrees that the proposal doesn't sound like something fitting the nature of the historic area. And while he admits that the area has a lot of development, he adds that the majority are shorter buildings.
In addition to the height of the proposed tower, the demolition of the Strathcona Presbyterian Church is also a factor for the councillor as well as other community organizations. Henderson believes that tearing down buildings of such an age are contrary to the area's personality.
No final plans have been made in regards to the building, but one thing is clear... the discussion is not over.