Opinion: Let’s reimagine that drive-through at Island Park

Special to KT by Andrew King – 

I read with great interest the proposal that has been submitted for the former Champlain Oil Gas Station at 70 Richmond Road.

This 1934 former gas station incorporates a style of architecture and a history that we see slowly dwindling as more and more heritage buildings in the west-end neighbourhood are demolished for new condos and infill developments.

The owner of this property is Main and Main of Toronto. They have recently proposed an alternate use for the structure realizing that it can no longer be demolished. This proposal would see the existing building restored and adapted into a coffee shop and restaurant with landscaping and a patio installed. The proposed development is designed by Malcolm Wildeboer of Vandenberg & Wildeboer Architects Incorporated, experienced in heritage projects and architects for Alice’s Carp Village Café, which won an Ottawa Architectural Conservation Award in 2012-2014. This new proposal for the old station has recently been met with negativity due to the fact a “drive-thru” option has been proposed, an element that many deem inappropriate due to traffic concerns at the Island Park Drive/Richmond intersection.

It is important to note that there will NOT be another 9+ storey condo development built at this site that would have seen hundreds of cars added to the streetscape. Another 12-storey condo by Mizrahi Developments was approved and is currently planned for the corner opposite the Champlain site, with little mention of the added traffic that building will cause. The proposed coffee shop preserves the original heritage structure with an addition that retains the similar 1930s architectural style as the old building, with a public patio space, bicycle parking and improved landscaping without the added traffic a condo would have presented.

The proposal for a business that retains the heritage nature of the property should not be dismissed as inappropriate because of Ottawa traffic problems. As a community, we should work towards a solution with Main and Main since they have offered a viable option for the property. Perhaps a drive-thru for cars is not the best idea, but what about a “pass-thru” option for customers passing by with dogs on leash, parents with strollers, those bound to a mobility device, or cyclists? It could be the City’s first non-car drive-thru that hits a target market yet to be serviced in such a manner and fits in with the tone of the neighbourhood more than a car drive-thru.

I believe the real root of the problem here is the excessive amount of commuter traffic that clogs this intersection that can no longer sustain a 1930s style of traffic flow for which it was designed. Thousands of cars now use Island Park as a daily interprovincial commuter route, and there is an immediate need to address this growing problem with proper traffic solutions along with the proposed 12-storey Mizrahi condo and its construction mayhem that will soon complicate the situation. Just dismissing the idea of a coffee shop at one corner because “it’s already a bad intersection” ignores the issue of an intersection with no advance green lights, absent turning lanes, and growing, congested commuter traffic. I live a block from there and see on a daily basis as I walk/drive/cycle through this intersection a lack of proper traffic management and frustration that needs to be immediately addressed before serious injury occurs.

Only when those problems have been solved can we promote positive additions to our vibrant and evolving neighbourhood that will appeal to drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike.

This is an edited version of a blog post which appeared on Andrew King’s website. It has been published with permission.

Drive-through coffee shop, yay or nay?

Kitchissippi residents have been talking about the proposal to build an addition on the small “cottage” style garage at the corner of Richmond Road and Island Park Drive. Councillor Jeff Leiper is “adamantly opposed” to a drive-through on the site and says it would be a “backwards step” for the City. We asked our Facebook followers what they thought of the proposal and if they supported a drive-through coffee shop on this site.

Mimi Golding: “I think it would be insane to put a coffee shop on this corner.?”?????

?Melissa Dimock: “No. That intersection gets backed up as it is without people idling for a drive-thru.”??????

?Andy Church: “I realized the free market will have a huge bearing on the success of this idea…I for one don’t think it builds a sustainable community where people are out walking and interacting with neighbors. But I suppose one could drive through and head home to the cave for Netflix and chill.?”?????

?Dave Allston: “I sympathize with the owners of the property, because the heritage designation I think took them by surprise. They acquired it, but are now very limited to what they can do with this prime piece of real estate. I am pleased to see them coming up with ideas to maintain the structure in place, and using it to house a viable business idea. But I can’t figure out how their research would indicate that a drive-through in this spot would work, or is worth the battle required against the Official Plan. I can’t help but think this proposal is some kind of tactic in a grander strategy to obtain what they really want with the site down the road. But for sure, a drive-through exiting onto IPD wins the award for most comical development proposal of 2016 in my books.?”?????

?Allison Christie: “A drive-through does not make sense for this site. I walk this intersection with my kids and it is already quite dangerous. I would support something that is more pedestrian-oriented, not designed for cars. How about depaving the site (pulling back most of the asphalt), adding some green, and turning the garage into a cafe or ice-cream shop. Somewhere for lingering, not driving through.?”?????

?Michel Renaud: “I call it the “Oh God… Here we go…” intersection. How anyone who has been through it can think it is a good idea to have a drive-through there is beyond me.?”?????

?Jen Murray: “The site has been designated heritage and the owners I believe were not expecting this – so they are in a difficult situation of needing to likely rehabilitate the building, remediate the site (probably a very good chance it is contaminated) and then they would have to earn a profit – it is not an easy situation they are in. However, I cannot see a drive thru working well at the intersection.???”???

?Tara Tracy: “A (bike) “ride” through, I would support! A walk-through would also work. And yes, de-paving is a fantastic idea. I have a crazy vision of it as a wee outdoor pool. I know it won’t happen but it is wonderful to imagine.”???

?Vivian Russell: “It would be great to see a use that was pedestrian-friendly, but we hardly need another coffee shop in the area, especially a drive-through.?”???

?Karen Thoms: “A green space with a community social center providing tai chi, yoga, board games. Adult playground. No more coffee and definitely not a drive through. A taco lot/ice cream.?”???

?Jeanne Inch: ”How about an art gallery/wine bar? Certainly not another coffee shop and absolutely not a drive-through.?”???

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