Taller blocks on horizon

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Views may be lost in push for more space

Christina Montgomery

Vancouver‘s cherished views of mountains and water are in danger of being blocked by taller buildings.

Officially protected by the city’s “view corridor” policy, the open sights of the surrounding landscape are now coming up for debate as Vancouver grapples with its need for more space in downtown buildings.

The city needs more public amenities such as parks in the rapidly growing downtown area — and the main way it gets them is by making developers pay for them in exchange for “air space” to build into.

Vancouver is also in need of more “job space” — any building where people work.

This week, council agreed to let buildings in Downtown South, a strip along Granville between Burrard and False Creek North, be built higher than 100 metres, which was the prior restriction.

Council also decided to review view corridors and all downtown height limits — and to “recommend changes, if appropriate, to achieve additional development.”

The review could result in some areas of the city — the south side of False Creek, for example — losing their views of the mountains.

NPA Coun. Peter Ladner, who supported the idea of giving up views for amenities, suggested that if the new buildings were attractive enough, they might be a good trade-off for mountain vistas.

This trade-off may be necessary — and the issue is pressing, according to a staff report.

It notes that the city has had many of its heritage buildings restored through a program known as “heritage density bonusing.”

Developers pay the considerable cost of renovating the buildings in exchange for a density bonus — a precise amount of space they are allowed to add to another building elsewhere, or sell to another developer who wants it.

But with its restrictive zoning and height regulations, the city has now run out of downtown sites where the bonuses can be used — and taller buildings would be the answer to this problem.

© The Vancouver Province 2008

Comments are closed.