ACO London Statement re Victoria Park Secondary Plan Draft Principles

ACO Letter to City Hall.jpg

The London Region branch of Architectural Conservancy Ontario (ACO London) is cautiously optimistic regarding the draft principles recommended to form the basis of the policy framework for the Victoria Park Secondary Plan.

It would be difficult to overstate the significance of historic Victoria Park, not only as the most significant public park in our increasingly dense city, but also as an iconic landmark in the development of London from its earliest days as a military encampment to its current role as a beloved gathering place for Londoners and people from across the region.

We support many of the Draft Secondary Plan Principles including identifying opportunities for intensification, opening up view corridors to Victoria Park, designing new buildings to celebrate its prominence, continuing to protect and enhance the amenity of the Park, protecting the residential amenity of the Woodfield Neighbourhood, and of course respecting and conserving heritage resources of the Heritage Conservation District. We are pleased that a heritage consultant has been retained to review the Draft Secondary Plan before it is presented to the Planning and Environment Committee.

Proposed development opportunities surrounding historic Victoria Park.  ACO London ( CC BY-SA 4.0 ).

Proposed development opportunities surrounding historic Victoria Park.
ACO London (CC BY-SA 4.0).

We share the vision of many Londoners who are engaging in this once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of this preeminent green space in the heart of our city: a desire to protect the Park’s environment and trees from too much intensification including preserving the open sunlight vistas, a demand for high-quality architectural design infill, and respect for the significant heritage of the Park and neighbourhood.

There are many opportunities for intensification of surface parking lots throughout the downtown core, as well as around Victoria Park. The significant shortage of multi-family medium density housing forms in downtown London and an ever-growing need for affordable housing across the city makes intensification a priority. We look forward to seeing exciting and much-needed mid-rise surface lot infill projects around the Park that are compatible with the surrounding context of the West Woodfield Heritage Conservation District guidelines, the Official Plan, and The London Plan.

It is important to reiterate that the Park is within an urban planning award-winning Heritage Conservation District. There are many creative and balanced ways for us as a city to grow inward and upward, increase access to affordable housing, continue to revitalize our core, and conserve our valuable environmental and heritage resources. Hyper-intensification of this urban oasis while so many core parking lots continue to languish is irresponsible and abdicates civic leadership. Such over-intensification would destroy that value and set a disturbing precedent for inappropriate intensification in other Heritage Conservation Districts across the city.

In response to the Draft Principles for the Victoria Park Secondary Plan we recommend:

  • a one-block buffer of mid- and low-rise buildings surrounding Victoria Park to protect the value and appeal of its historic and ecological vistas

  • heights of up to 12 storeys, including bonusing, be permitted for new multi-family, mid-rise infill on surface parking lots immediately surrounding the Park — more than tripling current height zoning restrictions on many of those sites

  • all new infill development proposals address any potential impact on the Park and West Woodfield heritage resources, and ensure that new development avoids or respectfully mitigates that impact

  • a wide variety of commercial, office, community, and residential uses be permitted in existing and new structures to encourage a vibrant mix of people and activities around the Park

  • existing heritage structures surrounding the Park — including City Hall, the Canada Life buildings, St. Peter’s Basilica Cathedral — and their historic views be conserved and protected

  • an innovative new vision for Reginald Cooper Square that will help to animate this important civic square adjacent to City Hall and strengthen its connection with Victoria Park

  • Kent Street be extended through to Victoria Park, creating a much improved and enticing view and access corridor into the green space that would replace Angel Street

We look forward to continuing to collaborate with Council, staff, consultants, and other stakeholders to develop this Secondary Plan.

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Jennifer Grainger
President
Architectural Conservancy Ontario - London Region