Looks may not be everything, but the City of London believes they still count for something—especially when it comes to the corner of Huron Street and Audrey Avenue.
The site currently hosts three tall dwellings known colloquially as the “towers of spite” due to the contention surrounding their construction.
On May 28, the city’s planning and environment committee denied a request from developer Arnon Kaplansky to add a fourth townhouse to the area, instructing him to come up with a design that was more aesthetically pleasing.
“I’m trying to give good accommodations to students close to the university, and it’s been a long fight,” Kaplansky said. “What I told them on Monday is that the neighbourhood association and the city planning department are using the planning tools to discriminate against students.”
Kaplansky has been trying for years to build a multi-unit dwelling for student use, and built the three original towers after having such a proposal rejected. In October 2011, the city rejected his proposal to tear down and replace the towers with a 56-bedroom unit.
However, Marie Blosh, president of the Broughdale Community Association, said her organization was mostly concerned about over-intensification.
“The issue comes down to density or design,” Blosh said. “The impacts the neighbourhood would suffer from over-intensification on that property are worse than having to look at an ugly design.”
Bud Polhill, Ward 1 councillor and chair of the planning and environment committee, said the city sent back the proposal because they wanted to see a more creative plan for the area.
“I wouldn’t have supported it strictly because of the appearance of the buildings—it just doesn’t fit,” he said. “Kaplansky wanted to build some townhouses, and the neighbours said no. We want to see if there’s some compromise they can come to that’s going to make that corner look more presentable without over-intensifying it.”
Kaplansky, however, emphasized his proposal was about creating decent housing for students.
“Students should live safely in good housing—not old houses that were designed for families and not for students.”
Polhill admitted he was exasperated with the situation, and wanted the two sides to come to an agreement.
“I just think this has been going on long enough, and hopefully we can come up with some sort of solution that satisfies everybody to a point,” Polhill said. “Because nobody is ever going to be 100 per cent happy with this.”