Courtyard 33 | 22m | 6s | RNDSQR | 5468796 Architecture

Alex_YYC

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From a technicality standpoint, maybe RNDSQR was fortunate, but from a big picture point of view, many others including the Marda Loop area should feel fortunate. IMO it's a good development, and one that the city needs more of. The city is preaching better density and more walkable communities, and sometimes the rules need to be bent a bit in order for things to happen. Maybe the MU-2 requirements aren't realistic for this day and age, and current situation? It's only my opinion, but I think ARPs and zoning regs are good for guidelines but often developments (particularly those on a retail corridors) should be taken on a case by case scenario. It's similar to why we have judges. The law is what it is, but a human judgment can vary depending on the circumstances.

Based on my reading of the SDAB decision I would say that RNDSQR should feel very, very fortunate. The decision appears to completely gloss over how a set of simplified plans, containing no dimensions, attached as a schedule to a Direct Control bylaw that provides except as otherwise specified the rules of MU-2 apply, can be taken as specifying that various MU-2 requirements (eg. minimum MF ceiling height, minimum balcony dimensions, etc.) do not need to be complied with, or that Council's intention was to exempt the proposed development from having to comply with various MU-2 requirements. Council would have had no way of knowing that the proposed development did not fully comply with any MU-2 requirements other than those specifically addressed in the text of the Direct Control bylaw. In my opinion the correct result would have been a determination that the proposed development was approved as a permitted use with relaxations and therefore the appeal should have proceeded to a merits hearing to determine whether the proposed development unduly interferes with the amenities of the neighbourhood or materially interferes with or affects the use, enjoyment or value of neighbouring properties as per Section 31 LUB. I would also point out that Council's approval of a Direct Control bylaw in this situation, where the proposed development could have easily been approved under the standard MU-2 land use district with a few relaxations, is in direct contravention of Section 20 LUB.
 

haltcatchfire

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Based on my reading of the SDAB decision I would say that RNDSQR should feel very, very fortunate. The decision appears to completely gloss over how a set of simplified plans, containing no dimensions, attached as a schedule to a Direct Control bylaw that provides except as otherwise specified the rules of MU-2 apply, can be taken as specifying that various MU-2 requirements (eg. minimum MF ceiling height, minimum balcony dimensions, etc.) do not need to be complied with, or that Council's intention was to exempt the proposed development from having to comply with various MU-2 requirements. Council would have had no way of knowing that the proposed development did not fully comply with any MU-2 requirements other than those specifically addressed in the text of the Direct Control bylaw. In my opinion the correct result would have been a determination that the proposed development was approved as a permitted use with relaxations and therefore the appeal should have proceeded to a merits hearing to determine whether the proposed development unduly interferes with the amenities of the neighbourhood or materially interferes with or affects the use, enjoyment or value of neighbouring properties as per Section 31 LUB. I would also point out that Council's approval of a Direct Control bylaw in this situation, where the proposed development could have easily been approved under the standard MU-2 land use district with a few relaxations, is in direct contravention of Section 20 LUB.
This runon paragraph is an exact example of why it takes so long to get anything through this City’s approval system and because so, most developers force their Architects to produce the safest design possible to minimize the headache. To them, the only thing worth fighting for is sellable/rentable unit count by way of height.
 

DougR

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From a technicality standpoint, maybe RNDSQR was fortunate, but from a big picture point of view, many others including the Marda Loop area should feel fortunate. IMO it's a good development, and one that the city needs more of. The city is preaching better density and more walkable communities, and sometimes the rules need to be bent a bit in order for things to happen. Maybe the MU-2 requirements aren't realistic for this day and age, and current situation? It's only my opinion, but I think ARPs and zoning regs are good for guidelines but often developments (particularly those on a retail corridors) should be taken on a case by case scenario. It's similar to why we have judges. The law is what it is, but a human judgment can vary depending on the circumstances.
Except in this case the land use redesignation application was specifically designed to PREVENT the merits of the development permit application from being assessed by "judges" (in this case the SDAB). If both the City and the developer were confident that it was "a good development", then why were they so concerned about it not being able to withstand an independent assessment on its merits?
 

DougR

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Time will tell to what extent Courtyard33 turns out to be "a good development", or any better than any of the other mixed-use developments being built in Marda Loop and elsewhere in Calgary these days. The 2nd storey courtyard area may become a great "hidden" public space, or it may end up a dead, lifeless space that no one wants to bother climbing up to. The sidewalk area along 33 AV SW below the cantilivered front facade may become a comfortable, sheltered public space, or it may end up feeling dark and closed-in. The windows and balconies of upper storey units that overlook the courtyard may provide the comfort of "eyes on the street", or the occupants of those units may end up keeping their blinds drawn at all times for privacy from prying eyes in or across the courtyard. The angle-walled balconies may be funky-looking from the street, but may prove to be largely unusable other than for storing excess junk. I have yet to see any floorplans for individual units, so I have no idea how functional their layouts will be. My understanding is that there won't be any larger (eg. 3-bedroom) family-oriented units. We'll just have to wait and see how it turns out, and what impact it has on the surrounding area.
 

haltcatchfire

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That may be a touch harsh. While we probably don’t feel the same about many items, DougR has been respectfully partaking in the discussion on this project here and has been providing thoughtful input from the community resident side.

Unlike Astraya who came in looking for an argument. I save my arguing for SSP.
 

Alex_YYC

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Except in this case the land use redesignation application was specifically designed to PREVENT the merits of the development permit application from being assessed by "judges" (in this case the SDAB). If both the City and the developer were confident that it was "a good development", then why were they so concerned about it not being able to withstand an independent assessment on its merits?
But the city was also a judge in this case. The problem with the SDAB is they will focus on the technicality regulation side of it more and less looking at the big picture. I know that the developer probably used the LU as a way to sidestep it, as you mentioned, and maybe its merits wouldn't have withstood the SDAB, but the SDAB isn't the be all end all for deciding what's good for the city or a neighborhood, but more of a group making interpretations of regulations.
 

Alex_YYC

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I think it'll be a good development just based on what it'll bring to the area. Retail and 70 residential units, and fro the renderings, something that will look good and help enhance the feel of the area. Another development of lower height could have done the same thing, and maybe had the same # of units by not have a courtyard. I like this one because the courtyard offers another dimension to the project, and to the retail corridor. Its success will depend on what business or uses it gets, but at least it brings another possibility.

That said having a lower building but the same number of units and retail bays would not have eased the complaints which seem to be mostly about parking and traffic. There has been some mentioning of shadowing by adjacent residents, but the lower height that met with the zoning would not have made much difference. I've lived beside apartments myself, and for me shadowing is not as big an issue as some make it out to be.

Time will tell to what extent Courtyard33 turns out to be "a good development", or any better than any of the other mixed-use developments being built in Marda Loop and elsewhere in Calgary these days. The 2nd storey courtyard area may become a great "hidden" public space, or it may end up a dead, lifeless space that no one wants to bother climbing up to. The sidewalk area along 33 AV SW below the cantilivered front facade may become a comfortable, sheltered public space, or it may end up feeling dark and closed-in. The windows and balconies of upper storey units that overlook the courtyard may provide the comfort of "eyes on the street", or the occupants of those units may end up keeping their blinds drawn at all times for privacy from prying eyes in or across the courtyard. The angle-walled balconies may be funky-looking from the street, but may prove to be largely unusable other than for storing excess junk. I have yet to see any floorplans for individual units, so I have no idea how functional their layouts will be. My understanding is that there won't be any larger (eg. 3-bedroom) family-oriented units. We'll just have to wait and see how it turns out, and what impact it has on the surrounding area.
 

DougR

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Alex_YYC post: 1419128 said:
But the city was also a judge in this case. The problem with the SDAB is they will focus on the technicality regulation side of it more and less looking at the big picture. I know that the developer probably used the LU as a way to sidestep it, as you mentioned, and maybe its merits wouldn't have withstood the SDAB, but the SDAB isn't the be all end all for deciding what's good for the city or a neighborhood, but more of a group making interpretations of regulations.
I agree that the City acted as "judge" in this case, but they were not an independent judge. When the Provincial Government set up the DP approval process they recognized that municipalities lacked independence on these issues, which is why they provided the opportunity for DP approvals to be appealed to an independent tribunal, the SDAB. Giving the City final say on DP approvals, as was effectively the case here, would be somewhat analogous to giving the prosecutor's office final say on criminal convictions.
I am not inclined to agree that the SDAB is merely a group making interpretions of regulations. In making their decisions they are also required to apply good planning principles. Having said that, I agree that they could do better.
 

Cowtown

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I get the idea of having an independent body, and in theory it makes sense, but does it really help in the end? If you can't trust the city to make the right decisions, can the SDAB also be trusted any more than the city to apply good planning principals? I would hate to see this project get kiboshed simply because a ruling body, said 'nope, it over the height, we're not going to approve it' I don't know the system, so I'm not an expert, but I get the impression the SDAB is more focused on the individual project in front of them and not long term plans for the city or the neighborhood.
 

DougR

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I get the idea of having an independent body, and in theory it makes sense, but does it really help in the end? If you can't trust the city to make the right decisions, can the SDAB also be trusted any more than the city to apply good planning principals? I would hate to see this project get kiboshed simply because a ruling body, said 'nope, it over the height, we're not going to approve it' I don't know the system, so I'm not an expert, but I get the impression the SDAB is more focused on the individual project in front of them and not long term plans for the city or the neighborhood.
I wish the City was more focused on the long term plans for the city and its neighbourhoods, instead of just reacting to individual projects! As Chair of an inner city CA's Development Committee I saw lots of current opportunities to make our community denser, more complete and more walkable, including a wider variety of housing options (both types and price points) suitable to a wider cross-section of prospective buyers/renters, more shops, services and other amenities, and a better public realm. Our ARP was reasonably forward-looking when it was created back in 1986, and is still largely responsible for the significant population growth in our community over the past 10 years (well beyond the MDP's most ambitious growth targets for established communities), but in 33 years it has never been updated other than to accomodate the odd specific project. As a result, and not surprisingly, it fails to recognize many of those current opportunities. For 10 years we pleaded with the City for the old ARP to be updated to create a new vision for our community that would take better advantage of these new opportunities, be even more compliant with the MDP, and help to prepare our existing and prospective residents and businesses for what is to come. We pointed out that, with all the redevelopment activity taking place in our community, the window of opportunity to avoid us ending up as little more than a "sea of 2- and 3-storey semis" and a "DINK ghetto" was rapidly closing. We asked the City to provide us with a population growth "budget" that would tell us how much population growth they felt our community should absorb as part of this current redevelopment "wave", and then let our community have a say as to how and where we felt it would be most appropriate for that population growth to be absorbed. Crickets. When a new community is developed a master plan is put in place so that prospective buyers know with reasonable certainty what will be built where on that vast, empty patch of land. Without that assurance and that understanding of what the vision is for the new community, many would be reluctant to buy. When an established community is to be redeveloped the existing and prospective residents and businesses in that community deserve to have input into, and be provided with, a similar understanding of what the new vision is for the redeveloped community, and to be consulted if the City decides for whatever reason that vision needs to change mid-stream. And new projects should be expected to be consistent with that vision.
 
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Mountain Man

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Time will tell to what extent Courtyard33 turns out to be "a good development", or any better than any of the other mixed-use developments being built in Marda Loop and elsewhere in Calgary these days. The 2nd storey courtyard area may become a great "hidden" public space, or it may end up a dead, lifeless space that no one wants to bother climbing up to. The sidewalk area along 33 AV SW below the cantilivered front facade may become a comfortable, sheltered public space, or it may end up feeling dark and closed-in. The windows and balconies of upper storey units that overlook the courtyard may provide the comfort of "eyes on the street", or the occupants of those units may end up keeping their blinds drawn at all times for privacy from prying eyes in or across the courtyard. The angle-walled balconies may be funky-looking from the street, but may prove to be largely unusable other than for storing excess junk. I have yet to see any floorplans for individual units, so I have no idea how functional their layouts will be. My understanding is that there won't be any larger (eg. 3-bedroom) family-oriented units. We'll just have to wait and see how it turns out, and what impact it has on the surrounding area.
Fair points Doug, the end result likely won't be as the developer envisions it, but we have to let them try, the community certainly won't be any worse off for it. I like the vision for this project and I commend them for thinking outside the box. The lack of 3 bedrooms units likely come from the fact that most developers have a very hard time selling them, everyone wants them there so that there are more families and all that, but nobody ends up buying them. As for the courtyard, you are probably right, I bet it will not be super busy like they hope it will, but I don't think that's a negative for the community, especially considering that most developments just maximize saleable area and don't try to include the greater community. There are some aspects of the development that were perhaps oversold a bit, but there still isn't a negative to the community that I can see.
 

UrbanWarrior

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Amazing update set. Thanks man!
 
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