Old Quebec: make room for new families? Not so easy!
The real estate project at 8 McWilliam Street, in the historic district of Old Quebec, is a compromise. Not only does it respect the urban fabric of the sector, but it aims to welcome a hundred new residents in a neighborhood that has been struggling for too long.
For several months, a group of citizens, who live mostly in front of McWilliam islet and who say from the outset that the project will cause them inconvenience whatever the height, increases the pressure to block a project that is nevertheless born of a process of consultation and reflection.
In fact, after three years of design work with the Quebec City Planning and Conservation Commission and the Ministry of Culture, the many requirements and recommendations were put in place and the project was hailed by the all of these stakeholders. Even before filing the first draft, a study was conducted to determine the impact that a six-storey building would have on the luminosity and visual breakthroughs of neighboring buildings.
In other words, the first version of the project was, from the start, a reflection conducted in the interest of residents of the neighborhood.
In addition, these studies show that the addition of a fifth floor will have almost no impact on the sunshine and visual breakthroughs of neighboring buildings, because this fifth floor is located in the attic of the building.
Given the concerns raised by some citizens, the plans were redone to find a solution to take into account their concerns, and not to compromise the viability of the project. The result was to reduce the number of storeys to five, to obtain a building height of 18 meters calculated at the top of the roof (the highest point). This adjustment was made with the goal that the project be accepted by the residents of Old Quebec. In total, the project has been revisited more than six times to meet the expectations of all parties.
The integration of this project in the community of Old Quebec and its unique architecture was at the heart of the concerns during its design. To achieve this, the building will be built with the highest quality materials, respectful of the architectural heritage of Old Quebec, and will have the effect, we believe, to enhance the neighboring buildings.
Contrary to what some local residents have written, the project, in its current form, fits into its immediate environment. The architecture has been specifically designed to ensure that at ground level, the building gives the impression of having a height of four floors (thirteen meters). Indeed, thanks to the sloping roof, the fifth floor is invisible to the eyes of the walker and does not affect the integrity of the landscape nor the brightness for the neighbors.
This means that the real impact of this project is the same as that of a thirteen-meter flat-roofed building, which is permitted by current zoning. It should also be specified that seven of the fifteen surrounding buildings, several of which house the dwellings of protesting residents, have a height which exceeds that established by the by-law of which the same protesting residents require full application.
The question arises: how can we attract new residents to the historic district when we do not compromise on the establishment of a viable project linking the economic and aesthetic aspects?
As such, the man who nominated Quebec for his UNESCO ranking, Serge Viau, wrote in Le Soleil to publicly support the project as it was presented, seeing it as a compromise. quite acceptable. As pointed out by the one who has been a manager at the Ville de Québec for several years, and who has led several projects in urban planning, it is important to strike a balance between architecture and viability, in order to obtain projects that are well integrated with their environment.
The project presented to the City is located on this point of balance.
It is therefore misleading to argue that a zoning change would set a precedent for other developers interested in building higher in Old Quebec. The exemption from the zoning by-law sought is intended to apply only to the construction plan that has been submitted to the City, and to it alone. This means that a five-storey building could not be built in another form than the one already approved.
As Mr. Viau correctly pointed out, the proposal by the City of Quebec to submit a construction plan is the ideal solution since it constitutes a guarantee that the zoning derogation applies only to the project that has been submitted. .
The change is scary. Unfortunately, the unfounded fears of some residents who view this residential project in a negative light, regardless of their height, could compromise the construction of a quality and harmonious building to make way for a project that complies with regulation, will bear the marks of the constraints of profitability and will not have the effect of increasing the value of this historic district.
The soul of a neighborhood comes from those who reside there; otherwise, it is little more than a tourist attraction park. When analyzing what is most likely to protect the historic heritage of Old Québec, an objective analysis of the facts should lead to the conclusion that the arrival of one hundred new residents living in a high-quality building whose visual impacts are, in addition to its very existence, almost nonexistent, should supplant the fear that some residents maintain that a precedent is created and give way to a hypothetically undesirable project.
It must be reasonable, the historical heritage, it is shared.
Local information matters to me and I want to participate in the future of my life.