Developer confident west-end condo will meet 'landmark' standard

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The developer behind a proposed west-end condo tower says he intends to work with city officials to create an “iconic” top for the building so it meets the Ontario Municipal Board’s standard for “landmark” architecture.

Sam Mizrahi, whose original proposal was rejected by city council last year, says he’s confident both sides can reach a consensus on a design that has the appropriate “wow factor” to stand out at the corner of Wellington Street and Island Park Drive.

“It’s very clear that this is a very prominent and very important corner and that you need an iconic building there,” the Toronto-based developer told OBJ on Thursday. “We work with all stakeholders in order to come up with something that’s great, and we will continue to do that.”

Council originally rejected Mr. Mizrahi’s plan for a 12-storey condominium last year because it violated city rules that limit buildings in that neighbourhood to nine storeys.

The builder appealed the decision to the OMB, which has final say over municipal planning decisions. He argued a nine-storey building isn’t economically viable because the site is contaminated and would cost $2 million to clean up.

In a written ruling last week, the OMB gave Mr. Mizrahi two choices: trim three storeys off the tower or design the top in such a way that it qualifies as “landmark architecture.”

On Thursday, the developer said he fully intends to go ahead with 12 storeys.

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, whose ward includes the proposed condo, said earlier this week he thinks most of the community would still oppose a building of that height no matter what it looks like. He also questioned the OMB’s ability to judge “landmark architecture.”

But Mr. Mizrahi said he doesn’t see that as an issue.

“I think in architecture there are definitions, and there is structure to what is iconic and what is landmark,” he said. “I agree that it is subjective to some point, but ... I think it can be addressed and measured.”

He pointed to the Supreme Court building, the Parliament Buildings and the Shaw Centre as examples of local architecture that would fit most experts’ definition of “landmark.”

“There’s a list of them that Ottawa has,” he said. “It’s defined by creating emotion that is timeless. It’s not trendy architecture – what’s in today and out tomorrow – it’s timeless architecture.”

Mr. Mizrahi said his company has already contacted city staff in the hope of coming up with “collaborative approach” to solving the dispute.

The OMB has given the two sides six months to work things out. Mr. Mizrahi said he expects to have a design approved in the next three months, with the aim of breaking ground on the project by next March.