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Botanical healing garden proposed for Black Street

Council reconsiders zoning amendment on the corner of Second Avenue and Black Street
A draft concept idea of the Black Street corridor from the 2018 Downtown Plan. (Courtesy/City of Whitehorse)

During the July 11 meeting at city hall, council agreed to proceed with second and third readings of a rezoning application for 151 Black St.

This came after weeks of discussion and reconsideration, according to Mélodie Simard, the city of Whitehorse’s manager of planning and sustainability services, who said this bylaw received its first reading on May 16.

The property runs perpendicular to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre at the corner of Second Avenue and Black Street. The owner applied for rezoning to allow the construction of a two-storey office building with associated parking and a botanical reconciliation healing garden on the site.

Current zoning allows a maximum of 50 per cent of the ground floor to be occupied by office space and requires all development to provide at least two uses, Simard explained.

The owner proposed a special modification to the zone to reduce the glazing requirements on the ground floor from 50 per cent to 40 per cent with an office accommodating up to 10 staff and providing space for meetings as well as training opportunities for teachers to use outside of school hours.

Inititially, council zeroed in on the office component so the proposal was not considered mixed-use.

A public hearing was held on June 27 whereby the owner of 151 Black St. presented as a delegate to council in order to further explain the proposal. This came after two written submissions from the public supported the proposed zoning amendment and three opposed it.

Glenda Koh was one of the five community members to provide public input. Second Avenue, she said, continues to be an “ugly gash” running through downtown.

“In order to make Second Avenue a thriving, commercially viable corridor that contributes to Whitehorse’s economic development, this area needs to be traffic-calmed and human-scaled: mixed-uses will help accomplish this,” Koh wrote in an email addressed to the city.

The owner of the site clarified the plan was to include an outdoor healing garden as well as indoor offices.

“Although only one use is being proposed in the building, the proponent has provided clear information that there will be two uses on the site,” said Simard, who confirmed the garden proposed can be considered a park under the zoning bylaw.

She added the public space will be publicly accessible, lead pedestrians towards the riverfront and “add to the character of Black Street.”

Mayor Laura Cabott said she had “a bunch of questions and some concerns” when this first came to council.

“This is a particularly special and valuable parcel of land in our city,” she said, “but we looked through the bylaw very carefully.”

Cabott alluded to the design sketch of the city’s downtown plan, which “encourages the development of a thriving pedestrian-oriented mixed-use neighbourhood.”

She said it took time for council to come to this conclusion, but the zoning amendment of 151 Black St. does indeed fit in with all the requirements of a pedestrian-scale environment and is worth proceeding. She called the re-evaluation process from May 16 until now a “good exercise.”

“We received some good public feedback for and against what the proponent was asking for, but ultimately the proposal aligns with the city’s downtown plan, and has the potential to be a wonderful asset to this community,” she said.

“The garden will retain the open visual corridor towards the river helping to maintain the connection much more than a larger building might have.”

Contact Magan Carty at