Mount Pleasant says no to 11-storey tower

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Council orders social housing site scaled back by three floors

Jeff Lee

Vancouver council bent to the wishes of the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood Tuesday, ordering a proposed 11-storey residential tower on one of its 14 city-owned social housing sites scaled back to eight storeys

But in telling B.C. Housing and the Vancouver Native Housing Society to go back to the drawing board, they have put at risk 24 units of rental housing proposed for the top three floors, said society head Dave Eddy.

The decision followed three rough days of public hearings in which neighbours made it clear they wanted the city to stay within the neighbourhood maximum height of six storeys — while housing advocates said the 103 social housing units and 24 market rental units are desperately required for the city’s native youth.

Even at eight storeys, the project at the northwest corner of Broadway and Fraser is too high and will make many neighbours angry, said Steve Jung, a neighbour who opposed the development.

In asking for the three-storey reduction, council said the architects could come up with a design for a longer, wider building that would allow them to incorporate market rental units within the allowable height.

But Eddy and project architect Larry Adams said they aren’t sure that will work, given the changes would violate the city’s urban planning design guidelines, which govern things like the shape and form of buildings and setback from property lines.

“It doesn’t meet planning’s urban design objectives. We’ve worked with planning since 2008 and they’ve been clear about what they will allow,” said Adams, the principal of NSDA Architects. “It’s doable, but the question is whether planning will consider it too dense.”

Eddy said the likelihood is that the society will simply scrap the top three floors of market rental housing, even though that’s what the community needs.

“We will take a bash at redesigning it but we’re not going to beat ourselves to death. If we see a lot of resistance from planning we’ll drop the affordable rental. The irony is that this is what the community wanted. We want to build the rental housing because we believe there’s a need for a full range of housing options.”

Although council voted unanimously for the change, councillors Suzanne Anton and Ellen Woodsworth said they would have preferred the full 11 storeys.

Anton questioned why, if council was prepared -allow 20-plus storey rental buildings in the West End, it wouldn’t allow three storeys of rental on top of social housing in Mount Pleasant.

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