Little Mountain’s revised plan includes canals, shops

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Critics say deal will shortchange city

Cheryl Rossi
Van. Courier

The long awaited revised proposal for the derelict Little Mountain housing site includes retail shops, canals and at least seven towers, although lower than first envisioned.

But critics of the development proposed for a 15.3-acre L-shaped property that’s bounded by Main and Ontario streets, 33rd and 37th avenues, argue the project will shortchange the city.

Holborn Holdings and architect James Cheng revealed a revised concept for the redevelopment of Little Mountain Jan. 26. Their presentation to journalists included a model of the development, which showed building heights of six to eight storeys along Main, four storeys stepping to seven and eight storeys along 37th, a 13-storey building near Ontario and the edge of Queen Elizabeth Park, with the tallest building at 14 storeys.

Approximately 1,800 units of market housing of varying sizes would be included in the development alongside 234 units of non-market housing. Of those, 224 would replace social housing units that were demolished on the property in 2009, and 10 units would be reserved for aboriginal people.

A new, larger Little Mountain Neighbourhood House and a new childcare facility would be built, along with 10,000 square feet of small-scale retail space, much of it on Main Street.

“Most of these single-family houses [in the area] are owned by retired people and retired people don’t get out,” Cheng said.

“If you go down to Main Street and look at all the eateries, all are for young people, so the merchants are having a hard time because there’s not enough young people [in this area] and how many people can afford a $1 million house.”

Canals of storm water would ribbon the development. Holborn showed journalists a video depicting homes edged with water.

Cheng said 50 of the 80 trees on the site would be preserved and an additional 400 planted. All of the parking would be underground.

He said feedback from the community saw the tallest buildings’ heights reduced from 16 storeys, the buildings spread out more and improved pathways through the development to Queen Elizabeth and Riley parks.

But critics are less concerned with landscaping and more concerned about the deals between the developer, city and province.

Ned Jacobs, a member of the community advisory group and the city’s Riley Park/South Cambie community vision implementation committee, says disagreements over the amount of acceptable density on the site had redevelopment at a standstill for six months, at a time when nonmarket housing is desperately needed in the city.

Most of the former low-income tenants were relocated in 2008.

Jacobs said Holborn doesn’t want to pay community amenity contributions that the city requires on the entire development. He’s concerned the city will end up subsidizing some of the nonmarket housing.

According to the 2007 memorandum of understanding between B.C. Housing and the city, B.C. Housing will invest the net proceeds from the sale of the site in the development of social housing throughout the province. Half of that investment would be spent in Vancouver.

After two years of consultation, Holborn hopes to have policy guidelines about the uses, height, density and community facilities approved by city council soon, with rezoning to follow.

The company hopes to break ground in a year. When the replacement social housing units will be built will be determined during rezoning. Joo Kim Tiah, president and CEO of Holborn, said the entire development could take 10 years, but timing is dependent on the market.

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