Plaza of Nations site pitched as vibrant waterfront neighbourhood for Vancouver

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Plaza of Nations site gets a revamp

Derrick Penner
The Province

A new proposal for the Plaza of Nations site on False Creek calls for development of 1,400 housing units on a 10-acre site that would link Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside to the waterfront.

The residences, 20 per cent of them to be provided as social housing, would be in terraced, garden-topped buildings in the proposal from Canadian Metropolitan Properties Corp., a Vancouver company owned by Singapore billionaire Oei Hong Leong.

The concept includes a civic plaza, new waterfront restaurants and stores, a 69-place daycare centre, and a community centre with ice rink intended to be a practise facility for the Vancouver Canucks.

Oei said all of the marketing of the units would take place in Vancouver.

“Other developers have marketing offices in China, in Hong Kong, but we don’t,” Oei said on Wednesday. “We can’t stop overseas buyers coming here, but we don’t have any promotion overseas.”

The proposal is a departure from the 2012 application that Oei’s company submitted to the city. Project architect James Cheng said the city’s decision to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts sent them back to the drawing board.

“The stars are all aligned right now,” Cheng said in an interview. Removing the viaducts, he said, “opens up the entire neighbourhood at this end of False Creek.”

It turns the Plaza of Nations land, which Oei bought for $40 million in 1989 from Li Ka-shing, into a more important hub in the City of Vancouver’s plan to redevelop northeast False Creek.

Oei, a part-time resident of Vancouver, said he bought the land “for my retirement,” and looks forward to developing what he hopes will be a landmark piece of the city.

“It is also very important how it serves the community,” Oei said. “James Cheng has good ideas (for) it.”

Cheng said that in the concept, the buildings are gently terraced to frame views of B.C. Place Stadium and Science World.

“Mr. Oei has always wanted to give back to the community, so the whole idea of the project is to blend in with the city but at the same time be iconic,” Cheng said.

Oei is in a legal dispute with Concord Pacific — he filed suit against the developer last year claiming that the competing firm was trying to constrain his development options on the site.

Canadian Metropolitan’s senior vice-president, Daisen Gee-Wing, wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit because it is before the courts, but said “we are confident we’re going to proceed with development.”


From the city’s perspective, the Plaza of Nations redevelopment is a chance to complete northeast False Creek “in a very different and interesting way,” said Kevin McNaney, the city’s project director for the area.

“We’ve done a lot of False Creek that’s residential with the seawall and people going by, but it doesn’t really have a lot of life,” he said.

“This is a real opportunity for some south-facing waterfront to create a vibrant commercial district on the water and really enhance the sports, stadium and special events functions (of the area),” McNaney said.

The proposal is conceptual, so there are no prices or specifications for market housing on the site yet.

McNaney said the social-housing component of the development will fall within city definitions for affordability. He said the city will seek to “maximize affordability and decrease rents as much as possible.”

The surrounding neighbourhood is already expensive, but McNaney said the size of the Plaza Nations site will likely provide “diversity” of price points. He added that Canadian Metropolitan has made a point of planning for larger, family-oriented units in the development.

Gee-Wing said Canadian Metropolitan is hoping to hear from the city on its application by fall, which would pave the way for public hearings in late 2017 or early 2018. If all goes well, the company could start construction by early 2019.

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