Innovative wood-frame apartment building planned for Pond Mills

The developer of London’s first six-storey wood-frame apartment building is planning to construct a second, larger one in Pond Mills.

Yossi Lavine is close to completing a project at 356 Dundas St., a six-storey apartment structure with 69 units, including 52 affordable units, at the eastern edge of downtown.

Now Lavine has filed plans with London city hall’s urban design peer review panel for another six-storey wood-frame structure — a 124-unit building at 99-107 Pond Mills Road.

The 0.7-hectare site overlooks the east branch of the Thames River.

Six-storey wood-frame buildings did not become legal in Ontario until 2015. Previously the maximum height for a wood-frame structure was four stories.

Strik, Baldinelli and Moniz, a London-based firm, helped design the Dundas Street building and will also be involved in the Pond Mills project as structural engineers.

pondmillsmap-e1534354157279.png?w=640

Google Maps: Red icon denotes location of proposed Pond Mills mid-rise apartment building

The firm designed Ontario’s first six-storey wooden building, which was recently completed in Hamilton, and has about a dozen other similar projects underway in Ottawa, St. Catharines, Kitchener and Oakville.

The six-storey wood-frame structures are at least 10 per cent cheaper to build than traditional steel and concrete buildings.

“The price of the wood came in very well for the Dundas project so he (Levine) is looking at the same model going forward,” said Baldinelli.

He said the six-storey height makes them more acceptable as infill projects in established neighborhoods.

“Where zoning only allows a mid-size building it’s a good fit. It’s street-friendly,” said Baldinelli.

The new Pond Mills building will be L-shaped and include 82 two-bedroom units and 42 one-bedroom units.

Amenities will include a common room, games room, a gym-fitness centre and a 50-space parking garage in the basement. Three single-family homes on the site would be demolished to make way for the project.

The project will require some variances from city zoning regulations. The number of units is slightly higher than allowed and the number of indoor and outdoor parking spaces is less than required in the zoning.

Baldinelli said he expects the Pond Mills project will get underway soon.

London’s apartment rental market has tightened in recent years and the vacancy rate is 1.8 per cent, the lowest level since 2001.

“It’s a good time to be in the rental business,” said Baldinelli.

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