A Rare Monday UDP Sees Disagreement, but Approval of More Rental Homes at the Arbutus Centre

Arbutus Centre – 2133 Nanton Avenue

I was very late to this UDP–  not because it was held on a Monday, but rather that it was hidden away on the third floor of City Hall. While held behind locked doors, someone in the cramped committee room was kind enough to let me in.

I arrived just in time to catch the consensus of the panel, though I missed out on the individual opinions. What I managed to hear through the noise from outside the building was that they felt a significant addition of height and density was being added. This addition threw the balance of the concept out of whack and the original vision of the project was lost as a result. To remedy this, the density should have been spread across the whole site. Though, as construction is already under way for phase 1, it was understood that it was too late for that solution.

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That said, it was suggested that the height and density between the two buildings could still be balanced. There was less optimism about the shadowing that will now have a significant impact on the park, eastern sidewalks, and new high street. It was felt that there was a need for a new clear concept. The applicant admitted that the new density was a challenge, but believed the site could handle it. They also revealed that they had 4 to 5 meetings with City Staff, and that this was the design that emerged from this process.

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In the end, the majority vote was to support the project with recommendations to better distribute the density, reduce the shadowing on the courtyard and high street, and further design the architectural expression. Really, all three recommendations feel tied together. There was a fourth recommendation, but I couldn’t hear above the noise from the building systems outside. After the vote, there was a strong conversation between some of the supporters, dissenters, and city staff.

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Personally, we feel Oakridge, Metrotown, Brentwood and Loughheed have proved that a mall is one of the best opportunities for additional homes, offices, and recreation space. While one could argue that this is too different from the original proposal, as that was was almost 8 years ago, we feel that the site is just responding to the changes Vancouver has experienced in the last few years.The site is also proposing community benefits, like an increased neighbourhood house and that 20% of the new units will be social housing. Though these will be added to the city-owned homes already planned for Building A, the one with the Safeway. Also, over half of the new units will have two or more bedrooms, and I’m sure that these new families will add life to the retailers in the mall, and to the neighbourhood.

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Project Stats
The proposal would increase the residential floor area, including an increase in the number of market and social housing units. The specific amendments include:

  • An increase in the maximum allowable floor space for all uses from 67,065 sq. m (721,881 sq. ft) to 77,611 sq. m (835,400 sq. ft.). The additional floor space is to be accommodated on Blocks C and D (the western portion of the site).
  • An increase to the maximum building height on Block C from 57 m (187 ft.) to 60 m (197 ft.) and the maximum building height on Block D from 57 m (187 ft.) to 72 m (236 ft.).

The rezoning application proposes no change to the amount of office and commercial space, and includes an expanded Neighbourhood House

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