Developer Amacon is reaching for the sky.
At a public meeting on Thursday, it told residents that it wants to build two 25-storey towers and one 20-storey tower on the former Grandin mall site in downtown St. Albert.
For that it needs council’s approval, which includes prior consultation with the public and city administration.
But Mark Reid, an urban designer who works for Amacon, said the developer wants to go forward with “a really good development scheme.”
“We are optimistic that we are making the right kind of changes that are right for this community,” he said.
Amacon purchased the 3.9-hectare site in 2007.
The city later approved Amacon for five 19-storey buildings of 70 metres in height along Sir Winston Churchill Avenue, with four-storey buildings toward the back of the site.
But earlier this year, Amacon received council’s go-ahead to raise the height of two four-storey buildings to five storeys. Construction on those buildings is now underway.
Other buildings planned for the site will range from five to nine storeys, with one 14-storey mixed-use building on Grandin Road, said Reid.
But the biggest change will be reducing the number of towers from five to three and raise their height to 20 and 25 storeys, or a maximum of 80 metres in height.
Reid said reducing the number of towers will create a less repetitive building pattern along Sir Winston Churchill. The towers will be slimmer and more spread out, which will allow for more light, improve shadowing, and increase privacy for tenants.
He added that the city now allows for buildings up to 20 storeys, as part of its downtown area redevelopment plan.
“We think this is a significant improvement,” he said.
Amacon wants to create an urban village with a mix of residential and commercial space, including boutique and mom-and-pop shops and a small grocer. It will keep the existing office tower. Most of the former mall has been demolished.
The development is expected to house 1,200 residential units one day, with mostly one- and two-bedroom apartments geared at singles, young families and seniors.
Aside from the building height, the developer also proposes to grow its commercial space by 5,400 square feet to a total of 162,300 square feet, and to reduce shared visitor and commercial parking by about nine per cent.
Residential parking would remain the same, and would be located underground. Reid said the changes will create a “vibrant mixed commercial and residential development.”
He added that St. Albert’s population is expected to grow by at least another 30,000 people by 2044, based on a recent study by city administration.
The downtown is expected to accommodate more than 5,000 people then, and the capital region will ask for more compact residential growth, using less land and infrastructure, he said.
“We feel that our development will create a critical mass of people that will live and work and spend leisure time in the downtown, and really bolster the businesses that are downtown and the vibrancy of downtown,” he said.
The majority of residents at the meeting lamented the noise of construction and time of development rather than the buildings’ heights, as was the case at previous meetings.
Full build-out is expected to take eight to 12 years, pending Alberta’s economy and market demand, said Reid.
He also acknowledged that the company exceeded noise limits during the demolition of the mall but otherwise has worked within the city’s existing noise and construction bylaws.
“I honestly feel for you and again we will do our utmost to manage within the city’s bylaws,” he said.
Residents also asked about parking, which is limited in the downtown.
For now, people can still use the mall’s former parking lot along Sir Winston Churchill Avenue. But once Amacon starts building there, those parking spots will fall away, said Reid.
Residents were told that city administration completed a parking study and will present council with recommendations for improved parking downtown.
The developer also clarified that a traffic impact assessment shows that population growth will not negatively impact roads in the area.
In response to complaints that the developer was not easy to get a hold of, residents were told to contact Simon Taylor, development manager, at 604-602-7700. For more information go to grandinmallredevelopment.com.