Two proposed residential towers, which would be located within walking distance of Western University and Fanshawe College, have received unanimous support from a city committee.
At the Planning and Environment Committee meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 8), members supported both a proposed 15-storey tower on Oxford Street, directly across from Fanshawe College, and a 19-storey tower adjacent to Western University on Richmond Street. The Oxford Street tower would include 126 three-, four- and five-bedroom units while the project on Richmond Street is designed for 311 two-bedroom units.
Each project came forward as public participation meetings for their respective site plans. Zoning isn’t an issue in either proposal.
“This is exactly what we want near our university, near our college, to provide affordable housing options for students,” said Mayor Joe Fontana. “The university continues to grow, so does Fanshawe continue to grow. So these are great applications.”
In the case of both projects, various members of the planning committee did express concerns, as did members of the public.
One members of the public, Agnes Murray, who lives “one metre or so” away from the proposed Oxford development, was particular concerned about the behaviour of students who might one day take up residence within the tower.
Murray said she was particular concerned around plans to include an open patio or possibly individual apartment patios in the development. “I’m asking, I’m pleading and I’m begging, please do something before the building is finished. Make the rules and regulations before the building goes up.”
A representatives of the developer, Adamas Group, said there was no intention of having a licensed patio on the ground floor while John Fleming, managing director of planning, agreed individual patios would not be supported by staff.
Murray also expressed concerns around traffic levels in the area and the possible need for left turn lanes or advanced green traffic lights. Staff said a traffic study had been done; however the committee agreed the situation should be monitored further.
Concerns about windows on the west façade of the building were also addressed with the committee supporting their inclusion to ensure a visually appealing project. The committee also voted to have fencing around the property increased from a height of 1.8 metres (six feet) to 2.4 metres (eight feet).
Fleming said the both projects support council’s earlier position around the Near-Campus Neighbourhoods Strategy, which is designed — in some respects — to prevent or even reduce so-called student ghetto areas around both Western and Fanshawe.
The intent is to move more of the near-campus neighbourhood student housing to these types of facilities,” Fleming said. “Thereby protect some of the residential neighbourhoods and single-family homes, avoiding a lot of the concerns and issues that have been raised.”
Peter White, president and CEO of London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), spoke in support of the Oxford project.
White said the LEDC has been working on attracting international students and that the development planned by Adamas will answer many of the questions that have been raised. Those questions, White said, have focused around not only where student will live, but also what kind of lifestyle they will have while in the Forest City.
White, who called the projected a “groundbreaking development,” also helped address a concern raised by Murray around the supervision of students living in the building.
“With the 24/7 programming they are planning to offer, the supervision, and with the facilities in place, we think this is going to be something that will be an outstanding, supportive environment for bringing international students to the city.”
Ward 8 Councillor Paul Hubert mirrored White’s comments on the Oxford project by saying the Richmond complex will be “a great attraction for foreign students living in this area and attending Western. Certainly that is a big part of their growth plan.”
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