A remote neighborhood in Sandy Hill is being sought out for hundreds of new rental properties, making some residents worry that the community will undergo a grim transformation, possibly with more student housing.
Robinson Village is perhaps the most geographically isolated residential area of Sandy Hill, sandwiched between a field, the Rideau River and the Queensway on the south side of the community. The main campus of the University of Ottawa is in the northwest and the school’s Reading campus is in the south.
A local development company would build four multi-unit buildings if it received political approval at the town hall.
View of one of the many previously three small buildings / houses, planned for a nine-storey building.
Julie Oliver /
“People are very concerned about what’s going on in the area,” says Wendy Duschenes, who has been living on Robinson Avenue since 1982. “People are really committed to this neighborhood.”
It is another example of a Sandy Hill neighborhood that adapts to developers who seize opportunities in a strong market for student housing.
In fact, there is demand throughout the city for more rental properties, period.
A report released Wednesday by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said the vacancy rate in the city last October was 1.8 percent. The vacancy rate of Sandy Hill / Lowertown was 2.7 percent, which was an increase of 1.2 percent in October 2018.
When it comes to Robinson Avenue, a development application requires building a nine-story apartment complex with 190 units on 36 Robinson Ave. Another application has plans for three separate six-storey apartment buildings with 46 units in each building. The three blocks with locations are 17, 19 and 23 Robinson Ave., 27, 29 and 31 Robinson Ave. and 130, 134, and 138 Robinson Ave.
In total, the proposed developments would add 328 units to the neighborhood, possibly doubling the number of people living there.
David Elden, a board member of Action Sandy Hill and resident of Robinson Avenue, says residents of Robinson Village are concerned about multiple proposed developments for the remote Sandy Hill community near the highway and Lees Avenue.
Julie Oliver /
Public reactions from the city fear that the buildings are intended for student rental and not for long-term rental. However, the city cannot make decisions about land use based on the demographics of people living in a home.
Developer TC United is behind the proposals. A telephone message that was left with the company was not returned within the deadline on Wednesday.
“We want people to become members of our community,” Duschenes said, noting that the neighborhood has excellent access to recreational activities such as parks and the network of paths along the Rideau River. “This is an ideal place for families to come.”
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury hated the threat of ‘bunkhouses’ that put pressure on different tenants in separate units, and what he considered to be the over-development of real estate. Fleury called the proposal for the six-storey buildings ‘bunkhouse 2.0’.
Residents of Robinson Village are particularly susceptible to packing more cars in the neighborhood, which only has one road that connects it to the rest of the city.
The plans for the six-storey apartment buildings require a reduction of the minimum parking requirements of 17 places each. Instead, each building would have three parking spaces, usually intended for visitors.
With regard to the proposed nine-storey building, the parking requirement would be reduced to 53 places from the current minimum of 81 places.
View of one of the many previously three small houses, planned for a five-storey building.
Julie Oliver /
Fleury is concerned about the lack of parking space for the six-story buildings, although he favors transit-oriented development approaches that focus on car transportation.
Robinson Village has no amenities, such as a supermarket, within walking distance.
Fleury said it is “unrealistic” that people living in the buildings would not have vehicles.
If they take vehicles, there is only one option left for parking: the road.
The builder can receive the greenery from the city to reduce parking requirements, as the development area is 800 meters from Lees Station. The city believes that communities close to LRT are stopping top candidates from stepping up because there is a greater chance that people will take the train.
In 2014, the city studied the area around Lees Station, including Robinson Village, for transit-oriented development opportunities, with high-rise buildings considered as an opportunity for the public yard, if the city ever wanted to end its activities there. The city thought six floors would be a suitable maximum height for most of the western part of the village.
Then a former landowner then appealed the zoning for 36 Robinson Ave. to the former Ontario City Council, the city and its owner created a settlement that ended with the OMB leaving nine floors on the property.
Duschenes said that if the buildings are intended for students, the entire exercise to get new residents to use the LRT system can be meaningless, as it may be faster to walk to the campus than the LRT station.
Due to the segregated character of the neighborhood, there is a difficult walking route to Lees Station, on the other side of the Queensway.
David Elden, a 20-year-old resident of Robinson Avenue, said the community is about to undergo a major transformation because of the proposed developments.
“This will be by far the biggest change,” Elden said.
Elden, a board member of the Action Sandy Hill community association, said there was an improvement in the type of units in the proposed developments, which he said were initially dominated by one-bedroom studios and apartments, but there is still unrest having a nine-story “loom” building across the neighborhood.
Although he acknowledges that students must live somewhere, Elden said there is a fear that Robinson Village will become a “monoculture” of student rentals.
“I don’t think anyone would say they are anti-students,” Elden said, “and they really aren’t.”
The planning committee is scheduled to consider the development applications on January 23.
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