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Revised Marine Gateway gets approval, casino design predicted to bring new look, 60 W Cordova okayed

July 30th, 2010 · 37 Comments

Slow to post on this Wednesday urban design panel meeting — so many other things to do!

But for those following these issues closely

1. A revised Marine Gateway plan did get unanimous approval from the urban design panel. Still a long way to go though — public hearings, info meetings in September and development permit board still to come. And even though the panel approved it, some people made the kind of observations that make me glad I don’t have to sit in a room having my work reviewed. (Some comments: office tower still reminiscent of Fairview Slopes 1970s, main residential tower still tentative, not bold enough, cantilevered tower still feels oppressive, etc.)

The basics, though: the Busby firm did make some changes to the large residential tower to make it seem less bulky — it’s been narrowed in both its width and length and the number of steps increased from five to seven in this slant-stacked tower (think Lego blocks arranged to form a diagonal). That meant removing 90 of the 120 rental units that were going to be part of the STIR program.

That means, PCI head Andrew Grant told me when I asked, that the project will have to provide other community benefits since the density of the 450 market units was there to help pay the subsidy needed to build the rental units. There may be some dickering there yet, with staff trying to up the number of rental units and reduce the number of market units — or maybe not. There hasn’t been a warm reception from neighbourhoods to density for rental, so staff may opt to get a different kind of community benefit out of the project.

The pathway through the project has also been given a wide opening on Marine to make it more obvious that people should enter there. That means about 15,000 less square feet of retail space.

Otherwise, the project has the same unusual look and shape as the first version — definitely something new and different for Vancouver.

2. Next up were the plans for the casino/entertainment complex plus two hotels that will be built around BCPlace (with proceeds from the sale of the land to help pay for the roof). As several panel members noted, this is definitely going to bring a different look to Vancouver.

No tower and podium, no 1970s Fairview slopes. One hotel — meant to be the one for the younger, hipper people who only come to lose a single paycheque, as opposed to their house — is currently shown as looking kind of Daliesque — bent and curved and clad in recycled copper that frames each window in what looks like artfully rusted metal. (Excuse my non-architect descriptions.) The other hotel is more Marriott-like, glass, though with a V-dip in the top.

At the base between the hotels, where the casino is, the lower section has be angled roof planes and, if the model is to be believed, canopies of copper-coloured metal strings and other futuristic Las Vegas-like elements.

Architect James Cheng led off the panel discussion by saying, approvingly I think, that it will change Vancouver urbanism and Jane Durante described it as “eccentric” and something that’s “going to loosen some ideas of what’s acceptable.” Apparently it got about 6-4 support. (After three hours, I bailed.)

Finally, the 60 West Cordova project — Ian Gillespie’s no parking, no frills, no speculators building planned for the empty lot just east of Woodward’s — got a hearty okay, with some commenting that other downtown projects should also be approved without parking.

Now — waiting for any of these projects to actually get built. The city has had about one development permit board meeting in the last seven months because so few projects seem to make it to that stage.

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