Council hears plans for no high-rise on Central Green

As more details from the Central Green development become clearer, council says their concerns continue to grow.

Since the master plan was developed back in 2015, the expectation has been for high rise residential towers to be built on Central Green, near the corner of Harvey and Richter.

But as development permits got approved for both condo and rental apartment units, council became increasingly skeptical, as the buildings were topping out at five storeys.

That came to a head on Monday, when council was told that soil conditions make it infeasible to build a towering, iconic high-rise.

Bob Daigenais from Al Stober Construction told council that because of the soil, a double digit-storey building would require costly pile foundations that the company isn't currently prepared to go forward with.

"Had the original development permit taken into consideration the soil conditions of the site - which would have been very premature - but, had that been taken into account, a tower could have never been put there," he said.

"Just because you want a tower doesn't necessarily mean you can actually build a tower, reasonably."

Councillor Brad Sieben says that's news to him and his colleagues.

"Every step along the way on this site, it has been the notion of - it's (building height is) coming, it's coming. Just do this now, and you'll get it somewhere else. And what we've discovered is, that isn't likely to be the case," he said.

"So much to the point that even our staff, at the beginning of this presentation, was hopeful that the height and the density was going to come on the site."

Daigenais says the updated plan would still bring the same housing density to the site, and feature smaller five-storey buildings.

As a result, Sieben successfully carried out a plan to defer a decision on the latest 5-storey apartment complex, until developers and city staff could meet further about the big change in design.

He says just like council, staff had expressed its expectation that those high-rises were coming eventually.

"Perhaps they (staff) thought they were going to get it (building height) on the next phase, but I think they need to have that discussion now," he said.

"From a form and character standpoint, it doesn't dazzle me. I think it's fairly utilitarian, and I thought it was to set up for the modern, urban, higher density thing. But I don't think it is. I think our staff needs to discuss this now, knowing that the game's changed."

Several colleagues agreed with Sieben about the design of the smaller buildings, which were described as underwhelming.

When the plans come back to council, there'll likely be more scrutiny, as Councillors Maxine DeHart and Luke Stack were absent, along with Mayor Colin Basran.

Councillor Charlie Hodge voted against the deferral, while Sieben, Mohini Singh, Gail Given, Ryan Donn, and Tracy Gray voted in favour.