Gibbard District group seeks more residential use, bigger buildings

The proposed new design of the Gibbard District. Image from the Planning Justification Report prepared by Fotenn Planning + Design.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published on Friday, Dec.15, 2023, at 5:09 p.m. For most recently updated information, please see bottom of article.


When revitalizing a small town’s historical charm, balancing past, present, and future is a complicated business.

The current Greater Napanee Town Council will attempt that balancing on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, when they host a public meeting regarding an application to permit an increase in the height and footprint of the Gibbard District buildings.

For over 180 years, the Gibbard Furniture Factory was a Napanee landmark, deeply intertwined with the town’s history. Now, it is the site of a major construction project, which has had many hurdles to overcome, including a global pandemic. The project bills itself as “a vibrant hub for families, friends, and neighbours, one where they can share the moments that make lasting memories… a local destination that will inject energy and opportunity into Napanee.”

Back in November of 2018 when ground was first broken on the ambitious development, plans included two condominium towers, retail and restaurant space, and a large civic square. It was expected to be finished in 2022, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the project to a halt. Now, the first phase of the development is expected to be completed in the fall of 2024, according to Doornekamp Construction.

In a bid to intensify the residential portion of the development, ABNA Investments Ltd. and Doornekamp Construction are seeking to add 71 new residential units to the plan and increase the height of the overall development. Thus, a Public Meeting under the Planning Act will be held by statute to hear comments from any parties with an interest in a planning application before Council.

If allowed, the proposal is to permit an increase in height to the tower portions of Building 1 and Building 2 to seven and eight storeys respectively, increase the podium height of Building 2 from two to three storeys, expand the footprint of Building 1 toward the Napanee River, increase the height of the Mill Building to five storeys and provide cantilevered balconies, and to amend the visitor and commercial parking ratios associated with the development.

The application package submitted to Council includes a 50-page Planning Justification Report prepared by Fotenn Planning + Design in support of applications for amendments to the Official Plan and zoning bylaw for the property, located at 88 Dundas Street East in the Town of Greater Napanee. 

The previously approved development consisted of three buildings: “Building 1” a six-storey mixed-use commercial and residential building incorporating the Gibbard’s Furniture building into its design, “Building 2” a seven-storey mixed-use commercial and residential building located to the north of Building 1, and the four-storey “Mill Building” which was intended for commercial use in the eastern portion of the site at the end of the plaza. 

Based on the Notice of Public Meeting, the proposed updated design seeks to make the above increases and also utilize the Mill Building for residential units as opposed to commercial uses, in addition to adding another storey to the building and reducing the overall commercial floor area. To address the increase in residential units associated with the change in use and increase in height, the designers have also reconfigured the underground and surface parking to provide additional parking spaces, the report details.

According to the report, “The proposal will provide a variety of unit types from one-bedroom units to three-bedroom units which adds to the housing options on the site on the periphery of the Town of Greater Napanee’s Central Business District.” The development aims to continue to offer quality amenity space for residents and the public in the form of a waterfront pathway and updated plaza, which is set back from the Napanee River. 

The proposal requires an amendment to the Official Plan to permit an increase in the maximum building height from seven to eight storeys and to amend the height map which regulates the site. It requires an amendment to the zoning bylaw to further amend the C3-8 (Site Specific General Commercial) zone which currently regulates the site. 

“Specifically,” states the report, “the proposed changes include adding a floor in height with appropriate setbacks for the tower portion of Buildings 1 and 2, extending the water-facing side of Building 1, and adding a third floor to the podium of Building 2 along Dundas Street East. These changes would result in an increase of 71 units and an increase in residential GFA from 9,323 m2 to 13,212 m2 while commercial GFA would decrease from 3,164 m2 to 1,200 m2.” 

Somewhat confusingly, the Notice of Public Meeting states “The Zoning By-law Amendment proposes to amend the existing Site Specific General Commercial (C3-8) zone to allow the former “Mill” building to be converted to residential units.” However, the Fotenn Report states in its conclusion, “The proposed amendment to the C3-8 zone requires an amendment to allow the Mill Building to be regulated as a non-residential use.” The reason for this discrepancy is unclear.

Looking at the drawings, it would appear that the entire outer structure of the Mill will be changed, with balconies added.

Changes from the 2018 design to the proposed new design of the Gibbard District. Image from the Planning Justification Report prepared by Fotenn Planning + Design.

The report states that the proposal is consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement and conforms to the Official Plan for the County of Lennox and Addington. As well, it states that the proposed Official Plan Amendment is consistent with the overall intent and purpose of the Town of Greater Napanee Official Plan and the proposed Zoning By-law Amendment conforms to the proposed Official Plan Amendment. 

“Consequently,” writes the consultant from Fotenn, “It is our professional planning opinion that the proposed Official Plan Amendment, Zoning By-law Amendment, and Site Plan Control represent good land use planning.

According to the report, “The proposed development presents a group of mixed-use buildings that deliver higher residential density, complement activity in Downtown Napanee, and create a pedestrian-friendly vibrant hub that provides a sense of gateway into the downtown, enhancing livability in the area.”

The public meeting will occur in the Council Chambers of Napanee Town Hall, 124 John Street, at the beginning of the regular meeting of Council at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. The meeting can be viewed virtually (or watched afterward) on the Napanee Town Council YouTube channel.


Update (Thursday, Dec. 21. 2023, at 3:30 p.m.):

At their Regular meeting of Council on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, a Public Meeting under the Planning Act was held by statute to hear comments from any parties interested in the planning application before the Council (see above). Fotenn ‘s Report was presented by their planner, Youko Leclerc, in a visual slide show, which can be seen on the Town’s YouTube channel. Michael Nobes, General Manager of Growth & Expansion for the Town, indicated that Town Staff supported the application.

No one spoke against the planning application.

The application will come before Greater Napanee Town Council at a later date, at which point councillors will have the opportunity to ask questions of the developer and Town staff before deciding on whether to approve the application.

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