Friday, October 7, 2011

Sault Ste Marie building taller buildings than Ottawa

Yes, you read correctly. I heard about it online so I had to check it out for myself.

A Toronto developer is building a 32-storey residential building in Sault Ste Marie's downtown and the buzz in the cyber world is that their city council approved it today. I haven't been able to confirm that yet. The building, located on the old Northern Breweries site, will be double the size of the current tallest building at 16 stories and the developer wants to build even more in the city.

The oddest thing is that the height limit is not set in stone; there is no height restriction according to An article in the Sault Star says, "Nirmala Singh, of Sun Avalone Health Care Partners, one of the companies that makes up the development group, said current plans are to have 32 "liveable floors," though she said that could change.'It can go higher, but I don't think it will go lower,' said Singh." The city's chief administrative officer, Joe Fratesi, confirms in the article that Sault Ste Marie has no height restrictions in their downtown. The nerve!

Somebody please tell me why Sault Ste Marie is approving and building taller buildings than Ottawa. I once got some flack for suggesting that Ottawa's next downtown hotel be at least 32 stories.

Isn't the city council in the Soo worried about congestion? Are they worried about changing the character of the existing neighbourhood? Aren't they worried about shadowing? They don't even have LRT or trains and I doubt they have an elaborate transit system so this can't be transit-oriented development. I chalk it up to ambition.

I haven't seen the renderings but apparently the design will be something to behold. The Star article went on to say, "Chandra said the corkscrew design of the building is unique, and is meant to be stronger than similar-sized conventional structures. 'I want to put a beautiful lady here, with a twist'.

Congratulations to the Soo for taking risks and embracing density, innovative design and change. The truth is cities all over Ontario- Mississauga, Brampton, Vaughn, Oakville, Markham, Burlington- are starting to take risks and reinvent themselves while Ottawa plays it safe. Cities like Sault Ste Marie are embracing the dreaded Toronto developers while many in our city fear them.

It's time to open our eyes and see we're not a small town, and down the road small towns like Sault Ste Marie may not be either.

Kevin Bourne

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