Resident concerns surround tower proposal in Vancouver neighbourhood

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Planned 268 units include 206 condos and 62 rental units

Cheryl Rossi
Van. Courier

Rize Alliance Properties Ltd. with Acton Ostry Architects wants the city to rezone the block between East Broadway and 10th Avenue, Kingsway and Watson Street to allow for a commercial and residential development. Photograph by: submitted, artist rendering

So many people have signed up for a workshop on a proposed 26-storey tower at Broadway and Kingsway, the site of a Christmas 2009 blaze, that the city’s moved the meeting to a bigger place. Rize Alliance Properties Ltd. with Acton Ostry Architects wants the city to rezone the block between East Broadway and 10th Avenue, Kingsway and Watson Street to allow for a commercial and residential development. A community workshop on the project March 20 has been moved from the Native Education College to The Salt Building in The Village on False Creek. The 26-storey tower is proposed for the corner of 10th Avenue and Kingsway. Rize and Acton Ostry propose retail at grade on Broadway, Watson and Kingsway with residential units in five and six storeys above. Of 268 units, 206 would be condos and 62 would be rentals. The proposal includes a 9,200-square-foot artist production space on the corner of 10th and Watson, wider sidewalks, 362 bicycle-parking stalls and three levels of underground parking for 319 vehicles. Parking and loading access would be off Watson. Mount Pleasant resident Lee Chapelle believes the rezoning proposal violates the community plan for the neighbourhood that the city approved in November 2010. Chapelle said he and his wife Grace MacKenzie participated in planning as part of the city’s community liaison group, though he became doubtful of the process and dropped out for a while. Chapelle said they were “stunned” and “horrified” when at the group’s final meeting in September 2009, the city and Acton Ostry presented a plan for the tall project. “Unless the community rises up in revolt soon it seems a virtual lock to go ahead,” Chapelle said. He noted posters urging passersby to save Mount Pleasant and to attend upcoming meetings were recently plastered around his neighbourhood. Chapelle doesn’t want the tower to block the view of the North Shore mountains from Kingsway. He doesn’t believe the proposed development respects the area’s look and feel. He says he wouldn’t oppose 10- or 12-storey buildings, similar to those being erected on Kingsway, on the disputed site. Chapelle, a retired city employee and computer consultant, says the artist production space would benefit only a few. He was also unexcited about the proposed widened sidewalks. “Yeah, whoopee. So the people that get off the bus can walk eight abreast instead of six abreast,” he said. He noted the city’s urban design guidelines for central Broadway say nothing should overshadow the iconic eight-storey Lee Building on the northwest corner of Main and Broadway. “It’s all being just ignored by this group. The developer has got this group of city planners in their pockets and they’re plowing ahead with this massive building on the top of a hill,” Chapelle said. Brent Toderian, the city’s director of planning, says the Mount Pleasant plan identified three sites—the IGA property on Main at 14th, Kingsgate Mall and Broadway and Kingsway—that could take buildings taller than the 13 storeys allowed under the current commercial zoning. He said they must be examples of good urban design and offer public benefits. Peter Burch, the city’s lead planner on the community plan, said a landmark building was discussed for Broadway and Kingsway. But the community plan notes that height was “a very sensitive issue” during the development of the document “where there was the least convergence of community opinion.” Burch noted participants differentiated between various areas of “UpTown,” between Ontario and Prince Edward, Seventh and 16th. He said members of the community wanted to retain the character of Main Street, the Lee Building and the triangle of properties where Main and Kingsway converge, but they saw extra height in specific areas could be worth considering to achieve public benefits. Chris Vollan, vice president of development for Rize, said his company’s proposal is facing “push back” from the community because of the proposed building height. He said most of the opponents don’t realize it fits “one hundred per cent” with the community plan that calls for more mostly low- to mid-rise buildings, infills and high-rises only on select sites. “We happen to be dumb enough [to be] asking for rezoning on one of the big sites right after the plan came out,” he said. Toderian said the proposed height and public benefits will be discussed with the public in an “enhanced community engagement process” that includes the five-hour workshop March 20. A follow-up open house where the public can view the response made by the project design team to the March 20 workshop is planned for April 12 at Heritage Hall. Rize previously considered placing stacking containers where artists could produce and exhibit their work on the site. Toderian and Burch weren’t sure why that project didn’t go ahead. © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

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