UDP Feels Senior’s Housing will be Good for the Neighbourhood, but Needs to be Better for Its Residents

2499 East 48th Avenue (Sunrise of East Vancouver)
Some proposals fit so well into their surrounding neighbourhood, it’s actually puzzling why they’re still required to go to the Urban Design Panel. Certainly Hannah and I didn’t notice anything controversial about this application for a 4 floor assisted living building when we attended its open house the other day.

So, I naturally expected the panel to listen to the applicant’s presentation, quickly go around the table, and move on to the next item. Of course I was wrong, and several panellists couldn’t help but make their own mark on this building’s simple design. Ultimately, their desire to streamline the amount of materials used to clad the building even made it into the recommendations.

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This must have been slightly frustrating for the applicant team, as Sunrise Senior Living operates roughly 320 similar communities across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Several members of the panel seemed to acknowledge that a four story assisted living facility, which includes two floors of “memory care,” can only provide so much architectural variation. As such, they generally praised the height, massing, choice of location, and services that will be provided.

Describing the project as “good for the neighbourhood,”  many made note of the fact that enabling more opportunities for the elderly and children to mix leads to better results for both. However, one member cautioned that the windows should be designed to make sure children in the parks don’t accidentally catch the residents changing clothes.

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Others felt the layout of the building needed to change. While they understood this was likely the company’s standard design, they believed the offices should be switched with the grand ballroom, as it provided easier access to the outdoor amenity area, and a better view of the parks. This led to the panel’s second recommendation, which was to revisit the location of the amenity areas to take better advantage of the park space.

There was also plenty of discussion about the porte-cochère, with some wanting the area reduced or programmed to favour pedestrians over vehicles. There were suggestions to improve this tight space by providing a small pull-off area, or by replacing it entirely with a drop-off space underground. One member felt a lay-by on the street would be adequate, but admitted it would likely run afoul of the city’s engineering department.

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Normally, a rooftop amenity space would be another impossibility for a building this size, but that isn’t the case with this proposal. As its residents will have different levels of mobility, it makes sense the building would be made from non-combustible materials. However, this also allows for the panel’s final recommendation, which called for a common and private space on the roof, as well as washrooms to avoid a need to rush downstairs.

There was one last request, but it was directed to city staff.  They hoped the the applicant would be given some flexibility so they could make adjustments to the shoulders of the building to more easily achieve Option B of the sustainability guidelines. Ultimately, the meeting took longer than I thought it would, and I’m left to question if reviews of these simple buildings make the best use of the applicants’, city staff’s and panel’s time. However, this is an important project, and deserves public feedback to make it even better. So, make sure to leave yours here.

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