Condo redesign could improve compatibility, reduce impact
It’s nice to see that residential condominium development is underway in Creemore. It will provide a greater opportunity for seniors to stay in the village, for young families to get a start and for those who are simply tired of cutting lawns and raking leaves. The project is well located opposite Gowan Park and is a short stroll to the village centre.
That said, the proposed layout and design has some characteristics that could perhaps be reconsidered.
The proposed building seems perched one floor above the ground with sloping lawns up against the first storey. The tradition in Creemore is to raise a house so the ground floor is at porch height allowing direct access to patios and gardens. For seniors especially, this climb or elevator up one storey to their front door would be unfortunate. While presumably the objective is to allow for parking below the lower units while avoiding a relatively high-water table, some of the residential units could perhaps be lowered to grade on the key visible sides of the building. As well, perhaps the first storey needn’t be raised so high to avoid groundwater by partially depressing the parking level.
A stormwater catchment area is proposed along Edward Street, but unfortunately will require removing a great stand of mature spruce and other trees. Perhaps the storm pond could be reduced in size or relocated. There are many new techniques for stormwater collection such as a water storage layer below the parking lot. The water could then be released at a slower rate to control flooding. As well, green building flat roof systems that store and release rain water are also available. These techniques of accommodating and temporarily storing runoff, called LID’s or low impact development design are not as uncommon as you might think and are becoming required “green” urban construction standards elsewhere.
Alternatively, or maybe as well, the corner of Mary and Edward streets could become the “rain garden.” This is not unlike what is now proposed along Edward St. but could be relocated to the corner where the trees have already been removed. It could also include walkways, seating and planting features.
Having said that, I’m not sure why there was such a push back on development of the corner. Traditionally corner houses or buildings in a village are the special ones, with wrap around porches and bay windows featuring the two sides of a building. While this corner is currently proposed as landscaped open space, Gowan Park is right across the street and only needs a reworked corner entry gate to make it more accessible. In this case, the water garden could move further into the site behind the spruce trees while facilitating a more attractive building at the corner.
With respect to the architectural design, the facades could have more varied articulation to reduce the apparent length of the buildings and to feature corners and entrances. Variation in the apparent building heights with some recessed open terraces on the upper level could improve the boxy or institutional character of the current design and be more compatible with the style of the residences nearby.
So again, expanding the choices for existing and new village residents is to be applauded. Designing it in a manner that is more compatible with the village character, minimizes removal the current woodlot, and locates and adopts emerging storm water management systems in a creative way could potentially improve the proposal and gain further acceptance and support from the existing community.