Trinity to preserve heritage gas station as part of Westboro development

Trinity gas station development

A major developer is proposing a nine-storey mixed-use building at a prominent Westboro heritage site, saying it plans to preserve the shuttered 1930s-era gas station currently on the property and incorporate it into the new development’s design.

Trinity Development Group first floated the idea of redeveloping 70 Richmond Rd. at the corner of Island Park Drive early last year. The builder ultimately presented three options for the “cottage-style” service station property, two of which called for the building to be demolished.

But after consulting with the community and heritage consultants, Trinity opted to keep the former Champlain Oil filling station as part of the proposal. Constructed in 1934, the building was granted heritage protection by the city in 2015. Had it wanted to tear down the structure, Trinity would have required council to repeal the special designation.

In a development application recently filed with the city, Trinity says it intends to relocate the gas station from the back of the property to the front, where it would sit at the corner of Richmond and Island Park. That will require a special permit under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The station’s facade would become part of the 4,000-square-foot ground-floor retail component of the new building. Trinity says some parts of the aging structure such as its service bay are in “really bad shape,” and the company is vowing to integrate as much material as possible from those areas into the final design. 

Six-storey height limit

“We’re incorporating all aspects of the heritage (building) that’s on site into the new development,” Aly Premji, Trinity’s vice-president of development and planning, told OBJ.

The proposed 64,000-square-foot redevelopment would feature 60 residential suites in a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units as well as two levels of underground parking with space for 37 vehicles, including five spots for visitors. Premji said Trinity hasn’t decided yet if the residential units will be rental apartments or condos.

Current zoning allows for maximum heights of six storeys on the property. But Premji said the project wouldn’t be financially viable at that height because of the costs of moving the heritage building and decontaminating the land under the former gas station.

“With a site this small, to make it work, we thought nine storeys is justifiable,” he said. “I think nine storeys is a good (height) for this neighbourhood. We wouldn’t do something that doesn’t have good planning rationale.”

Local historian Dave Allston, who also serves as president of the neighbouring Wellington Village Community Association, said he’s glad that Trinity has chosen to retain an important part of the region’s heritage.

Allston said the site represents a throwback to a style of gas station that was designed to reflect the look of the neighbourhood at a time when automobiles were becoming a ubiquitous part of Ottawa life.

“It has a really cool look,” he said. “You look at it and you know it’s from the 1930s or ’40s.”

At the same time, however, Allston questions how well the new development, designed by Ottawa’s Hobin Architecture, will mesh with the heritage site. 

“It worries me that it’s going to look like this thing is just sort of stuck to (the gas station),” he said.

"It worries me that it’s going to look like this thing is just sort of stuck to (the gas station)."

In its application, Trinity says the proposed brick-and-stone cladding will complement other architecture in the surrounding area, but Allston wishes the developer had done more to make the new building reflect the character of the community.

“You’re going to have these big, boxy, boring, modern condo buildings,” he said. “It wouldn’t take that much for them to make an effort to … make it fit more into the neighbourhood. Saving the gas station is awesome, but to most people, they’re going to think it’s a bit of an odd fit.”

An online public consultation is scheduled for Dec. 9. Trinity is hoping the application will be ready to go before the planning committee in February.

In other news, Premji said Trinity expects to break ground on its much-anticipated three-tower project at 900 Albert St. “in the near future.” Trinity is working with InterRent REIT and PBC Real Estate Advisors on the plan to build three mixed-use highrises of up to 65 storeys just south of the Bayview LRT station.

Trinity sold its stake in another proposed three-tower development at the forthcoming Gladstone LRT station to partner CLV Group this spring, but Premji said the builder remains bullish on the National Capital Region.

“We see a lot of potential in Ottawa, especially in the rental market,” he said. “We’re going to keep working there.”