It’s been at least five years since St. Davids residents first learned of a large development proposed at the main intersection of the village.
Last week, one of the buildings to be demolished to make room for it came down, after the last remaining tenant vacated the apartment facing York Road, beside the Avondale.
It had once been an inn, then a store with the owners living above, before becoming a haven for those looking for a room or two to rent.
The original proposal would have meant the demolition of two more buildings, those beside the Avondale fronting on Four Mile Creek Road. One, zoned for commercial use, is now going to be preserved as a heritage building, the apartment beside it to be torn down and replaced by townhomes.
The small community has seen unprecedented growth in the last decade, but this proposal was going to be intense, with a combination of stores, professional offices and residential units.
Mike Pearsall, acting president of the St. Davids Ratepayers Association until its spring elections, says there were at least three public meetings and a lot of interest from residents.
While it seemed the logical spot for development at the intersection that is the hub of the community, residents had some concerns with the initial concept.
They weren’t happy about the impact the original design would have on the streetscape — while they weren’t opposed to development at that corner, they wanted some time that would reflect the character and complement the design of the village, said Pearsall. They also had issues with the extent of the commercial element.
“From day one we wanted something that would blend in with the surrounding neighbourhood,” said Pearsall.
But fortunately, throughout the process, “the developers have seemed committed to addressing the concerns of the residents,” he said.
“They’ve done a good job of responding to those concerns, I think they’ve been very responsive.”
The village has “an eclectic” look to it, he said, and the resulting designs are much better suited than the original.
“I think it will be an enhancement to the village,” said Pearsall. “There are only certain things we can control. I think this is seen as a good, appropriate development.”
Once residents were satisfied with the design and density of the project, they were anxious to see the start of construction, he said — they are looking forward to the retail component.
“I see they’ve started demolition,” said Pearsall. “That’s a good sign.”
After a “flurry of activity” early on in the process, it has been quiet since, he said, with residents not sure when they would see some action at the corner.
Construction on the first building, which will have commercial space on the ground floor and four residential units on the second storey and loft, is expected to begin this spring.
Behind the Avondale, in an L-shape, there will be two three-storey buildings, providing a total of 11 townhomes, the one at the end fronting onto Four Mile Creek Road.
There is landscaping to buffer the neighbouring heritage home, and an underground parking lot with its entrance at the rear of the townhomes.
Architect Michael Allen of ACK Architects has worked with the three partners who own the property, Paul Di Felice, Danny Continelli and Ralph Sirignano through a long process to get to where it is today, with Modern Build Group planning to proceed with the project in two stages.
Allen said the original proposal drew a lot of opposition from the community, mostly over the amount of commercial space, and the developers decided to “pull the plug” and work with community groups.
“We got good support from the town planning department,” he added.
“This was a happy medium,” he said. It meant a delay of two to three years, with the final redesign completed almost two years ago. It represents a “nice combination” of the two townhome blocks, and the commercial/residential building. “Everyone seems to be happy. I think it will be a great project once it’s done.”
The final plans for the historic building haven’t been finalized, he said, and the start of the townhome construction depends on them being 60 per cent sold, hopefully by late spring or early summer, “if all goes well.”
One question often asked is the shape of the property, curved around behind the Avondale convenience store, for decades the site of a gas station.
Going “right back to the beginning,” said Allen, the developers “would have loved to include that property. But they had to move on without it.”