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Aldershot GO Station Growth area unveiled, but where’s the grocery store?

Aldershot GO Station Growth area unveiled, but where’s the grocery store?

It’s one of the most frequently asked questions. Will all the planned and proposed development for Aldershot eventually lead to a new grocery store.

“That’s really where the rubber hits the road isn’t it”, according to City Planner Alison Enns who spoke at this week’s virtual public meeting revealing the latest ideas for Aldershot’s new Major Transit Station Area (MTSA).

The updated plan for the growth area around the GO Station identifies opportunities for retail and commercial services, but it is still too early in the process to be specific about a grocery store.

“We are really at this high level state…..We’re studying the precincts that will inform the specific plan…….When we start talking policy we can start talking about what are the kinds of features that we need to have in place in terms of policies that support the location of the right kinds of retail amenities, food stores and such”, said Enns.

Later in the meeting another City planner was a little more specific.

“To ensure functional retail and commercial spaces are created, a wide range of policy approaches and tools will be considered and explored, including but not limited to establishing minimum floor heights for ground floor buildings and considering a minimum unit size”.

The latest proposal, known as the Preferred Precinct Plan, goes so far as to assign the  neighbourhood around the GO Station the label “Aldershot Corners”.

“The name Aldershot Corners is an historical nod to the Aldershot corners at Plains and Waterdown……..Aldershot Corners will be a vibrant, livable community with urban shopping and dining opportunities serving those living and working close by”.

The Preferred Plan is not final. It remains subject to change. This week’s public meeting was an opportunity for staff to gather public input before seeking Council’s endorsement in December.

The Plan, which may take decades to fullfil, calls for the area to be divided into five precincts.

Planner Sam Romelewski summarized the five areas pointing out that the tallest buildings will be concentrated along the rail line with heights decreasing as buildings get closer to Plains Road and nearby low-density residential areas. All the precincts are to have appropriate walking and cycling connections, green spaces, public service facilities and several will include affordable housing.

Perhaps the most interesting and newest of the five proposed precincts is the Cooke Commons Precinct which runs along Cooke Boulevard. If the planners have their way, it could be special.

“This precinct will serve as a unique dining and retail destination leading to the GO Station with a focus on creating a comfortable and vibrant pedestrian environment…… A flexible street is also being considered to provide opportunities for a community gathering space and the potential for special events. Mixed use buildings will contribute toward a lively, vibrant and people-oriented place”.

Building heights along the west side of Cooke Boulevard could be as high as nineteen storeys. On the east side, heights will be six to eleven storeys in order to protect the adjacent low-density neighbourhood.

The Aldershot Main Street Precinct runs along Plains Road from Howard Road to east of St. Matthew’s Avenue. Building heights could be up to eleven storeys but as low as six adjacent to low rise residential areas.

“This precinct will advance the Plains Road Village Vision and establish a unique community destination. The policies for this precinct will focus on a continuous retail frontage and main street pedestrian experience. Buildings will have a lower building form and design at the street level to create a more pedestrian scale environment”, said Romelewski.

The Emery Commons Precinct is south of Masonry Court along both sides of Emery Avenue, west of Waterdown Road. It is expected to accommodate residential, retail, employment and commercial uses with building heights up to nineteen storeys.

The Aldershot GO Central Precinct is closest to the Go Station on both sides of Waterdown Road, north and south of the rail line. Building heights up to 30 storeys would be permitted.

“This precinct will be the preeminent destination for major office, affordable housing and urban format retail”.

The Mid Rise Residential Precinct would be located on the east and west edges of the MTSA, including the existing Drewlo apartment buildings. It would permit heights up to eleven storeys along Plains Road West and Howard Road as well as along the rail line west of Grove Park. It “will have a key role in providing transition to low rise residential development and communities”.

It was reported that 75 people participated in the virtual public meeting. Fourteen questions were answered during the night. One answer confirmed that there are no plans to extend Clearview or St Matthew’s Avenue through to Masonry Court, although pedestrian and cycling access is expected.

Two callers asked for some assurance that the City will guarantee the height limits despite the fact that current developer proposals call for heights greater than suggested in the proposed plan. Staff could not provide that assurance noting that the Aldershot Corners plan is about the future, not about current development proposals which must be adjudicated under existing rules.

A survey at the end of the meeting revealed that 54 % of those participating strongly liked or somewhat liked what they heard. Another 34% somewhat or strongly disliked the plan.

Councillor Kelvin Galbraith concluded that the meeting went well. “I think the Planners did a great job. By looking at the polling and the questions, most people supported all of the decisions. They thought they were on the right track”.

Rick Craven

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