Southvale condo debate ends with victory for both sides

Little opposition to new plan as developer reduces height, density of Leaside project

It looks like Leaside Memorial Arena will be getting a new — and neighbourhood-approved — condominium next door.

After a Sept. 8 community meeting, luxury developer Shane Baghai has submitted his final proposal for 3–5 Southvale Dr., which lies on the western side of the arena. It includes just about every concession residents asked for, Ward 26 councillor Jon Burnside told the Town Crier.

Baghai reduced the number of units from 98 to 67. The height was cut from eight storeys to seven. The density was reduced from a floor space index of about 4.12 to about 2.87 — a drop of just over 30 per cent.

“There was remarkably little opposition to the new proposal,” Burnside said, noting that with one exception Baghai’s team had made the changes before the meeting.

“There were some people who didn’t want anything there, but that’s unrealistic because it’s a valuable piece of land, and quite frankly you just can’t have abandoned buildings,” he said.

Baghai did his best to set a conciliatory tone for the Southvale condo proposal during a community meeting in December. He promised he would sell the land if he and nearby residents could not agree on a revision.

The one change made after the Sept. 8 meeting was the location of the condominium’s entrance. In Baghai’s revised plan it would have connected with the arena driveway, a feature Burnside, residents, and the city all firmly opposed, he said.

“They’re placing the driveway off Southvale now, which was a big deal for a lot of people in the community, because they didn’t want condo traffic on the arena parking lot with the number of kids and families who go there,” Burnside said.

Baghai and the city agreed to a land swap. The city will be taking over the part of 3 Southvale Dr., currently occupied by Gallery Sixtyeight Auctions, and converting it into a public space, while Baghai’s condominium will be constructed on former city land away from the street.

The revised building also features a terraced design that will gradually drop from eight storeys to two on its western side, so that it will not tower over its next-door neighbour, a two-storey, single-family home.

“I don’t want to intrude and impose something on an existing neighbourhood,” Baghai told the Town Crier. “So I did what I had to in order to appease everybody.”

He also couldn’t help noting that few developers would have given into residents’ suggestions. Reducing the number of units from 100 to 67 “basically takes all of your profit away,” he said.

“What I’m trying to tell you is that although this doesn’t make financial sense, really, it’s going to be a beautiful structure and I’m going to build it,” Baghai said. “What I have to do now is produce a beautiful building that, hopefully, will not be a loss to us financially but add another feather in our cap by producing something that will be a landmark for years to come.”

In separate interviews, Burnside and Baghai both spoke highly of each other, concluding the deal was a victory for both sides.

“Obviously I would have liked to see a couple of single-family homes there, but that was never going to happen,” Burnside said. “Given what the outcome could have been, I think we arrived at the best solution.”

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Posted: Sep 26 2016 12:19 pm
Filed in: NEWS