When Chrissy White and her husband Cory moved from the greater Toronto area to Cambridge a few years ago, they thought they were buying into a quiet, mature neighbourhood to raise their children.
Their home on Highman Avenue in south Cambridge backs on to a densely wooded slice of nature in the city. Their backyard looks over the tops of hundreds of trees sloping down to Water Street and the Grand River.
They can look out to the river from their back deck as the sounds of the forest surround them.
On Monday, the couple learned it could all be gone, soon to be replaced with a view of balconies on five 15 storey high-rise apartment buildings totalling 991 units.
The City of Cambridge posted a sign at 62 Highman Ave. notifying neighbours of the rental property about a development application and upcoming public meeting for the project by Burlington based LJM Developments.
The project includes five storeys of parking for 1,176 vehicles and, according to the sign, 62 Highman Ave. will be converted into a parkette.
So far, the city isn't commenting and says the full development application won't be available on the city’s website until the end of the week. Everyone can view it then at www.cambridge.ca/DevelopmentApplications.
Neighbours speculate the house that’s there now will be torn down to provide access for heavy construction vehicles. Once the project is done, the empty space will be landscaped and turned into a park.
A public meeting on the proposal has been set for 10 a.m. on Aug. 24, but the Whites aren’t waiting to gather support to fight it. One of their neighbours has already started a petition at change.org.
For Chrissy, the news was devastating. She immediately took to Facebook, in the group Ask Anything Cambridge, where Cory posted a photo of the sign and angry comments had begun filling up the thread.
"Toronto brutalism makes it's way here... yikes," reads one comment. "I hate this so much. I enjoy the wildlife in this area, it’s beautiful," reads another.
Finding out that property was sold to a developer last year was upsetting enough for the new homeowners who were told any development would be 10 years down the line. “And suddenly it’s not taking that long?” Chrissy said
“The prospect of having five huge buildings going in behind us, it’s no longer quiet. The fact that it’s going to be a thousand residents, it’s going to be a thousand cars.”
She said everyone she’s spoken to since the sign went up is “very upset” because they bought a home on a mature street for a reason.
In addition to concerns about pollution and traffic, Chrissy is also worried about an influx of children into nearby schools that are already crowded.
“We’re more than happy for people to come to the area,” she said. “Affordable housing is so important, but at what cost?”
One of the biggest costs is the loss of trees in what, according to one post on Facebook, is a protected green space, adjacent to the flood plain and on a protected well head.
"The trees, soil and vegetation in this area help to capture, filter and replenish the well where Galt gets its drinking water," wrote Tammy McIntyre.
“Some people have very good points that we didn’t think of, especially the environmental concerns,” Chrissy said.
Both she and Cory feel high rise developments like what’s being proposed are more appropriate in the downtown core.
“I understand the appeal being right on Water Street,” but not in a mature neighbourhood, Chrissy said.
Cory has no doubt they’ll be looking out at balconies if the development is approved. The slope down to Water Street is about 80 feet, he said, speculating the height of the towers will rise well above the height of the tree canopy.
“Does that mean on the other side of the river there’s going to be development?” he wonders.
“It’ll be a shame to lose that view.”
Immediately adjacent to the applicant's land is 183 Water St. S., a designated heritage property, currently on the market for $1.8 million. The entrance to Churchill Park is immediately south of the planned development.