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Transformational plan for Lasalle Boulevard furthers long-term vision

This week’s tentative approval of Lasalle Boulevard zoning bylaw changes was a ‘champagne moment’ for the city’s planning department, says planning committee chair and Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan

Imagine a more walkable Lasalle Boulevard with the feel of a downtown core, where parking lots are tucked behind buildings situated close to the curb.

This is the vision behind the Lasalle Boulevard Corridor Plan, whose accompanying zoning bylaw amendment was unanimously approved by the city’s planning committee last week. 

Although the impact of the proposed bylaw changes wouldn’t be fully realized for decades, committee chair and Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan said it’ll be transformational for one of the city’s main arterials.

“Decades from now, you could envision walking down Lasalle and every building is within four metres of their lot line and they’re all covering 60 per cent of their frontage,” Kirwan said. “It’s like you’re walking down a downtown street.”

The bylaw amendment is the “final piece of the puzzle” in a years’-long effort, he said, adding that last week’s meeting was a “champagne moment” for the city’s planning department. 

Although proud to see it reach this stage, senior planner Ed Landry isn’t counting any chickens until they hatch, clarifying to that it still requires city council ratification and the adoption of associated bylaw amendments before it’s a reality. 

Despite the finish line still being a stone’s throw away, Kirwan said he’s confident it will proceed without any hiccups and that this week’s committee approval was a good sign moving forward.

If approved, property owners will soon notice changes in what municipal zoning allows them to do, but Kirwan said the change (mainly toward a C2-special zone) is intended to allow for a broader range of uses than the current “hodgepodge” of zoning along Lasalle Boulevard. 

The project has been years in the making, Landry said, pointing to city council’s 2016 adoption of the Nodes and Corridors Strategy as setting the groundwork for it. 

This strategy, the city reported at the time, “will help revitalize and better connect our downtown, the town centres, strategic core areas and corridors of the city. Such a strategy will help create new and distinctive corridors and town centres, all featuring mixed uses, public realm improvements and public transit.”

One of the nodes and corridors centred on is Lasalle Boulevard (from Notre Dame Avenue to Falconbridge Road), which was featured in the Lasalle Boulevard Corridor Plan and Strategy city council adopted in 2018 and adopted in an Official Plan amendment last year. This strategy joined subsequent public feedback by informing the bylaw changes presented this week. 

“One of the main thrusts of this was to turn Lasalle from a go-through street to a go-to street,” Landry said. “If we have buildings closer to the street it will better activate sidewalks and enforce parking behind buildings.”

Using this direction, the proposed changes will have new builds situated within four metres of the city’s right of way -- a “build-to line” parallel to Lasalle Boulevard. Properties will also be required to have 60 per cent of the front lot occupied by a building. 

Low-density residential builds will be restricted, which Landry said are “better-suited for the neighbourhoods behind Lasalle,” and high-density residential will be encouraged, which he said “will help activate the street” comprised of primarily commercial buildings. 

These changes will occur as existing buildings come down and new buildings take their place. Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland, who also serves on the planning committee, said he’s eager to see how Lasalle Boulevard looks in the coming years.

“We’re refocusing toward being more people-centric in our design of spaces,” he said. “It’s going to be better for multi-modal transportation, you’re going to be able to walk, bike down the street, you don’t have 1,000 feet of parking between you and every shopfront and have to drive between everything.

“It might be a generation before we really see these changes, but it’ll make it into a much more vibrant community street that has a vibrant hub of activity in our city.”

A similar effort under the Nodes and Corridors Strategy is currently underway in Chelmsford, Landry said, and a business case to proceed with the strategy in other areas of the municipality has been put forward for city council to consider during 2022 budget deliberations scheduled to begin later this month.

The original Nodes and Corridors Strategy looked at a seven-year schedule during which one neighbourhood would be tackled at a time.

These nodes and corridors are located throughout the municipality, Kirwan said, noting that there are various places considered “downtowns” outside of the area surrounding Tom Davies Square. 

His hope is that the next target is Notre Dame Avenue, since it carries a wealth of both land “and buildings that have been there for a long time and may be looking at redevelopment or repurposing.”