Farhi Developments high rise overcomes heritage concerns

One of London’s oldest streetscapes could soon include one of the region’s tallest buildings.

On Monday, city hall’s Planning and Environment Committee considered a rezoning application by Farhi Developments to build a 40-storey high rise at 435-452 Ridout Street that would include 280 residential units, commercial, and office space.

The tower would be located immediately behind ‘Banker’s Row’, a series of yellow-brick buildings dating back to 1838 that originally housed five bank headquarters.

It’s one of four National Historic Sites in London.

The building would be next door to Eldon House (1834), the city’s oldest residence, and overlook Harris Park and the Forks of the Thames.

“Look at it from an objective point of view,” said Committee Chair Phil Squire. “I’m trying very hard to do that, while also understanding the concerns of the heritage community.”

More than fifty people submitted letters to the committee, objecting to the location and scale of the development.

“All the surface parking that is available downtown, to have the highest building developed on a flood plain and in a heritage district, makes me question (the proposal),” Councillor Anna Hopkins told her colleagues on the planning committee.

Farhi Developments maintains that all heritage concerns raised by the city have been addressed by the current design.

Councillor Steve Lehman emphasized that no historic buildings will be torn down, “The heritage properties will be protected, yes they will be close to new development.”

City staff recommend approval of the rezoning because the development meets the criteria laid out in The London Plan to encourage density downtown.

Despite the property’s proximity to the flood plain, the Upper Thames Valley Conservation Authority has also approved the building design, albeit with a number of conditions.

“To really effectively bring back our downtown and bring back the vibrancy that it used to have, means having people live downtown,” said Councillor Shawn Lewis.

Ultimately, the committee voted 4 to 1, Hopkins opposed, to support the rezoning.

Several councillors, including Squire, predicted another lengthy debate before city council makes a final decision on June 15.

“Matters that are very important to the city, which this is, will get a full vetting at council.”