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Office building could become latest addition to waterfront zone

Zoning change sought for 151 Black Street
A zoning change is proposed to allow an office building at 151 Black Street, seen above. Council will vote on first reading May 9. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

A two-storey office building is planned for 151 Black Street.

At Whitehorse city council’s May 2 meeting, city planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation council move ahead on a zoning change that would allow offices to fully occupy the building.

Under the current Mixed Use Waterfront zone, only a maximum of 50 per cent ground floor space can be occupied as an office. All developments in the zone must provide for at least two uses.

The owners are planning to build a structure that would accommodate up to 10 staff and provide space for meetings and training for teachers to use outside of school hours.

“This proposal is to amend the zoning for the property to add a special modification to the existing CMW zone to allow office as the one use on this property, to reduce the glazing (windows) requirement on the ground floor from 50 per cent to 40 per cent, and to eliminate the maximum windowsill height requirement,” Simard said. “All other CMW zoning provisions would apply.”

Aligning with city plans

The proposal, she noted, fits with the intent of the mixed use - riverfront designation outlined in the city’s current Official Community Plan, along with a concept outlined in an emerging directions document for the upcoming OCP that would direct major office development to the downtown.

Meanwhile, the city’s downtown plan suggests office developments be directed to other parts of the neighbourhood, though it does not prohibit offices in the area.

Finally, on the CMW zone, Simard acknowledged the proposal would reduce some design requirements though most would be retained. She also pointed out the property is on the edge of the CMW zone and the CM2 zone. The CM2 zone provides for a mix of commercial and residential uses and allow for office use only.

“Adding a special modification would, therefore, fit with the surrounding uses and zones,” she said. “Other CMW zoning provisions, including design guidelines, would still apply to the site.”

Questioned by Mayor Laura Cabott about the reason behind zoning that requires a minimum of two uses, Simard explained it is typically done in an effort to ensure “some lively use” of the ground floor level.

“The idea is to have more people,” she said, adding an office setting, for example, could have staff that would help support a coffee shop or restaurant also operating out of a building. In such buildings, there might also be apartments on an upper level.

“It could be apartments, as well, so the residents also can support that ground floor retail or eating and drinking establishments,” she explained.

In this case though the property is small relative to other lots with the same zoning.

“So it’s making it difficult to have a combination (of uses) and for it to be viable,” Simard said.

Waterfront and parking

Coun. Kirk Cameron, meanwhile, wondered about the waterfront designation, noting the Black Street and Second Avenue location seems a fair distance from the waterfront.

Simard replied that under the zoning bylaw in that area waterfront land runs between Second Avenue to the river.

Others on council highlighted the importance of focusing on parking, given the significant increase in development there in recent years.

Simard indicated she would provide greater detail on the precise parking plans for the development in the coming week, but also noted the zoning change does not seek any alteration in the amount of parking required. There are plans to provide an additional space over what’s required, she said.

If council approves first reading of the rezoning bylaw at its May 9 meeting, a public hearing on the proposal would be held June 13 with a report on that then coming forward July 4 ahead of second and third reading July 11.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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