A new multi-use development proposal in Chinatown for a space that would include an Asian-oriented grocery store and 75 rental apartments will bring much needed business to an area that is often overlooked by consumers, says Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes.
Veronica Tang, Centretown News
Developers want to get rid of this parking lot at the corner of Somerset and LeBreton streets and build a nine-storey complex to attract more people to Chinatown.
Developer DCR Phoenix has targeted the corner of Somerset and Lebreton streets, an area currently a parking lot, as the location for a proposed nine-storey building.
The proposal also includes an Asian restaurant to be built alongside the grocery and apartments.
Holmes says the area’s businesses will benefit with the parking lot gone.
“For a retail street like Somerset, it’s very bad for business to have huge empty spaces. This is a very good development for the area,” she says.
According to DCR Phoenix’s planning report, the grocery store will encompass 1,175 square metres of the building’s main floor. The proposed space is larger than the Kowloon Market, located a few blocks east on the corner of Somerset and Arthur streets.
Holmes sees an opportunity for growth – instead of greater competition – and a wider range of service to an area that has been relatively barren of grocery stores since the Booth Street Loeb closed back in 2006.
“The more markets you have in one general area, the more people will come,” she says. “And competition comes more from T & T Supermarket in the south end. It draws business away from Chinatown. I think having two markets on the same street will benefit both by attracting more people to the area.”
Holmes says there was a similar development plan for the corner in place for the past five years but it fizzled out before any progress could be made.
This current proposal, which has made it further than any in the past, is two to three storeys higher than the earlier plans, which could potentially delay and completely derail the process.
Because of the added height, DCR Phoenix, who did not return phone calls for a comment, has applied for a re-zoning of the parking lot. The developer is attempting to double the area’s current height restriction from 16 metres to 32 metres, a decision Holmes and city council is only prepared to make once they get a good sense of what the community wants.
“It’s still too early to tell what the community feels about the added height,” Holmes says. “But it does make the development more viable and I think they’ll see the business advantages. We’ll have to wait and hear from community members though.”
Planners at DCR Phoenix think they are just pressing forward with the natural progression of the area.
“Being first to redevelop an underutilized site along this section of Chinatown’s main street, great care has been taken to design the building to enhance the neighbourhood, while maintaining compatibility with its surroundings,” the proposal states.
“Over time, it is expected that this section of Somerset will intensify, with greater heights and densities than are seen today.”
Although city council will hold off their decision for at least a few more months – a more accurate timeline has yet to be determined – some members of the community are hoping everything gets approved quickly.
“I really hope the building goes up as fast as possible,” says Ken Pei, who lives only a few minutes’ walk from the site.
“We only have one car so sometimes it’s difficult for my wife to get groceries.
"It also means we won’t have to look at that empty parking lot any-more. I think the rest of the community will see this building as a good thing for the area.”