EDMONTON — Edmonton city council voted in favour of rezoning a piece of land in Old Strathcona to allow for a new high-rise development.
At 16 stories high, The Mezzo will be the tallest building in the immediate vicinity of Whyte Avenue. It will be located on the corner of 105 Street and 81 Avenue.
Before this approval, only six stories were allowed in the area. The Mezzo will be home to commercial space and housing, including some affordable housing.
Eyesore no longer: development plans released on empty Whyte Avenue lot
Potential sale of parking lot land concerns Whyte Avenue businesses, customers
‘It’s disappointing’: Old Strathcona business owner on demolition of 116-year-old building
City administration had recommended city council reject the proposal. The main concern was the height and mass of the building.
“No doubt it’s a big change to the skyline, but it’s pushed away from Whyte Avenue so the street itself—as you walk up and down it—will still have much the same feeling as it does today,” Mayor Don Iveson, who voted in favour of the development, said.
“While this is not perfect in all respects, there are some exceptionally strong elements to the proposal,” Iveson said, citing the retail space and affordable housing.
“Developers made a number of concessions that I think are net positive to the community that, in my mind, balance out height.”
READ MORE: Developer behind Whyte Avenue tower project hoping for green light
Councillors Ben Henderson, Andrew Knack and Scott McKeen were the only three to vote against the proposal.
Henderson did not hold back his feelings on the approval of the project.
“I’m really angry,” he said. “I don’t understand why we do planning if we’re just going to ignore it for these one-off things.
“I think we have really, seriously undermined everything that makes Whyte Avenue work.”
Henderson said the neighbourhood has been a huge success story when it comes to densification and the decision by city council contradicts that.
“I think we’re seduced by tall. We’ve fallen for the fashion that the only way to do density is by height,” Henderson said.
“If we just end up with one homogenized thing that is unfriendly to people then the density we’re looking for will never happen.”
Some area residents previously voiced concern with the height of the building, worried it would ruin the feel of Old Strathcona.
There was also concern that if one developer got the go-ahead for a high-rise, other developers would want to do the same.
“I was crystal clear today that anybody else who would be looking for this kind of height in a situation like this in a neighbourhood would have to have exceptionally good treatment of the podium and the public realm at the street level, as well as the inclusion of some of the kinds of amenities—particularly affordable housing—that we saw here,” Iveson said.
Several other positive impacts of the building were discussed by council Wednesday morning, including bringing people to the area, helping deal with the city’s growth and stopping urban sprawl.
“Those additional people, that additional traffic is good for the neighbourhood, is good for business, is good for vibrancy, good for safety and eyes on the street,” Iveson said.
The developer of the project, WestOak Developments, previously said it tried to accommodate the opposition by lowering the tower to 16 stories from its original 20.
The developer also plans to preserve the character of the neighbourhood by building an Edwardian-style façade.
READ MORE: High-rise proposals in Old Strathcona raise concerns for residents
The site will have to be rezoned in order for the project to be built.