Frances Bula header image 2

Massive project, 26-storey tower at Broadway/Kingsway will remake SOMA

October 25th, 2010 · 83 Comments

While everyone is fighting over towers in the West End and in Marpole, I discovered almost by accident last week that there’s a significant new development planned for Main and Kingsway when I dropped in to the urban design panel.

Unbeknownst to I think many people, the much-praised firm of Acton Ostry has been designing a huge development for the entire block that includes the former strip of stores on Broadway that burned down on Christmas Day last year and the Cantu/Living Space/Midland Appliances cluster in the former Jantzen building on Kingsway.

That will all come down (surprised me to hear the Jantzen building has no heritage protection but apparently not) for a 26-storey tower with townhouses and retail wrapped around the base, along with 10,000 square feet of artists’ spaces that will run along the 10th Avenue (bike lane) side. The Watson Street/back alley will be the parking entrance.

In total: 206 market units and 62 rental units under the city’s sometimes-controversial program to encourage rental housing by giving developers density. It looks as though there will be a large courtyard in the middle. I’d like to show designs but there aren’t any on the city’s list of development projects or on Acton Ostry’s. All that’s available publicly is this.

You might think the community would be up in arms over this. STIR projects have been generating backlash in the West End. And this is blocks away from the site of the social-housing tower that prompted huge neighbourhood resistance — enough that council lopped off three floors.

But not a word.  It sounds as though it’s partly because city planners have been working with the Mount Pleasant community on this. Mount Pleasant did get, three years ago, the much-coveted chance for a re-visioning of the whole neighbourhood — the kind of thing that the West End and Marpole have been asking for as they resist towers there.

The planners and architects noted, for instance, that they took four storeys off the tower already in order to respond to community reaction and so were reluctant to make the tower any higher. (They made that comment when various people on the design panel suggested the tower height should be raised to make it feel more vertical, less blocky, and to remove some bulk from the lower levels.)

That may bring positive changes — perhaps even to Kingsgate Mall, the strange little replica of a mall in Trail or Cranbrook that across the street from the project in this prime location. As architect Scott Romses said, “it’s going to be a seed for this neighbourhood, a catalyst for everything around it.”

(Thanks to J3 to pointing me to some renderings of the buildings. Here’s one link.

I have to say the project startled me. Although it looks as though it’s been designed imaginatively, it’s very different from everything else around there. There’s a lot of development at Main and Broadway these days, but it’s mainly matched the shape, height and even the dark-red brick of the famous Lee Building at the intersection. This is a big tower that will rise over everything around.

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  • AnnetteF

    I saw the application for this on the city’s website a few months ago and had exactly the same reaction. (They’re going to build what?)
    I haven’t seen any pictures of what the development will look like, but my first thought was that it really seems out of place in that neighbourhood.

  • Joe Just Joe

    The plans are listed up at SSP:Vancouver if you want to see them again.
    The Marpole working group was a lot more supportive of additional density then most of the other visioning processes. I’m sure they will be rewarding with additional retail and community ammenties to show for it. Kingsgate Mall will certainly be interesting to watch as the VSB could certainly use the money.

  • Tiktaalik

    I hadn’t heard of it until now so it’s likely that almost no one in Mt. Pleasant has heard of it. I did just notice a development sign on the side of LivingSpace a few days ago, but hadn’t had the time to have a look at what it was.

    I went to a handful of the Mt Pleasant community plan meetings and they didn’t mention anything about this so I suppose this development came after that? Those speculative meetings did float the idea of building new buildings of significant height and scale on top of the Kingsgate mall however, and people had a favourable opinion of the idea. This development I suppose isn’t that far off.

    I recall the idea being floated of making Watson street more of an interesting and relevant street, but I guess they’ve decided to put the parking entrance there then maybe they’ve decided to drop that in favour of adding more to 10th.

    Has the Mount Pleasant community plan gone to council for approval yet?

  • After 60 years of living here one of the views that still stir me is the mountain view from above Broadway down Main, Cambie and even Fraser. I can’t exactly visualize how this tower would impact the views but I expect a little more will be lost in addition to what has already been lost since One Kingsway and adjacent buildings started going up.

    It should be a great view for those who can afford a unit on the north side of the new buildings though.

    The only realistic way to accommodate increasing populations is to ‘build up’ but I’m not convinced 26 storey towers in low rise neighbourhoods is the best solution.

  • It definately sounds like it will have an amazing view on the north side of the building…

    Until we put something in front of that one too.

  • I live two blocks away, and this is the first I’ve heard of the project. I don’t recall seeing any signage at the site when I walked by yesterday.

    I did find links to project plans posted 3 weeks ago on skyscraperpage.com http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=185591

    My initial reactions.
    – it will be a big building, but there already a lot of 10-15 story condos in the neighbourhood, so it won’t be too out of place. If the units are affordable, it will be a positive for the area.
    – a restaurant and patio facing 10th would be really nice.
    – looks like the courtyard will have community gardens. nice touch
    – I can’t tell if the courtyard will be accessible to the public, or for residents only. I hope it will be a public amenity.
    – the courtyard plan calls for decorative “trolley wires” spanning overhead. First time I’ve heard of trolley wires as a positive visual piece, but it could work if they’re covered in vines.
    – the building will have 319 parking spaces, 10% more then the minimum required (290). I can’t think of a site outside of downtown (other then maybe Broadway and Commercial) with better public transit and bike route coverage. Too bad they didn’t try to minimize parking – it would make the units more affordable.
    – the talk on skyscraperforum is about the empty parking lot on the adjacent lot that could be the entrance to a skytrain station on the UBC extension. when that happens you really won’t need 319 parking spots.
    – on the other hand, they do have room for 362 bikes. It will be interesting to see which is more utilized.

  • Tiktaalik

    That’s a good amount of bike parking, but depending on the strata bylaws it may not be enough.

    I think building designers in general are massively lowbowing the amount of bike parking necessary. It depends on the average youth of the building’s residents of course but I feel like the likelyhood that a unit will need more than one bicycle spot is pretty high.

    – Multiple bedroom units will have multiple bikes
    – Even one bedroom units a couple that are bike users necessarily require multiple bikes (lets ignore tandems because they’re so rare) whereas a couple could share a car.
    – bikes can’t be parked on the street but cars can.
    – Often strata bylaws are hilariously strict about restricting the moving of bicycles through buildings, essentially banning the keeping of bicycles in units, and so bicycles must be kept in the bike parking. Often these rules aren’t changed when the strata takes over.
    – Many people have more than one bicycle! Whereas most people wouldn’t have additional cars, bicycles are quite cheap and so it’s easy for people to have multiple bicycles for different uses. There are commuter bicycles, recreational sports bicycles (mountain biking on the north shore, track bike racing at the velodrome, triathalon bicycles…), cargo bicycles for shopping, and as well perhaps very expensive or rare bicycles that would be rarely ridden, perhaps just in the summer.

  • Tiktaalik

    If that little parking lot at Main and Broadway is going to remain empty for the next 15 years until they get around to building the Broadway line then the city should license the whole thing out to a half a dozen food carts and make a little food court with tables and chairs like they do in Portland.

  • richards

    Random comment on bike parking #’s, in support of Tiktaalik’s musings. My partner and I share a 1bdrm place and have 4 bikes (2 commuters, 1 hardcore downhill bike, 1 light downhill bike). Bike parking is a huge problem, especially given the high value of the downhill bikes and the poor quality of the common bike room. one of our commuters is a folding bike, so it goes in our unit, the other 3 are really just waiting to be stolen.

  • Chris B

    Looking from afar (Ottawa) but as a former resident of Vancouver/Mount Pleasant, I do find it unfortunate that everything is towers, due to the price of land.

    Going up near me in Ottawa is a rental cluster that I think would be very suitable for Mount Pleasant – http://beaverbarracks.ca – this type of project does offer good density, but at a much nicer scale for the neighbourhood.

  • Joe Just Joe

    It’s a lot easier to add bicycle parking spots at a later date then it is car parking. The fact that the developer is chosing to put in more parking then is required shows the market demand. The developer is only including the extra spots because they know w/o them the units would be much harder to sell. At the end of the day the people dictate what’s offered.

  • The Fourth Horseman

    That looks like a good design Chris. A nice mix, lower rise and sees to have a “neighborhood” look about it, if I remember my visit to Ottawa last year.

    Gee, I thought that we were going to try to stick to 6-8 stories in the eco-density.

    A much more interesting view from the street too.

    Instead, here, it looks like we get the same uninspired box. We could be Omaha, Nebraska.

    I will reserve jusdgement till we see more detailed elevations drawings and what the common/space areas look like.

    At this point: yuck and yawn.

  • Tiktaalik

    So does this building get extra height due to STIR or some other amenity? Is there a place where we can find this sort of thing out or is it too early in the consultation process to know?

    I notice that the city page says that they haven’t mailed out consultation notice or planned for any meeting yet.

  • Frances Bula

    @Tiktaalik. I haven’t found anything yet that specifies what the trade-offs are between the developer and the city, the kind of thing that was detailed in the report I wrote about last week for the building at Hornby and Drake. It will likely be spelled out and I presume they are getting some density for the STIR units and that the 10,000 SF of artist space is also part of the community contribution.

  • Jeff

    Is Scott Romses the architect of the development? If so, his comment that this project will be “a catalyst for everything around it” is especially irritating. Though allegedly there is some brick on the building that references the Lee Building, the overall look is wildly out of sync with everything else around Main & Broadway. It’s a modern glass building that looks like it belongs at Broadway & Cambie, and it’s going to strip all the charm from the neighbourhood. Is that the kind of “seed” we want?

  • This is the first I’ve heard of this project as well, but based on what’s written here, I like the idea as a general concept.

    It gives Vancouver more rental and ownership options, in a walkable, bike-able, and transit-oriented area (10 minutes walk to Canada Line at Cambie or Main Street Skytrain).

    I agree the number of parking units seem high for an area with so many non-auto options, but that may be the city and not the developer asking. And, if underutilized, parking places can become bike parking cages, shared-auto options, etc. in the future.

    Maybe some parking is destined to be visitor parking for the artists, retail, residents’ friends etc.

  • Simone

    This is the first I’ve heard of this project as well. I’ve sat on a number of Mt. Pleasant community planning meetings as well and this is not what we discussed at all. The vision we had as residents of the neighborhood was more street friendly housing, such as 4 family dwellings, laneway housing and lower scale buildings (6 storeys) rather than intrusive towers. This plan does not fit into our heritage neighborhood. Let’s not add tall glass boxes in our area to block sunlight and views. I don’t live downtown for a reason – I hate the whole Concord development for it’s unimaginative architecture and mountain blocking walls. That doesn’t make a street friendly neighborhood. Let’s stick to blending with our heritage, not re-inventing it. Leave the area as the pedestrian, bike friendly place it currently is. I’ve been a resident for 13 years and plan to stay for many more years, but not if council changes it to the West End.

  • East Vancouverite

    I like the proposed project, which is still only at the rezoning stage, according to the signs all around the site.

    The brown/red colouring on the renders I saw at SSP:Vancouver is actually brick and not painted concrete and Frances’ initial description of the project having townhouses at the base is a bit off; the townhouses face onto the courtyard while retail (small shops on Broadway and two floors of larger shops like a grocey store and/or pharmacy above) wraps around the building on three sides.

    There is a residential entrnace on Watson and the entrance to the artist production space is there too. This public amenity is a huge boon for the neighbourhood and more than replaces what was lost in the Christmas day fire and it will be operated by the non-profit Vancouver Community Arts Council, according to the architects.

    I think that with the tower being located at 10th and Kingsway (not Main and Broadway) it should not overpower the Lee Building and the reality is that this site, and a fair number more along Kingsway, are going to see larger, taller buildings than Main Street. The Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood Centres plan calls for a continuation of low to mid-rise buildings while taller buildings, with the very tallest being the subject site of this discussion, will run along Kingsway from the Main and Kingsway “Y” to 12th Ave.

  • Morley

    This building is going to be more than twice as big as the one on Fraser that included social housing and had to have 3 floors hacked off because of community backlash. Those against it claimed the building was going to be too high!

    We need to acknowledge that Vancouver has some bigotry problems against the poor. I think city council knows that social housing isn’t just Michael Geller’s “E” class of Vancouverites. There’s already poverty issues in Mount Pleasant.

    This is an insult.

  • Shannon

    My first thought on reading Frances’ post is that this is very similar to what happened with the Kingsway and Knight development. Huge development with towers. City and developers worked with community and relatively little fuss over the very high heights (not as high as this new proposed one though). Was supposed to help revitalize the area. We were excited about it — thought it would really make the street come alive (it was a total dead zone before).

    There have been some benefits — the new library especially, and while the new PriceSmart not my first choice for groceries, the addition of a full size grocery store was needed in the area.

    But overall, we’ve been very disappointed with the impact of the development. It’s enormous, and the streetscapes are not friendly/engaging.

    The interior courtyard area sounded good, as in this new development, but it’s really just a giant driveway for the underground parkade — there’s no relief/escape from the busy major streets that converge at Knight/Kingsway/King Ed — which would have been very welcome (ie, a no vehicles courtyard with seating or cafe…). The whole thing just feels like a huge monolith squatting over the giant block it’s built on.

    And much of the retail space remains empty, even though the development has been finished for well over a year (if I remember correctly). We’ve heard from some local businesses that the rents being asked are exhorbitant.

    I am all in favour of doing what’s needed in terms of density, but I think there must be other ways of going about it. I look at areas like the Arbutus corridor, and along the 7thAve/Heather areas, and I see density that has a street-level feeling of safety and friendliness. The hulking tower approach seems to be reserved for the east side of the city.

  • Westender1

    It seems a bit surprising that this rezoning application is coming in prior to the adoption of the Mount Pleasant community plan – does anyone know why? The more than doubling of density (from the discretionary maximum of 3.0 under the existing zoning to the proposal at 6.37) would seem to need a community plan designation in place to be accommodated (but perhaps not with the almighty STIR program).
    Also, it’s unfortunate the Planning Dept. doesn’t do a better job helping people to understand what density means, rather than allowing the discussion to focus simply on height. Doing so might result in a different mix of building types, rather than the tower/podium glass box that is becoming the signature of any new development.

  • D

    Neat project, but a pity about the Jantzen/Cantu building; it’s unfortunate that they’re not at least keeping that façade on the ground level.

    Agree wholeheartedly with the bike comment; my partner and I share our living room with four bikes for which we have no secure storage. Meanwhile, the underground parking is 2/3 empty (at $50/mo) and most tenants’ cars are fine out on the street.

    Frances; can you clarify for sure whether the amount of parking is city- or developer-driven?

  • Tiktaalik

    From what I recall about the general feel of the community plan was that it proposed taller towers along Kingsway and folks were comfortable with that and I think it was part of the final community plan.

    The city website for Mount Pleasant hasn’t been updated for a bit. It still says that the plan will be voted on in council in “fall.” I guess maybe the developer had a look at the draft plan and is jumping the gun expecting smooth approval.

  • Joe Just Joe

    The additional parking is market driven and the developers choice. The city requires 290units and they are proposing 319 so 29 more then mandated.
    It’s true many of those spaces won’t end up used, but they still make the units more marketable as many people will not buy a unit w/o a stall even if they themselves don’t have a car. They are worried about their own situation later on, and the fact if they go to resell at a later date the future purchaser may insist on a stall.
    Perhaps the best solution is for someone to try and market a building with strata owned parking and no one owns the stalls, they would be rented out with all funds going back into the strata. I would think that selling all units would be a challenge though.

  • privatejet

    This project went to the urban design panel, last week. No decision or minutes posted yet, however for those who are curious, the preliminary plans were reviewed by the panel as a non-voting workshop in June. Minutes are here http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/udp/2010/Minutes/Jun16.html

  • Frances Bula

    @privatejet. I was there and it was approved unanimously.

  • Bill McCreery

    Received from a friend in Montreal. Here is what urbanism is:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ni3x-uwAumo

    If this doesn’t bring tears to your eyes….

    & there’s not a tower in sight. I’ve stayed in downtown Montreal during such street festivals, of which there are many. It truly is wonderful. Our politicians & planners should use examples such as this as a measure of success in their efforts.

  • Tessa

    This is quite strange. It’s more than double the height of the other new buildings going up in that area, many of which are perfect size, well designed and add to the neighbourhood rather than impose upon it. 10-15 stories is perfectly reasonable, and you can fit a lot of density in that space. At the same time, Mount. Pleasant isn’t at all like Yaletown. It’s high density, but it’s different.

    Now, those who know me know I’m not against density. I posted several comments on this forum in favour of the proposed development at Kingsway and Fraser, especially since it was providing affordable and social housing, and thought 11 stories was a good maximum for that area, though I live in that neighbourhood. I would say this is crossing the line, and just because they’ve already removed four stories doesn’t change that.

    It’s a historic, pre-built neighbourhood, not an old industrial site where you can start anew, and I don’t think this is in keeping with the plan. I understand there’s going to be some tall buildings, and support that, including those that have been built already along Kingsway, but I don’t want to see Mount Pleasant turned into a developer’s ATM machine, where they can evict all the longterm residents and replace the old buildings with shiny new luxury condos. Chop off another six stories, keep some STIR benefits, then we can talk.

  • Tiktaalik

    @Tessa

    I’m leaning the same way. Building up the area along Kingsway is fine, and that’s what was in the community plan, but I’m certainly wondering, “why so big?” which is what folks across the city are asking themselves about various projects in their own neighbourhoods. I had a friend at work send out an email about the proposed Burrard Gateway proposal today basically wondering the same thing, “why so big?”

    I’m wondering what the numbers attached to the community plan were in terms of height. Certainly it was proposed to increase the height and scale along Kingsway but I don’t know if this is exceeding that and if so to what degree.

    The other “why so big?” project in Mt. Pleasant/OV that irks me even more is the Opsal steel building down at 2nd and Quebec. There it’s 24 floors with about twice the height of the surrounding buildings and, in my opinion, an unworthy public amenity in restoring the Opsal Steel barn.

    A positive spin on this is the artist space, because I know how incredibly difficult it is to find. Still I wonder if the city is folding to developer wishes much too fast with regard to public amenities and height bonuses.

    Shannon mentioned that the Kingsway@Knight development had an empty useless courtyard and I hope that the city keeps that in mind and doesn’t consider the courtyard here to be any sort of public amenity. I’d advise ditching the courtyard and going with a smaller building(s).

  • Bill McCreery

    What’s missing from this discussion so far is a more precise discussion about the planning context. It seems to me, out of respect for the communities affected by & who have to live with these built PROPOSALS, the City, & Planning in particular, should have to present, up front [ie: now], a defense of the ‘why’ for the ‘what’ they are proposing. Presently it’s the other way round. Interested concerned neighbours, if they find out & then can understand the consequences, must defend themselves. That is backwards & needs to be changed.

    What does the existing [community generated & supported?] plan specifically call for here? How does this PROPOSAL fit with that? Others above have suggested it exceeds it. If so, why are these bonuses & over-rides of the MPCP justifiable?

    What special consideration needs to be given to this intersection which will be a major transit hub & because of the historic Broadway, Kingsway & Main intersection perhaps some added density can be justified. But, how much?

    And, per the link in McC 28, will there be people spontaneously dancing & playing fiddles from the balconies & roofs as well as on the streets below when & if this project is built?

  • Lee

    The City held Open Houses where citizens could fill out questionnaires ostensibly to give direction to City planners regarding the future of Mount Pleasant. The questionnaire from the April 2010 Open Houses re the Mount Pleasant Community Plan produced comments, specifically about building heights. The comments regarding Broadway, Main, and Kingsway – Overall Concept Plan are on pages 98 to 108 on the City of Vancouver’s web site.
    http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/cpp/mountpleasant/public/10apr/questionnairecomments.pdf

    These community comments from pages 98 to 108 state the community does not want towers here. The comments repeatedly said the appropriate height for this area is a low to mid-rise building, no towers. But again, as was the case with the Broadway and Fraser development, the City of Vancouver is completely ignoring the wishes of the community.

    I also attended many of the Mount Pleasant Community Plan meetings. This gargantuan tower was not discussed in those meetings. It was sprung upon the community at a Shopping Area meeting where architects for the developer and City staff spoke with one voice, this deal was settled behind closed doors, the wishes of the community are completely irrelevant to these people.

    This developer is requesting 100% more density than is allowed on this site for providing 62 STIR rental units which will be rented at market price. The current allowed building height here is 3 storeys, the developer is going to be allowed to build 26 storeys. Again, greed and self interest of the developer over the wishes of the community. That’s the way City Hall operates these days!

    The STIR rental units will not be affordable but will be rented at market price. 1 Kingsway rents for $1800 per month, this is not affordable to many people in this area.

    The only amenity this developer is providing is an artist studio rental space which means the amenity is for a select few people.

    Ms. Bula says “The Watson Street/back alley will be the parking entrance.” Watson Street will also be the delivery area for the 50 foot trucks delivering to the building, including a 20,000 sq ft retail space in this development. No big box retails was another consistent wish of the citizens in the questionnaires.

    This council and planning department want density and height at any cost. The Rize Development Co donated thousands of dollars to Councilor Raymond Louie’s last election campaign.

    This development is completely in opposition to what the community says they want. The community repeatedly said they wanted development to maintain the feel and look of the current community in scale and character. They said they wanted no high-rises.

    Here are the comments from the September 20 2009 meeting. Uptown is the name the City gave to this area in that meeting. See pages 7 to 11 in the following web page for the comments.
    http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/cpp/mountpleasant/shopping/pdf/09sep20stranscripts.pdf

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    We live some blocks away from this. Walking to school with my daughter, the building crane at the street end vista of 7th Avenue for another Mt. Pleasant tower is already harbinger and dark portents of what is happening to our city.

    I hope that what Mt. Pleasant got is not what the West End and Marpole are going to get, Francis. I hope that Vancouver neighbourhoods en masse are going to get “good” urbanism, not this crap.

    However, that hinges on a change in planning paradigm (not economics), and that is not yet a cooked goose.

    I don’t know the history of the Lee Building (diminished now that the roof top sign has been scraped away), but that and the Beaux Art Post Office on 16th (?) define the character for this area. Anyone that cannot design to that cannon has no pants on.

    We cannot endlessly repeat our concerns, or our vision. There comes a time when the facts on the ground are just too plain obvious, and it is better to keep the powder dry and wait for the inevitable changing of the guard.

    I was walking in International Village today… Big towers, Big bucks, Big dreams, and yet on the sidewalk… an urbanism that is not working.

    Go no further than the AIBC—the architect’s association headquarters fronting Victory Square—to see a building that turns its back on the street and presents no sidewalk presence whatsoever.

    These are my professional colleagues, after all. Could they not have set up storefront offices for young upstart firms against the sidewalk, and given back to the city some of the vitality it sorely lacks?

    So, what are we to make of 26 stories on Kingsway & Bway?? Yawn… The darkest hour is just before dawn.

    Have another nap. Daybreak is coming.

  • Ummmmmm . . . interesting . . .

    CBC last night made quite a thing out of Jim Pattison upgrading his downtown Toyota site into a virtual city within a city.

    Add Main at Kingsway’s tower and Marine Gateway, Vancouver’s urbanism may yet become an international Force Majeure.

    To simplify (early, now is the time), these projects, IMO, fall into two categories:

    1. Understanding that projects of this magnitude may have a geminating period of two years or more, they may well be the tag end of the pre-Olympic fervour desperately competing to be international.

    or

    2. Local money is looking for any port in a storm: i.e. as currency loses value, commodities, even Vancouver real estate, in any form, becomes the haven of last resort.

    Only time will tell if any of these projects materialise into anything that is remotely liveable or affordable: views notwithstanding.

    So far, the omens remain equivocal!

    In the meantime a good scrutinising look, just in case, is in order.

    Errrr . . . of course the obsessive bike-istas must have their say: remembering, of course, there is always more to any project than the composite saddle.

    In both cases the typology is tower as density and both are on established or proposed TX while responsive to the bicicletta: so far so good.

    Acton Ostry have recognised the amenity of peripheral street facade and atrium within: it remains to be seen if the latter is inaccessible private property or and if, indeed, it will be overwhelmed by the looming tower.

    The Pattison project, as early embryo, needs closer scrutiny: time to ride herd.

    Is the Pattison tower, competing with Wall for height, driven by economics or ego?

    The issue is moot so long as the general figure ground of the site is designed as an integrated composition of interwoven pedestrian place and public spaces: chiaroscuro, texture, colour et. al.

    A huge innovation for the city would be to declare all these interstices spaces between as public property to, at least, relieve the owners of the expense of security to shooo off innocent young skate boarders, not in compliance with a dress code, or for that matter octogenarians like me.

    This could be a trade-off more fecund that the usual . . . errrrr . . . artists’ studios which often turn out to be anything but!

    But, of course, ideology is paramount: private property is sacrosanct.

    As always Mies’ quip, God is in the details, rules and now is the time to bug the hell out of the developers and architects to get it right for once.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    Good tie-in Urbie: the Pattison project.

    As you point out (I’ve just heard about it on the radio) it is in the vicinity of the Wall Centre. That one already raises an important issue: can we complete these maga projects in such a manner that we are rebuilding Burrard Street at the same time?

    So far the answer is “Build What?”. No one is connecting the development of a city-within-a-city with having a positive effect in the quartier overall.

    Radio also reported that the Pattison project bites into one of the Queen Elizabeth Park view cones. Let’s see what comes of that.

    However, the key difference between the Pattison project and the other towers you mention (Mt. Pleasant & Gateway) is that the Pattison project is downtown. That’s a tower zone, and a good place to experiment with hyper urbanism.

    Kingsway & Main is an entirely different quartier… or it was until we start approving the wrong character and the wrong built form for its ongoing development.

    Good urbanism is seamless with the past. We don’t want to imitate tradition, we want to extend it forward.

    Remember, we are not “adding density” with a 26 storey building. If we were to build the west side of Main Street to the Lee Building streetwall, for example, we would achieve as much or more overall density than by allowing one developer here, and another developer there to get all the density on one site that the area can realistically support.

    If we compare the base treatment of the Lee Building to the bases of the buildings on Abbott at Keefer and at Pender, there is a world of difference. The Lee Building is brash urbanism: its piers come down to the curb (i.e. the public R.O.W. is taken over by the tower)—you can see the same thing happening at a different scale in the Renaissance arcades of Bolognia and Mantova.

    As a consequence, the shop fronts open up into an urban space unique in the city. All the traffic noise and mayhem gets a different treatment here.

    Then, there is the issue of the cross-section of the piers themselves. At the Lee Building, and at the International Village, these are humungous architectural elements coming down to the public realm.

    At the Lee Building, I suspect, they cover the public sidewalk due to the fact that the property line was moved back to create a 99-foot R.O.W. from what was platted as a 66-foot street.

    At the International Village, such considerations were never really under scrutiny. I can see no evidence that there was a “urban plan” for the International Village as a whole. The sequence of urban spaces is just the same as anywhere else—the stair rising to Dunsmuir street level notwithstanding. The same comments apply to North Shore False Creek and the Olympic Village… places designed all at one time, with nothing that is all of one place.

    Everywhere you look there are enormous stores on the ground, with long lines of dead storefront, most of it papered over with posters as at the AIBC.

    PS

    The square at the OL will be the first square I know fronted by a big box. The entire eastern flank is the London Drugs retailer.

  • MB

    This is my neighbourhood.

    The 26-storey tower is out of context with the neighbourhood, and would remain so even with a future rapid transit station placed in the parking lot to the west.

    The Stella (just up the road) is a clean-lined 12-storey development by the same architects. It is probably the maximum height desired within the neighbourhood context 500m to the south.

    Lop of another 6-10 storeys from the Kingsway x Broadway proposal, do a study of context, and we’ll talk.

  • eddy m

    I have been a resident of the area for 5 years.
    I agree that a 26 storey tower is out of context.
    Besides, a tower city rarely offers a rich street life.

    The developer-oriented, lot-per-lot building of the city will not result in cohesive neighbourhoods if STIR programs allow projects to steer away from the vision set in local area plans.

    I think much better results can be achieved with an overhaul (smaller) increase in density in the entire area, aiming for human-scale development with better public space integration and better building/street interface.

  • A lesson long forgotten . . .

    and . . .

    now to be relearned . .

    Vancouver’s esteemed architects and planners and developers . . .

    take heed . . .

    http://members.shaw.ca/rogerkemble/figure.ground/figure.ground.html

    Lest you forget . . . you are building for real people . . .

  • Tiktaalik

    In my opinion Stella and Jacobsen are good examples of what should be going on in this neighbourhood.

    Stella along Kingsway is taller, but not imposing and out of scale with the area. Jacobsen, down on 2nd at the base of the hill amongst other low lying buildings is wide and only 6 stories, and fits in exactly with the tone of the artist lofts south of it.

    Both are pretty, well designed buildings that lack the cheesy, cheap brick accents common on so many other developments in the area (I love brick but I am just not seeing it done well anywhere…).

    @Lee
    Thanks for the interesting link to the comments from the open house.

    One of the interesting comments is on page 107:

    “Look at the Amacon arts deal at 7th and Scotia – ‘District; – what artist can pay these rates & only 10 years? It’s meaningless and offensive to artists”

    It makes one wonder about the artist studios for this site and if, they may not actually play the purpose one expects. Similarly to how STIR does not equate to affordable housing, merely market rental, we should strive to make artist studios that artists can actually afford. I know there’s a massive need for artist space, but it’s to a large degree it’s need for kids straight out of Emily Carr that are working retail jobs and can’t afford much at all.

    Lee also linked to the transcript of one of the community plan meetings where I referenced people discussing higher buildings around the Kingsgate mall site. I wrote earlier that folks seemed pretty ok with what was shown. Here the notes from the city say “150 ft ok”. I’m not sure what the sort of conversion between ft and stories is, but I’m pretty sure 26 stories is well, well above 150 ft.

  • Tiktaalik

    Ha! That second to last paragraph is muddled and a bit confusing but I’m hoping folks understand what point I’m trying to make with regard to STIR and artist space.

    We know that rental does not necessarily mean affordable housing and similarly it seems that artist space does not necessarily mean affordable artist space. Affordable artist space is what is truly needed and it would be good to know what we’re really getting here.

  • Bill McCreery

    @ MB 36. My comment re: density did not mean height by default as per the current Vancouver mindset. It seems to me that if the planning department, or any developer wants to exceed the existing allowable zoning &/or deviate from the community plan they should have to present their arguments, not behind closed doors but, to the community @ a conceptual, sketch stage. And, as I said above, they should have to convince the neighbourhood to change the community plan to allow what they want to do, not the other way round as has become the practice.

    Your ‘my neighbourhood’ more mutted concerns MB & Lewis remind me of my own reaction to the 1304 Hornby & now the Pattison impositions on my neighbourhood. It gets serious when it’s personal.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    MB I think they got you to take the bait already. Consider the following:

    (a) Thinking one site at a time; starting with their number and asking a little be lopped off.

    (b) Not making transportation an integral part of the plan.

    (c) Defaulting on human scaled urban environments.

    The time to deal with these things is not, as Frances pointed out earlier this year, AFTER private interests have invested a great deal of time and capital on a proposal.

    Here’s a sketch of what the new planning paradigm would have to offer.

    CHARACTER & BUILT FORM

    The Lee Building is 6 stories on top of a base. Those floor heights will be between 10 and 12 feet (I don’t have time to go over there to make measurements). Let’s assume an average height of 12 feet per floor, including the base, for a total of 84 feet. It is located on the north side of Broadway, and the west side of Main, minimizing the amount of shadows it throws on the public realm.

    The streetwall to R.O.W. ratio of the Lee Building turns out to be about 1 to 1 (building height to street width).

    HIERARCHY OF STREET SPACES

    Street widths from Van Map:

    Kingsway R.O.W. 99-feet
    Broadway R.O.W. 80-feet (average)
    Main Street R.O.W. 99-feet
    Watson Street R.O.W. 33-feet

    MB, you might tell us about Watson Street, it appears to be a forgotten piece of urban magic in our midst.

    It is about 3,000 feet long, and terminates at a kind of goose foot pattern at 18th street, where Main bends to the west. These are unique and memorable conditions in urban space which can help give meaning and form to the experience of our neighbourhoods.

    Watson street should be a focus. A special urban spine that takes some of the high volume pedestrian activity from the frenzy of Main Street (bustle is good) and feeds it onto a public realm that is intimate and human scaled.

    URBAN ROOMS

    Kingsway (road to New Westminster, first capital of our province) and Main (trestle over False Creek opened up Mount Pleasant for development) are our earliest thoroughfares. The point where they converge one block to the north of the proposed tower should be a special site in our city.

    BLOCK MASSING: CONTINUITY OF THE STREETWALL

    To generate an urban quartier, the surest way is to extend the traditions of the past into the future. This creates urban memory, and can be achieved simply by building continuous streetwall, rather than towers.

    Streetwall equal in height to the fronting R.O.W. will create shadowed conditions most of the year around. On the south side of the street, and on the east side or morning light side of the street, a streetwall half the height of the fronting R.O.W. works better in our lattitude.

    Furthermore, the horizontal lines established by the Lee Buildings spare but sure handed façade treatment can be used as “precedent” in the neighbourhood (whomever this Mr. Lee was, he seemed to have got the urbanism right).

    MONUMENT AS URBAN FIGURE

    The Post Office on 15th and Main provides an example of public building as “monument”—what the designers of the brand new community centre failed to understand. These public buildings function as the counterpoint to the background architecture of the streetwall urbanism. They build visual cues in urban space that are valuable for place making and orientation.

    TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

    Finally, we have to plan the transportation. BRT/LRT on Main Street and Kingsway to provide service capacity and constrain private vehicular movements to the point that these streets can support social activity, and fronting residential, as well as serve as transportation arteries.

    Deep breath… and either BRT/LRT or subway on Broadway.
    MB I think you took the bait already. Consider the following:

    (a) Thinking one site at a time; starting with their number and asking something be lopped off.

    (b) Not making transportation an integral part of the plan.

    The time to deal with these things is not, as Frances pointed out earlier this year, AFTER private interests have invested a great deal of time and capital on a proposal.

    CHARACTER & BUILT FORM

    The Lee Building is 6 stories on top of a base. Those floor heights will be between 10 and 12 feet. I don’t have time to go over there to make measurements, so let’s assume an average height of 12 feet per floor, including the base, for a total of 84 feet. It is located on the north side of Broadway, and the west side of Main, reducing the amount of shadows it throws on the public realm.

    HIERARCHY OF STREET SPACES

    From Van Map:
    Kingsway R.O.W. 99-feet
    Broadway R.O.W. 80-feet (average)
    Main Street R.O.W. 99-feet
    Watson Street R.O.W. 33-feet

    You might tell us about Watson Street, MB, it is about 3,000 feet long, and terminates at a kind of goose foot pattern at 18th street, where Main bends to the west. This are unique and memorable conditions in urban space which can help give meaning and form to our neighbourhoods.

    Watson street should be the focus of a special urban spine that takes some of the high volume pedestrian activity from the frenzy of Main Street (bustle is good) and feeds it onto a public realm that is intimate and human scaled.

    URBAN ROOMS

    Kingsway (to New Westminster, first capital of our province) and Main (trestle over False Creek opened up Mount Pleasant for development) are our earliest thoroughfares. The point where they converge one block to the north should be a special site in our city.

    BLOCK MASSING: CONTINUITY OF THE STREETWALL

    To generate an urban quartier, the surest way to extend the traditions of the past into the future, and thus create urban memory, is by building continuous streetwall, not towers.

    Streetwall equal in height to the fronting R.O.W. will create shadowed conditions most of the year around. On the south side of the street, and on the east side or morning light side of the street, a streetwall half the height of the fronting R.O.W. works better.

    Furthermore, the horizontal lines established by the Lee Buildings spare but sure handed façade treatment can be used as “precedent” in the neighbourhood. Whomever this Mr. Lee was, he seemed to have got the urbanism right.

    MONUMENT AS URBAN FIGURE

    The Post Office on 15th and Main provides an example of public building as “monument”. What the designers of the brand new community centre failed to understand. These public buildings act as the counterpoint to the background architecture of the streetwall urbanism.

    A 10 minute walking distance separates these two sites, suggesting each as the focus, core or “heart” of side-by-side quartiers.

    TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

    Finally, we have to plan the transportation. BRT/LRT on Main Street and Kingsway to provide service capacity and constrain private vehicular movements to the point that these streets can support social activity, and fronting residential, as well as serve as transportation arteries.

    QUARTIER FOOTPRINTS

    Add to the first six principles on last one: Quartier Footprints, and we would have success, rather than a controversial building project in our midst.

    Not just your neighbourhood, MB, but as many as six quartiers contiguous with the pedestrian shed centred on Kingsway and Main could be planned to round out the human experience of place. For example, the Opsal Steel building on 2nd is in the location of a second continguous quartier to Main & Kingsway.

    … An experience that is made possible only if we design our neighbourhoods with human scale.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    Sorry for the messed up post, folks. After “CHARACTER & BUILT FORM” reappears for a second time, skip down to “Quartier Fooprints” and you’ll have the intended text.

  • @ Lewis . . .

    No need to apologise . . .

    Nice stuff . . .

    Very clear . . .

  • Lee

    @ Bill McCreery Many folks, myself included became involved in this community planning process under the naive presumption that citizens were actually being given a chance to be involved. Sadly this is not the case, decisions are not made here, ideas are not entertained in any meaningful way. The community meetings serve two main purposes, to allow The City to proclaim later that there was community consultation, and to soften the blow for Council to some extent when it comes times for the Public Hearing, a rubber stamp event which takes place at the very end of the planning process after plans have been given final approval and every bit of bonus density and extra height has been bought and paid for. The Public Hearing also is a sham, an insult and a collossal waste of citizen’s time and taxpayer’s money. This City is being run by big money developers and the City staff and policitians who are in their pockets. This may all sound like the ravings of a cynic but it is in fact simply the cold hard truth. And getting these guys out of office won’t help, the other party is just as bad. So all I can say is “Go Canucks!” we need something to cheer for in this City.

  • PS . . .

    No the figure ground does not preclude the tower although I thinq common sense should intervene . . .

    Figure ground is about the human experience at . . . errrr . . . GROUND LEVEL . . .

  • Ron

    Hi neighbour! Frances, I think the reason that the community (that we live in) is not gonna be questioning these condos like we questioned the social housing at Fraser and Broadway is because…(wait for it)…. it is condos and not social housing!

    Not a fit for the neighbourhood? Not a fit for the cheque cashing operations, the crackhouses and the abandoners of old trucks? This is a problem?

    Call me a gentrifier if you must, but this project means that there will be many new people in the neighbourhood who are, for want to a better term, gainfully employed. In other words, people who will be heard if their streets look crummy, if their schools are rundown, and the parks full of needles and sleeping douchebags.

  • Tiktaalik

    The city needs to have a discussion with the community (perhaps during an election) about under whether there should be rules for building outside of the community plan and what those should be. Right now it seems like it’s an “everything’s on the table” sort of negotiation and it would be good to have a discussion about whether that’s the right way to go about things.

    We should feel comfortable handing over planning powers to those whom we elect and to those with city planning expertise, and I wouldn’t want to tie anyones hands up with overbearing and complicated rules, but on the other hand there may be some value in figuring out at least some sort of framework for what’s on the table and what’s off the table.

    If something is well, well outside of that framework, (ie. Wow this is over x% higher than the max we’re supposed to negotiate! On the other hand this is exceptional and maybe it’s a good idea…) then maybe the community plan needs to be updated and/or the process needs to be kicked up to a more intensive level of public consultation.

    Other related concepts I’m interested in is whether the city has a firm list of what constitutes a community amenity, what the real value of these things are, and whether there’s any sort of policy on to what degree negotiated amenities must remain in the community.

    I wouldn’t ever want to prevent people from creating innovative ideas for buildings and communities. I wouldn’t want to prevent people from getting things done. However, I am concerned that the city is doing all sorts of things without any guiding policy. Maybe it exists and I’m not aware of it? It may not have occurred to anyone at the city that the public would be interested in knowing what goes on behind the curtains.

  • Frances Bula

    @ Ron. (Hi neighbour back!) I agree that most people around Main/Fraser/Kingsway are thrilled when something gets torn down and new market housing goes up because they see it as all part of the neighbourhood improving. There’s a condo a minute going up these days, it seems like, and I don’t hear one word of objection.

    On the other hand, I know there was a component of people who had no problem with the social housing but did not like the height. Like some of the other posters here, they don’t like the tower look of downtown and were under the impression that Mount Pleasant, Fairview, Kits, Commercial — the band of housing just outside the central city — were going to have a different look.

  • evilfred

    This is completely ridiculous. There is nothing in the area remotely close to 26 storeys high. The development at Fraser was half the height and still controversial. I’ll be at the public workshop thing with bells on. Though I expect that the public meeting will be a dog and pony show as usual (like we got with the park where the MPCC used to be) and nothing will change.