Development promises vibrancy, renewal
The five-storey multi-use development at 198 Sherbrook St. expects to be completed this fall
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It’s been a long time since the lot at 198 Sherbrook St. has seen any sort of sustained development.
The last project that brought some hope to the property was a community garden, which fell flat after a short time. It has remained virtually barren since that failed attempt.
Granola Heights is aimed at bucking that trend.
The five-storey multi-use development is expected to be completed this fall. The 28-unit apartment block is all affordable housing, 22 suites marked 10 per cent below median market rent and the remaining six suites listed 30 per cent below market rent.
The building will also feature 3,000 square-feet of commercial space on the ground floor. Tom Monteyne said he hopes to see a restaurant or coffee shop settle on the main level to bring some vitality to Sherbrook Street.
“Our office is on Sherbrook. I was very familiar with the property because it’s literally next door,” Monteyne, the architect and co-developer of Granola Heights. “It was owned by a neighbourhood non-profit group that tried to develop it, but wasn’t successful.
“I got to know the people that own the land and I’ve been beside this property for a long time and felt it was underutilized. At the same time, there’s a lot of infill construction in our city. Turns out there’s a lot of demand for apartment buildings.”
Monteyne, manager of architectural design at Monteyne Architecture, has entrenched himself in the neighbourhood as a resident and a former board member of the West Broadway BIZ. After the idea sprouted in 2018, he and his team broke ground in the fall of 2021.
“Sherbrook is undergoing some investments, some renewal. It’s a good street, there’s a dedicated bike lane, lots of transit. It lends itself to higher-density residential development,” he said.
Monteyne noted that many single-family dwellings around the city are being replaced with infill apartment buildings. It was a wagon he found it worthwhile to hitch himself to.
“This is something that as architects, we’re pretty interested in — we’re pretty interested in infill. We don’t work in what’s called ‘greenfield’ — the new suburbs. We’re working more in the inner city and downtown, where oftentimes we have existing buildings. In this case, there were no buildings, they were long gone, but still there’s context.
“We think these kinds of commercial mixed-use buildings are the way to go. They’re healthy for cities because they bring people to the area, there’s eyes on the street, which is an old idea but still makes a lot of sense.”
The building will offer a splayed design, being wider on the north side and narrower on the south to allow every apartment suite to get sunlight. It will also make the sidewalk bigger, making way for a public space where Monteyne wants to feature outdoor tables.
Eric Napier Strong, executive director of West Broadway BIZ, has become a big fan of the impending apartment block.
“I like this particular development. It can be tricky in neighbourhoods like ours. We are largely a lower-income kind of inner-city community. But this particular building is a good example of how development does not always have to mean gentrification and building new housing for people does not always have to mean pushing out existing community members,” he said.
“In general, I like this project because it is primarily dedicated to affordable housing. So it’s responding to a need that has really been identified for years and the community that folks have been trying to work towards. So it’s, in some ways, renewing our community. It’s providing new opportunities for business and living through mixed-use development.”
Napier Strong called West Broadway a “transitional neighbourhood,” in that it’s intersecting downtown, Wolseley and the West End. But he was quick to note that it’s a community on the come-up, as it’s proved to offer some affordable rates for residents and small business owners. The hope, he added, is to create a vibrant and welcoming community without stripping it of its essence.
“Sometimes neighbourhoods like ours have gone too far in one direction and they have really fallen into that trap of gentrification and have lost a lot of their community and that unique appeal that they have,” he said.
“For me, (Granola Heights) fits into our vision for the neighbourhood in that it’s supporting the existing community that we have. We’re not trying to change the makeup of West Broadway — we have a beautiful, thriving, artistic sort of community there.”
Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.