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Rygar Properties now has two major highrise projects approved for downtown London, after a city committee meeting Monday.
But politicians are asking whether it can build them both. If not, the city may be left with a gaping hole in its downtown.
The city’s planning and environment committee meeting Monday wrestled with how it can approve demolition of 150 Dundas St. for a 200-unit highrise proposed by Rygar Properties. Rygar also has a massive, 700-unit, multi-tower development planned for Talbot Street on the former Camden Terrace site it has not yet started to build.
Two massive projects is a tall order for any developer, but especially one with no track record of building residential highrises.
“The applicant has two applications before us. Can they be done concurrently? The risk is if we approve this, does it get built?” said Coun. Stephen Turner.
“The challenge is how quickly will the building be in place? To not have a gap on the streetscape is of paramount importance.”
Turner referred to a building demolished on Queens Avenue for a proposed highrise several years ago, and it is still a parking lot.
“I’d like to see how they will do this and not jeopardize other projects.”
The fear among politicians and some in the community, is if one project starts it may be years before the other does. If the Dundas Street project is on hold after demolition, it will leave a vacant lot in the core.
“I would imagine most in London don’t want to see a vacant lot,” said Kelley McKeating, a member of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, who spoke against the height and scale of the Dundas Street tower.
“You don’t want to see an eyesore of a missing tooth,” on the Dundas streetscape, she added.
“If you want to buy two houses, the bank would take into account whether you could afford both of them. Unfortunately, the municipality can’t do the same thing.
We should not let them tear down a building unless you can prove you can afford to do what you want to do.”
Camden Terrace was torn down by Rygar nine months ago, and construction has not started, she added.
But John Rodgers, Rygar president, said after the meeting the two projects are separate, and he can build them both.
“You look at them as independent projects. This will not deter us from the Talbot Street site,” said Rodgers.
He will apply for a building permit for Camden Terrace in about two months, after demolition and soil remediation is complete, he added.
“It is not as complex as you think. We can run two groups,” he said of building at the same time. “In terms of financing they each have to stand on their own merits and we think these will.”
But he will need private-sector financing for two major developments, a tall order.
“I’m pleased and optimistic about these opportunities,” he added.
Planning staff made it clear to politicians it cannot force any builder to build on a site.
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