12 unit condo "too much" for Crescentwood, Winnipeg?

37 posts / 0 new
Last post
The Analyst The Analyst's picture
12 unit condo "too much" for Crescentwood, Winnipeg?

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/crescentwood-condos-epc-1.3885375

I'm generally not a fan of developer lobbying (especially if it's in favour of lower fees or outer suburban development) but this EPC/City Centre Committee decision seems bad. Denser development in central neighbourhoods seems exactly what Winnipeg needs.

Regions: 
lagatta4

I'm no fan of developers, but the discourse of the opponents cited is nimby and anti-environmental. That is a low-rise, and more are needed to ensure efficiency of public transport, and walkability.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

And its to go on an empty lot. It's ridiculous it was scuttled. There's a large apartment block just two blocks away and lots of old houses divided into suites all around it, not to mention new build condos on single lots. It wouldn't be out of step in that location.

milo204

i love the part where he's like "build it in osborne"...hhaha yeah, osborne needs another condo...this is typical nimby'ism...it's 12 units, not a tall building comparatively and it's not like the neighbourhood is even close to density issues...

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Like Osborne village is sooooo distant. What a joke.

Aristotleded24

I disagree with the general sentiment of this thread. Take a look at the building design. It is very visually unappealing for one. In the second place, there is already a great deal of density in Osborne Village as it is. It is the only part of the city where "For Lease" signs don't hang in empty windows for long periods of time. Thirdly, these buildings tend to be very high-priced condos, which tend to raise the cost of housing in the surrouding neighbourhoods and exacerbate the issue of affordable housing in the city, as developers try to cash in and get rich on "density" or whatever the current trends are in urban development. And these condos are still not stopping the sprawling outward around the edges of the city.

If we want to actually address issues of urban density, let's actually back mayor Bowman's development fee, put a halt to sprawling suburbs, and begin a public consultation process to rebuild low-density areas like St. James, South Winnipeg, or the Maples. High-priced, visually unappealing buildings that don't fit in well with their surroundings in areas like Osborne and Wolseley can wait.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Crescentwood isn't as dense as Osborne Village by any means, even if subdivided housing isn't uncommon. The building design isn't any worse than the commercial 6 story building it would back onto, either. This part of the city lends itself more naturally to densification than the neighbourhoodx you mention. Increase those areas population and you'll increase the traffic more than bikable areas with adequate public transit. Although I agree it has to happen eventually, it's better to grow density from the centre outward. 

Meanwhile, there are two empty lots growing weeds. I'd be happy to see them used. 

Aristotleded24

Timebandit wrote:
Meanwhile, there are two empty lots growing weeds. I'd be happy to see them used.

Maybe we should just leave them and let them turn into a nature preserve. We have serious issues with lack of greenspaces in the central city, and maybe more urban greenspaces will preserve biodiversity and bee and butterfly populations and maybe also help feed the city's hungry.

lagatta4

An antidote to overpriced development can be requiring a certain number of geared-to-income social housing units in all new developments. And the vacant lots should be used either for social housing or for a park - I'm unfamiliar with Winnipeg so I don't know whether that is a good place to put a park. There is a rewilded area just south of me in Mile-End, but a vacant lot can easily become a place that attracts antisocial activity and trash dumping, not butterflies. I'll leave specific comments to current and former Winnipeggers. In general low density prevents development of public transport and walkable/cyclable neighbourhoods in North American cities, except for parts of the oldest ones. Very high density can cause other problems. 

Pogo Pogo's picture

Vacant lots are not usually suited for park space.  I do believe in a use it or lose it tax both for empty lots and unoccupied suites.  What a number of guerilla gardners in vancouver have done is take over empty lots for vegetables.

lagatta4

Absolutely. There are a few exceptions such as "pocket parks", often with some play equipment for small children, in cases where the closest normal park is across a busy street, but in general they are not good park locations. In this area infill, especially social housing - which includes housing co-ops - would probably be the best option, and indeed landowners should pay a punitive surtax on empty lots. 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

The location of these lots is not good for a park. It's just off Corydon Ave, which is a fairly busy commercial street, and is on Harrow St, which is a fairly busy thoroughfare, and would be Roadkill Corner as a "nature preserve". IOW, quite a bit of traffic, behind a commercial building. There are lots of green spaces in the neighbourhood, too - I know them all because I live only a few blocks away and walk my dog daily. There are at least two parks within a five minute walk of that location.

I also fail to see how a few more condos are going to jack up prices on nearby houses. If anything, older people who are ready to downsize but don't want to leave the neighbourhood are more likely to free up single family dwellings nearby and relieve some of the pressure on a fairly tight, in-demand market. And there are lots of more affordable rental apartments and single family homes nearby as well. It's an extremely mixed neighbourhood of large, medium and smaller homes, apartment buildings and condos. In fact, the location and the building hit all of the benchmarks for infill housing put out by the city.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Oh, by the by, city council has overturned the decision and the building has been approved:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/crescentwood-condos-council-1.389...

Aristotleded24

Timebandit wrote:
I also fail to see how a few more condos are going to jack up prices on nearby houses.

Those new condos are in some cases going for around $200 000. How many people do you know who can afford that? I sure as hell can't.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Given that condominiums are typically (and understandably) cheaper than freehold homes, including detached and semi-detached, shouldn't condos typically drive the price of local homes DOWN, to compete with a cheaper non-rental option?

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

A24, condos in the area go from anywhere from just under $100k to over $400k, depending on the street. It's one of the more expensive neighbourhoods in the city - but this city is a lot less expensive than most. I do know people who can afford the properties, and I recognize that not everyone can. 

Magoo, I think bringing property values down has something to do with the objections. Single family homes in the area are in high demand - big old character homes - and tend to go for a relatively high price, although not quite as high as the ones just to the west, but higher than Osborne Village, just to the east. The worry is that increased density a la Osborne Village will reduce property values. That, and there are people who just don't want change. It's mostly big single family homes on leafy streets - some of which are are divided into suites, but you can't really tell unless you look closely. 

Personally, I think a little more density is good for the neighbouhood and it's just time Winnipeg grew up a little.  

Pogo Pogo's picture

New houses almost by definition will cost more.  It is king of shitty that way.  Cities need to be more creative in their building codes.  Design guidelines over time have demanded too much fancy crap (gables and stuff that make them attractive to passers by).  Of course the developers don't complain as long as they can pass on the cost to the buyer. There needs to be more pressure on planning departments to consider affordability in the design process.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I think buildings should be aesthetically pleasing, myself. It makes a huge psychological difference to the experience of living somewhere. 

I should also point out that division of existing buildings is pretty common throughout the neighbouhood. Less cost, more density, looks nice. But there are times when that's not a possibility. 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
New houses almost by definition will cost more.

Like a new car will cost more than a used car.  But if all you (a buyer) wants is four wheels to get from A to B then a nearby used car lot cannot help but bring prices down at a new car lot.  Or, if not, it surely won't drive those prices UP.

Quote:
Cities need to be more creative in their building codes.  Design guidelines over time have demanded too much fancy crap (gables and stuff that make them attractive to passers by).

Do municipal building codes demand gables?

As I understand it, gables are nothing more than the triangular bit of exterior wall at the top that's pretty much obligatory if you have a pitched roof.  I didn't know their existence was the City's fault, nor that they unduly added to the cost of a home.

Quote:
There needs to be more pressure on planning departments to consider affordability in the design process.

What planning departments??  Municipalities don't design homes, architects do.

Pogo Pogo's picture

It was a while ago but I was in a meeting with the city planner and he explained that developers are asked to provide multiple breaks in the roof line (he had a fancy planner word for it) not just one peak with a straight roof runnng down each side.  Gables are just one example.  Aesthetic requirements do make the community more pleasing to the eye which is a good thing, but it comes at a cost.

Some of the designs issues come from developers.  Cool stuff but that is why it costs so much more to build than it used to cost.  It becomes a slipper slope where standardizing cost effective items like  double pane windows grow to include items like heated flooring as we blur the line between want and need.

There are groups (for example Architecture for Humanity) that are looking to include affordability as key component of the design component.  They just don't have as many developer friends, margins are not as good.

lagatta4

Well, I'll certainly look that up, having been a housing activist for decades - but also, like progressive people here, committed to defending our architectural and historical heritage - against the plastic crap that started taking over and destroying beautiful old buildings (grand or modest) in the postwar period. One important idea is "le patrimoine modeste" - the integrity of the architecture of our working-class neighbourhoods. 

Using the cheapest materials and the ugliest building design for social or working-class housing is a recipe for slums. But there are a lot of techniques that can respect the architectural integrity of neighbourhoods while making it possible to build more housing or re-use existing buildings. 

Pogo Pogo's picture

Bread and Roses.

lagatta4

I've had the pleasure of visiting historic social housing in France (Paris and Lyon), Italy (Florence and Rome), Amsterdam in the Netherlands. And reading about the heroic projects in Vienna. One of the most dramatic scenes in the film Julia is the battle between workers defending their Hof (I think it was Karl-Mark Hof, the largest one) and the Austrofascists (precursors to the Nazis after the Anschuss). There was some remarkable architecture (often the intellectual labour was donated) and the housing was intended not only to provide proper living conditions and decent hygiene but also to change lives. 

The Analyst The Analyst's picture

Aristotleded24 wrote:

I disagree with the general sentiment of this thread. Take a look at the building design. It is very visually unappealing for one. In the second place, there is already a great deal of density in Osborne Village as it is. It is the only part of the city where "For Lease" signs don't hang in empty windows for long periods of time.

The building IS NOT IN OSBORNE VILLAGE. It's in Crescentwood, which is a completely different (if near) area. John Orlikow even mentioned Osborne Village as an alternative location 

Aristotleded24 wrote:
Thirdly, these buildings tend to be very high-priced condos, which tend to raise the cost of housing in the surrouding neighbourhoods and exacerbate the issue of affordable housing in the city, as developers try to cash in and get rich on "density" or whatever the current trends are in urban development. And these condos are still not stopping the sprawling outward around the edges of the city.

Yeah, a condo building is not going to raise the price of housing in Crescentwood. The reason why so many latte liberal constituents were bringing it up and lamenting it's "lack of character" is probably because they think it could conceivably bring down their old brick home prices. Or, they may just be mad that condos (which are generally cheaper than freehold single-family houses) will bring young urban professionals who would otherwise not live in old urban professional neighbourhood. 

Aristotleded24 wrote:
If we want to actually address issues of urban density, let's actually back mayor Bowman's development fee, put a halt to sprawling suburbs, and begin a public consultation process to rebuild low-density areas like St. James, South Winnipeg, or the Maples. High-priced, visually unappealing buildings that don't fit in well with their surroundings in areas like Osborne and Wolseley can wait.

Well, again, this is NOT OSBORNE. It would be kinda weird if John Orlikow, the River Heights councillor, was crusading against a condo development in Osborne Village (i.e. the Fort Rouge-East Fort Gary ward). 

Wolseley, Crescentwood and Osborne Village are where intense demand for urban living exists. And if the city implements the Bowman fees while still being incredibly restrictive regarding what infill housing they allow, all that happens is housing prices rise. If condos are barred from Crescentwood, young professionals will simply move to Island Lakes, Waverley West and Ridgewood South to get more space and cheaper overall housing costs than trying to buy up oldschool mansions along Crescentwood. 

Aristotle24 wrote:
Maybe we should just leave them and let them turn into a nature preserve. We have serious issues with lack of greenspaces in the central city, and maybe more urban greenspaces will preserve biodiversity and bee and butterfly populations and maybe also help feed the city's hungry.

An isolated lot between two houses IS NOT going to serve as a nature preserve. And it's certainly not going to produce enough output to "feed the hungry". 

This is a pretty old thread but A) A lot of these thoughts have been stewing for some time and B) I'm pretty unhappy to discover that the city has made it harder to build higher density in old neighbourhoods

 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Interesting that this thread has surfaced - I’ve been watching the condo in question go up. It’s definitely in a modernist style, but there are a few peppered through this area. It’s not a spectacularly beautiful building, but it looks like it’ll be nicer than several newer builds within a block of it and the 1960s apartment block across the street from it. 

The Analyst The Analyst's picture

What do we want? Infill housing! How do we get it? We have no idea!

CBC News wrote:

On Monday, council's property committee will consider new infill guidelines intended to "improve compatibility of infill with older homes in the neighbourhood."

The new guidelines will take three years to complete. But city planners would like to change zoning bylaws this year in order to eliminate the construction of "skinny, tall and long houses" that "result in a wall-like condition along the property line."

In a nutshell, Winnipeg's urban-planning division says it's got the message from Winnipeg homeowners: they don't like it when an empty lot on their street or an older home on a single lot gets replaced with two narrower, often taller, homes or mid-rise condo complexes.

Current rules puzzle developers, residents

Invariably, residents who raise concerns about infill housing say they're not opposed to it — provided it looks just like what's already on the street in question.

"There are thoughtful kinds of infill in which three condos get built in a building that looks almost exactly like its neighbour," said Joanne Seiff, a Crescentwood resident who lobbies for more compatible infill.

"That would triple the capacity in terms of the number of families, while at the same time maintaining the same amount of green space and not encroaching on the rest of the neighborhood. It's possible."

The sentiment is understandable. The problem is, replicating what exists in Winnipeg may not go very far in making the city more sustainable, either financially or environmentally.

The existing stock of housing in much of Winnipeg, like other cities on the Canadian Prairies or U.S. Great Plains, is not laid out in an overly dense manner. Homes in newer Winnipeg neighbourhoods tend to sit on smaller lots with smaller yards.

This is why Winnipeg encourages the splitting up of lots, as well as the construction of taller residential buildings in some older neighbourhoods. While not all of the 'hoods can handle the same degree of density — mid-rise condos obviously make more sense in Osborne Village than they do in Wildwood Park — Winnipeg's overall planning directive in recent years has been to build up instead of out.

This is terrible news. If the current idea of infill housing is to keep neighbourhoods and hence density constant then incremental growth to the city's population will entail more and more suburban sprawl. This remains the case whether or not developers are incurring a fee for new developments.

    Timebandit Timebandit's picture

    Charging fees for infill over and above regular property taxation is bass-ackwards. We should be encouraging more density.

    BTW, author of the cbc article linked to said something on twitter about low rises being a reasonable thing in Crescentwood, but not, say, Wildwood. I have to wonder why not? Do we really want to limit greater density to more central neighbourhoods? If there was a way to put in some row houses, or multi-unit builds in a less dense but established neighbourhood, that seems like a good thing to me.

    The Analyst The Analyst's picture

    Timebandit wrote:

    Charging fees for infill over and above regular property taxation is bass-ackwards. We should be encouraging more density.

    It's weird. Seems like something St. Vital councillor Brian Mayes is geared on.

    Timebandit wrote:
    BTW, author of the cbc article linked to said something on twitter about low rises being a reasonable thing in Crescentwood, but not, say, Wildwood. I have to wonder why not? Do we really want to limit greater density to more central neighbourhoods? If there was a way to put in some row houses, or multi-unit builds in a less dense but established neighbourhood, that seems like a good thing to me.

    I'd probably lean against his thesis, but I can understand being more concerned about denser developments in outer suburbs with poor transit and long distances to grocery stores. Then parking can really become an issue. 

    kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

    Secondary suites and small carriage houses are the best way to infill old neighborhoods. I live in a small village that is growing very quickly but our council a couple of years ago changed our by-laws to allow all of the above.  Hell because I live within the designated historic area that dates from the 1880's to early '20's I get to have both a suite built into my house and a carriage house or converted garage.  Most of the new homes being built on regular residential lots have suites in them.

    Timebandit Timebandit's picture

    Yeah, that’s the vintage of the areas Winnipeg is focusing on for infill. Crescentwood was built as a leafy suburb across the river from the established neighbourhood of Wolesly. A lot of the houses are large and it’s very common to see them split into 2 or 3 suites. There aren’t a lot of laneway/carriage house units yet, but it’s a place where that could work. I know of a few just east of us in Osborne Village, where the houses are also pre WWI. 

    The Analyst The Analyst's picture

    The Planning and Property Committee

    Around 3:05:00 The timing was weird when this video was uploaded at the time. Now, looks like it's at 8:56:16. 

    Brian Mayes wrote:
    On the economics, you read the Jane Jacobs stuff. It talks about "gap filling". There's a certain sense to it. There's gap, you fill it in. This is somewhat different than there's a house, tear it down! It's a hundred and ten years old, tear it down! Build something twice as high next to the existing houses.  That, I think most people go, wait - that doesn't quite equal "gap filling". Jane Jacobs also talked about a mix of the old and the new and we have no control right now, if you go down Handyside in my ward, there's no new houses -you go down Pilgrim, you go down Vivian, half the block has changed character. Just on the economics, just to be clear, there's certainly cost to new areas. There's a new firehall in Sage Creek, that cost a fair whack of money - I don't know how much it was, before I got here. But, as you're just saying, we put 120 million, 160 million in fixing old roads. That is one of our major priorities. That is not a cost of new development. That's old roads. We're fixing up old community centres, we're fixing up Glenwood, we're fixing up Mayfair, we're fixing up - we can all probably find one in our ward. So the idea that everything is fine in the old parts and not costing us anything I think is not being honest with the citizens. Additionally, we keep saying 'there's no new pipes', but there's a billion dollars worth of new pipes that are going to be going into old neighbourhoods. On the one hand, if you add in some infill it's not going to make it worse but it's not true to say there's no cost to pipes in the old neighbourhoods. In fact, if 20,000 people move to Niverville instead of Sage Creek then we'll all be splitting it amount 780,000 people not 800,000 people, right? It's still going to be a billion dollars. Whether people move into the suburbs or not, some of these old area costs are constant. Lastly, there's lines here about the underused capacity. No one on Vivian ever comes and says 'you know what's really empty, that St. Mary's bus. You should run fewer of them. It's, like, an underused capacity". It's great theory, but it collides with the reality of some of our services in the older areas are not great now.
     

    Timebandit Timebandit's picture

    That man is an idiot.

    Of course you have to maintain and repair old infrastructure. You'd have to do it whether you have infill or not. Who made the argument that old neighbourhoods cost nothing?

    Also typical Winnipeg attitude to transit. Urgh.

    The Analyst The Analyst's picture

    Timebandit wrote:

    That man is an idiot.

    Of course you have to maintain and repair old infrastructure. You'd have to do it whether you have infill or not. Who made the argument that old neighbourhoods cost nothing?

    Also typical Winnipeg attitude to transit. Urgh.

    To be fair, I think the point he was trying to make is that "excess capacity" for city services doesn't exist in St. Vital because transit is well used. Still a goofy, narrow argument (and probably better addressed by regarding city transit as a service abnormally well used relative to other city services across the board and hence requiring greater service everywhere). 

    His argument about old infrastructure costing money seems similar to his argument about why infills should have growth fees (they put some strain on existing services). Personally, I wouldn't be bothered with an infill growth fee that was much smaller than the greenfield growth fee, so the incentive towards infill development remained. It seems he's trying to confuse people, though, by pointing out that infill has some cost to city services and then hoping people jump the the conclusion that the cost is equal to outer development. 

    Also, his tone makes him sound ten times more smug than even the transcript. 

    Timebandit Timebandit's picture

    It's a stupid, facile argument. Smugness is a hallmark of Dunning-Kreuger effect.

    Aristotleded24

    Good news from Armstrong Point:

    Quote:
    A 110-year-old mansion slated for demolition won't be torn down for the time being.

    On Thursday night, the City of Winnipeg rescinded the demolition owner obtained by the owner of 514 Wellington Crescent in Crescentwood.

    The move follows efforts from neighbours and local history buffs to preserve the building.

    Coun. John Orlikow said the city is considering whether to extend heritage conservation district status to the entire Crescentwood neighbourhood as it did with Armstrong's Point in April. For the time being all demolition permits in the area have been shelved.

    "There is imminent danger that we're going to be losing some historical pieces that are quite critical in the neighborhood," Orlikow said.

    This is a perfect example of why the left keeps losing at city hall. It is a minority of people who live in more urbanist areas like Wolseley and Osborne Village. They understand what makes other cities more liveable, but don't really see the rest of the built-up environment that the majority of Winnipeggers are surrounded by. So when something like infill comes along, of course the real estate industry wants to make a profit off this. Where will the real estate industry go? Into the neighbourhoods and areas that are already somewhat dense and liveable. This comes at a cost of destroying nearby homes in the area, when it already has more character than some of the newer suburban areas with the cookie cutter houses. People get upset, they will be called NIMBYs, and then the infill argument is lost. It's a similar thing to when Jenny Gerbasi pushed through a rapid transit detour that will actually hurt service along Pembina, and possibly costing public support for further expansion of rapid transit.

    You know what areas really could use densification the most? Downtown and the north end, with open fields, vacant houses, and parking lots. Even a modest investment in affordable housing will put people where transit and other utilities are, and this will in turn have a positive impact on lifting up not only those areas but the entire city. Nobody will complain about making vacant lots in this part of the city more productive. Unfortunately, there is no money to be made in this.

    Finally, the absolutely last thing the city needs to be encouraging are more condos. Despite this talk about "young professionals," the truth is that Winnipeg is a low-wage city, with rents rising all around and people's wages not keeping up. We need more affordable options especially for those for whom home ownership is not an option. Adding condos for the minority who can afford them while doing nothing about the affordable housing crisis will only worsen class divides in the city.

    Timebandit Timebandit's picture

    I’m glad they’re not tearing the house down. It’s a gorgeous old building. I disagree that infill that’s going in nearby isn’t a good thing, though. 

    The old cinema that had been turned into bowling alley on Academy is a pretty interesting case of densification that some in the neighbourhood are upset about. Since the bowling alley shut down, it’s been proposed to be main floor retail, some commercial office space on second and 23 rental units (with elevator, so accessible) while maintaining heritage elements of the building. Predictably, the objections revolved around parking. 

    Anyway, I don’t think reasonable infill condos (which seem to sell, regardless) are mutually exclusive to building affordable housing in the rest of the city. 

    Aristotleded24

    Timebandit wrote:
    I don’t think reasonable infill condos (which seem to sell, regardless) are mutually exclusive to building affordable housing in the rest of the city.

    They're only selling because people can access the credit needed to buy those things, and so their debts go up with the hope of maybe being able to make money off of it when they sell. If the market tanks, what happens then?

    There is an inherent conflict between building market-priced condos and affordable housing. For one, a spot you build a condo on is obviously a spot that won't have affordable housing. The second issue is that the policy makers are encouraging condos because there is a great deal of money to be made off of them, from real estate to management to condo fees and everything. Even the NDP government that was thrown out 3 years ago, supposedly a party of the working class, failed to build enough affordable housing units to keep up with demand not just in Winnipeg but throughout the province.

    Besides, the argument about building more condos increasing supply, or the idea that it will encourage more seniors to downsize and thus free up houses for people to buy (as if that does anything for people for whom home ownership is not an option) is a market-based argument that I thought lefties were supposed to be skeptical of. Let's instead take back the housing market and make it serve us. Mandate that affordable and accessible housing needs to be built.