city04196066Rumors have been swirling around the Reginan corners of the internet that O’Hanlon’s patio is in some kind of mortal danger. Well, turns out, things aren’t quite as bad as some may have heard.

As we reported last April, O’Hanlon’s has been working to install a permanent patio in front of their building on Scarth Street. When we wrote that story, they’d just arranged to purchase the strip of sidewalk in front of their building for $105,000.

And yet here we are 11 months later and still no patio. What gives? Well, apparently, plans for the patio have been with the city for some number of months now but they still need to get a construction permit. (That’s a pic of those plans laid out on O’Hanlon’s bar at left.)

I spoke with Fred Searle, manager of the development review branch at the city, and he summed up the status of O’Hanlon’s patio plans:

For the last few months we’ve been meeting with the owners of O’Hanlon’s and Copper Kettle to review design plans that they’ve prepared for a permanent patio and outdoor structure to replace the temporary situation they have right now. We’ve been working through that process and we’ve been refining the plan all along. We’re getting to a place where we’re close on design. It’s basically similar to any other planning process where we review plans and it’s an iterative process with the developer. Certainly, we’re getting to the point where we’re refining it to a final design.

As for what exactly they’re refining, Searle said:

From the city’s perspective, we’re excited about the opportunity for a permanent structure at that location and the opportunity that has to future enhance the vibrancy and activity along that portion of Scarth Street.

There’s a couple considerations we have to look at in the review, and one is that it’s within the Victoria Park Heritage Conservation District, and really we’re at the point now where we’re refining details on material treatment. We know what the basic overall form of the patio will take and we’re just refining details on treatment because we want to ensure that it complements heritage buildings in the area, particularly that building but also that it has a good interface with the sidewalk and with the park, that visually you can see into it, you can see the activity going on and it creates the vibrancy along the street that we’re looking for downtown.

Have to say though that it seems tragic that the patio plan has been available for over a year now — like I mentioned above, I saw the plans 11 months ago and I’m just some lowly reporter — and yet we’re just getting to the “refining material treatment” stage now. The Junos are coming up the end of next month and having a fancy patio out in front of one of the anchor venues would be several different kinds of awesome.

I asked Searle about the possibility of getting this done in time for the Junos he replied, “We understand the time pressure the developer is under. Once that permit is submitted we understand that and we’ll do whatever we can to work with them and move it through the process.”

One thing that will speed things along a bit is that the plans just have to go through the permitting process. They don’t have to go before planning commission and council again.

Still, what if it looks like there’s no way to get the permit this year or there is some snag in the construction that keeps O’Hanlon’s from getting this done in time for patio season, could they still set up the same temporary patio they have in years past?

“I think that’s something we could look at and it’s something our traffic operations people would need to approve obviously but that’s always an option,” said Searle.

Of course, it does seem a little odd that O’Hanlon’s patio is being held up over the way it will interface with the heritage character of the O’Hanlon’s building when it will be located just down the street from the City Square Plaza, something that in no way complements the heritage character of Victoria Park and the surrounding buildings in the Heritage Conservation District. Why is the city being a stickler on heritage elements here when they clearly weren’t with their Plaza? And would O’Hanlon’s patio have had an easier time getting a permit if it had been made of concrete and corten steel and lit by lightsabers? I asked Fred Searle about that…

Each application is different. In this particular case, there’s a direct connection of the patio to the building. It’s more of a direct interface. So it’s reviewed on that basis, and its impact on that heritage structure. I think that would be it in a nutshell.

So there you go. O’Hanlon’s will get its permanent patio. And the city is officially enthusiastic about it. Will it get done in time for the Junos? Hard to say. But it looks like a good bet that it’ll be ready for summer.

We’ll have more on this story as details emerge and as soon as interviews with “the other side” are completed.