Overwhelming opposition to Brockville’s proposed Woolworths Building redevelopment

Architect, Chris-Warner Smith pictured reassuring residents on Tuesday’s Planning and Development Committee meeting. – Seth Leroux photo

The old Woolworths Building in historic downtown Brockville has been vacant since 2003, and on Tuesday, March 5, council and the group looking to redevelop it heard some community members’ two cents on their proposed plan.

Caber Group of Companies was selected by the council to redevelop the property in early 2022, and after two years of work they presented a plan that includes two floors of commercial space, 42 indoor parking spaces, 20 bicycle storage spaces, rooftop amenity areas, and 66 residential dwelling units on floors three to nine.

The requested site-specific policies aim to include the property in the “Skyline Development Area,” allowing for a maximum of nine floors and up to two metres of angular plane encroachment.

David Duc was the only resident in support of the proposed changes at the packed planning meeting on Tuesday.

“It is the most exciting thing I’ve seen here in the last ten years,” he stated.

In total, eight attendees spoke: one in support, six in opposition and one on the fence.

Chris Lewis gave several compelling arguments against the project in a passionate speech, arguing that all buildings on King Street have a four-storey maximum height so that all the sights may be enjoyed, as opposed to a select few. He said he was surprised that he and his wife, Kathy Lewis, owner and operator of 31-year-old downtown café Boboli, had been left out of the deal, as they share a property line with the building in question.

“Again, this plan calls for a 33-metre length wall, the full length of my property. That is the height of the Baptist church steeple. How would any of you like to live beside that in a little hole?”

He went on to discuss the renovations he has implemented on his home and how they would be occluded by the massive building, citing the Wedgewood redevelopment’s compliance with another resident, Mark Mazurek’s, needs during the process of constructing the building that stands today.

“Anyone who appreciates the vernacular architecture of Ontario is probably horrified by the sketches they witnessed printed” he went on to say.

The key points Lewis made regarding the safety and functionality of Victoria Avenue Lane were echoed in most others’ opposition.

“On our laneway, there are 11 properties, and probably if everybody used their parking, there would be 39 parking spaces used, those are parking spaces that we own, those are parking spaces that we are entitled to, we shouldn’t be… invaded in this way.”

Chris Lewis pictured, becoming emotional giving his speech at Tuesday night’s meeting in opposition to the Woolworth redevelopment project. – Seth Leroux photo

Kathy Lewis argued that retail is dying, begging council to consider what type of stores are being invited to the project: “Another tattoo shop? Another vape store?”

Kathy echoed the concerns of her husband, Chris, regarding the safety and functionality of the laneway and parking situations.

“What about Amazon?”

She implored the council to consider the massive parking deficit that would come with more residential suites than parking spaces. The lack of parking on the frontage of the building would build up more traffic in the already narrow laneway, which would not likely support emergency vehicles, especially not construction vehicles or a crane, Lewis said.

Several residents reiterated the same concerns, especially regarding the safety and plausibility of the laneway functionality.

Nancy Sylvain expressed her concern that the proposed plan is not in line with Brockville’s goals; in fact, it’s “completely incongruent,” she pushed, given its rich heritage buildings and the beautiful St. Lawrence River. She urged council not to make hasty decisions just because there is a need to redevelop the site, as it could lead to regret.

Ida Duc stated she was “on the fence,” and urged council and the architect to come to a compromise. She felt the community had waited long enough for something to happen, but argued that council not allow the height of the proposed project to be approved.

The architect, Chris Warner-Smith, reassured attendees that the renderings are not final and that he would take into account all of their concerns.

Council then concluded the meeting, and the planning and development committee will discuss the matter further.

Brockvilleist will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they are made available.

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