W. Georgia derelict eyesore – Holborn Group resubmitting new plans

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

Naoibh O’Connor
Van. Courier

A building shell sits on a site turned down by the city’s urban design panel for a proposed 167-metre tower.

An effort to redevelop an abandoned building site at 1133 West Georgia is still in the works, even though the city’s urban design panel voted against an initial highrise design proposal in mid-March.

The property is owned by the Holborn Group, which wants to construct a 167-metre tower that includes a hotel on the lower floors and residential units on the upper levels.

Rezoning planner Phil Mondor said he anticipates a redesign of the mixed-use structure will be submitted by Holborn at month’s end or early June.

A building shell sits on the site, which has been vacant for almost a decade. One former owner tried to convert it into a gym and recreation centre, but those plans failed for unknown reasons.

Cadillac Fairview bought the property in 2000, but sold it to Holborn in 2003.

The city has fielded complaints about the state of the property for years. It was cleaned up in 2003, including the removal of a crane, tarps, garbage and other debris for safety, but it remains an eyesore to many.

Mondor said the highrise proposed by Holborn would be the second tallest building in Vancouver after the Shangri-La tower, which will be across the street.

The reworked submission is expected to cover roughly the same floor area and the tower will be positioned in the same footprint, but it will also address some of the concerns outlined by the design panel, which included two internationally known architects.

One criticism in March was that it didn’t look as tall as it was because of several design elements such as a flared top and its use of materials. Panel members also wondered how the plans were “informed” by sustainability objectives, according to Mondor.

“But people are very happy that there’s a rezoning application [filed],” he said.

One of the problems facing the developer of the property is the need to demolish the existing structure and underground parking-an expensive proposition considering the site has been seismically updated, which makes it more difficult and costly to knock down.

Whether the urban design panel and city council ultimately approves Holborn’s plans remains to be seen, however.

“Rezonings are never a sure thing. Ultimately it’s a city council decision that’s needed and we don’t want to predict what decision city council will make,” Mondor said.

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