Re: Victoria Park Precinct Plan
Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Planner II, Urban Regeneration City Planning
City of London
Re: Victoria Park Precinct Plan
Dear Ms. Knieriem:
Having attended the community consultation session at London Public Library on October 1, I wanted to provide further feedback about the Victoria Park perimeter on behalf of ACO London Region.
I wish to make it clear that ACO London does not support highrises surrounding Victoria Park, including proposed towers on the sites of 560-562 Wellington, Centennial Hall and the parking lot just to the north, or the lot just north of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Regarding the Auburn Developments proposal to build a tower at 560-562 Wellington (originally planned at 25 storeys, then 22 storeys, and later 17 storeys) anything taller than the buildings already there would be too tall and out of character in the West Woodfield neighbourhood. In a Heritage Conservation District (HCD) such as West Woodfield, there are limits on replacement heights. The West Woodfield HCD Plan restricts the height of future possible multi- storey buildings to one storey higher than the buildings being replaced. Therefore, only a six-storey building should replace the current five-storey building at 560-562 Wellington. There is little purpose in HCDs if their architectural heritage value is not to be respected. Rules are of no use if there are exceptions. The proposed Auburn building would be almost twice as high as City Hall. While City Hall itself is a highrise on Victoria Park, it is a landmark building, already constructed, and it is appropriate that City Hall should be prominent.
The site of Centennial Hall and the adjacent parking lot is also zoned for a possible highrise. However, it would be more appropriate to replace the current Centennial Hall with a superior performing arts venue, just a little taller than the current structure. Another possibility is to reconnect Princess Avenue with Wellington Street, creating another route to Victoria Park. Either suggestion is preferable to a highrise at this location.
There is an under-utilised site – that is, a parking lot ‒ just to the north of St. Peter’s Cathedral, which was suggested at the consultation session as the possible site of a skyscraper. A tall building on that site would overshadow both the cathedral and the park. While it has been suggested that higher buildings may be permitted along the future BRT corridor, Clarence Street, a highrise is still inappropriate overshadowing the park. Other parking lots farther from the green space, at least a block away, would be more appropriate sites for highrises. The building currently under construction at 515 Richmond Street will have less shadow effect on the park.
It was suggested that an entrance to Victoria be created on its west side with a laneway entrance from Richmond and Clarence streets. Clarence Street has not traditionally been a gateway to the park. Currently, a person standing at that location sees only the rear of the bandstand, not the most attractive introduction to a green space. The main gateways have been at the four corners, including the southeast corner which houses the Cenotaph. Traditionally, Richmond Street did not relate to Victoria Park, except at the northwest corner, so until now an entrance path from Richmond Street has never been deemed necessary.
Building heights are higher off the south end of the park than the north. The north end on Central Avenue and Wellington Street north of Wolfe Street is lined with old houses such as once almost completely surrounded the perimeter. ACO London supports retention of complete buildings, not facades, and these remaining houses, whether used as homes or offices, should not be lost. One was destroyed when the former home of baseball player George “Mooney” Gibson, 252 Central Avenue, was torn down in 2004. Part of the charm of London’s Victoria Park is that it remains open and spacious because of the low- rise character of the areas that surround it.
In summary, ACO London would suggest:
Building highrises outside of HCDs.
Building on any of numerous downtown parking lots, or on the site of buildings not on London’s Heritage Inventory.
A one-block low to mid-rise buffer around Victoria Park.
I look forward to supplying further input at the next Community Information Meeting in January.
Architectural Conservancy Ontario - London Region