An application to rezone 96 and 100 Water St., which includes the heritage building known as the former Breakwater Books building, received several recommendations from council at the regular meeting Monday evening.
Roebothan McKay Marshall Accident and Injury Law is proposing a mixed-use building with three levels of parking, retail space, two levels of office space, three levels of residential units, and a section of the building dedicated to a National War Memorial museum (the national historic site is located adjacent to the proposed development).
The building would be eight storeys on Water Street and six storeys on Duckworth Street.
While council seemed generally in favour of a development in the location — a large part of which has sat vacant after a fire several years ago — council has many recommendations for the developer.
The design of the building is recommended to be modified to increase the amount of brick used, and decrease the amount of glass.
The Built Heritage Experts Panel recommended a comprehensive engineering study be done to ensure the protection of the Water Street-facing façade of the heritage building.
During Monday’s meeting, Coun. Ian Froude motioned for further engineering details about the structural integrity of the heritage building be requested in the land use assessment report to see if it is possible that more than the façade of the building can be saved.
Froude said the amendment wouldn’t mandate that the developer salvage more than the façade of the building — they can propose whatever they wish — but he would like the information to inform his decision of whether or not to approve the development when it comes time to make the final decision.
Councillors Debbie Hanlon, Jamie Korab and Wally Collins voted against Froude’s amendment, while everyone else voted in favour, so it passed. Mayor Danny Breen was absent from the meeting, so he did not vote.
Other recommendations council is making to the developer include a requirement for consultation with Heritage NL, the NL Historic Trust and the Royal Canadian Legion.
Council also will ask the developer to refer the application to Parks Canada to determine if the development would affect the designation of the National War Memorial’s status as a national historic site.
The application will be referred to a public meeting before council makes a decision on whether or not to approve the proposal.
Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary called it a complex process, but added it’s very important to have these stakeholder discussions early.
“There’s been a hole in the ground there for way too long,” said Coun. Jamie Korab, who added he’s happy to see a proposal come forward for the area.
However, he said the size of the proposal is too large, and he hopes the applicant can reduce the floor-area ratio (the ratio of total floor area to the size of the piece of land).
“It’s a mite too big,” agreed Coun. Wally Collins.
Coun. Sandy Hickman said most of council was delighted to see a proposed project for the area, and while he would like to see as much of the heritage structure salvaged as possible, he is concerned council’s recommendations may constrain the development.
Coun. Hope Jamieson said it’s important to balance the viability of proposals with heritage considerations.
Chief municipal planner Ken O’Brien, in response to a question from Hanlon, said the developer is aware of the recommendations put forward by staff.
The motion passed with all but Hickman voting in favour.