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Will neighbours’ concerns bring a record-breaking 53-storey skyscraper back down to earth?

Vacant lot at 50 King St. seen on Sept. 27, 2023. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London) Vacant lot at 50 King St. seen on Sept. 27, 2023. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)

Amidst the push for greater residential intensification in downtown London— can a building be too tall?

On Tuesday, the Planning and Environment Committee (PEC) will consider a request by York Developments to rezone the northwest corner of King Street and Ridout Street to permit a record smashing high-rise development.

A pair of mixed-use skyscrapers with heights of 53-storeys and 43-storeys would overlook the Forks of the Thames from the property that was formerly home of the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

The towers would be linked by a podium at their base.

“These will be the tallest buildings, as I understand it, looking west all the way to Calgary,” explained Councillor Steve Lehman who chairs the planning committee.

Most high-rise buildings in the downtown core currently range from about 26 storeys to 35 storeys.

Proposed towers at 50 King St. and 399 Ridout St. (Source: City of London)

“I haven’t been this excited for a building project in London since One London Place,” added Lehman. “This will be transformative, not just for London, but for the downtown.”

The development would include 800 residential units plus office and retail space.

Downtown Councillor David Ferreira agrees that greater intensification is needed in the core, but he and residents of nearby buildings will share their concerns with the planning committee.

In 2015, the property was rezoned to permit a single 28-storey tower.

Ferreira said at the time, neighbours were told redevelopment would integrate elements of the subsequently abandoned ‘Back to the River’ proposal at the Forks.

“They would like to see a little bit more integration of those plans here. And they’re concerned with the rumbling in the ground and pile driving.” he explained. “I’m concerned with the [Middlesex County] Court House, it being so close to the courthouse.”

Proposed towers at 50 King St. and 399 Ridout St. (Source: City of London)

Built in 1827, the courthouse is a national historic site.

Ferreira rejected suggestions that the concerns being expressed by residents in the area are based on Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) attitudes.

“People can argue this is NIMBYism, but this is the heart of London. Its birthplace. We can’t just be putting [buildings] down here that don’t fit,” he told CTV News.

“This is where we want density. We want it in the downtown,” countered Lehman. “We have to address the housing crisis and with that comes high density.”

City staff recommend approving the zoning changes, but with several conditions that must be met before construction could begin, including a public site plan meeting and evaluation of archaeological potential, servicing, and heritage impacts.

The Planning and Environment Committee will consider the application on Oct. 3. Top Stories

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