Vancouver’s UDP Hopes Fantastic Homes will Brighten the Lives of our Senior Citizens

2010 Harrison Drive (German Canadian Care Home)
After Hannah and I attend a contentious open house, I often find myself anticipating the Urban Design Panel‘s review afterwards. These volunteer experts might sometimes blur the line between urban design and personal taste, but it’s reassuring when they share our feelings about a proposal. So, unlike those who called both the project and I ugly, the panel’s feelings were summed up by one member who described it as a fantastic building in the right location.

No one on the panel questioned the appropriateness of the project’s height or density. In contrast, the design team actually won praise for their skillful handling of this difficult site. Many acknowledged the building was shaped not only by the steep terrain, but also by the site’s large trees, which will be preserved. While one member worried how the building’s expression fit into the area, others praised it for taking care to preserve the surrounding private views.

It was actually a concern about the views for the residents that shaped the first recommendation. Despite acknowledging that many seniors prefer a dark living space, the panel wanted to bring more light to the building’s lower floors and northern courtyard spaces. They suggested opening up the roof deck on level 4 to allow more light in. One panellist suggested the design team go further and improve the life of those who work there by introducing more light into the kitchen and laundry spaces as well.

There was also consensus that, at the next stage, the building needed to be more expressive. As part of this, a couple members felt the design should establish a stronger link to its German culture. These individuals were very cautious in their comments, and noted they weren’t intended to be offensive. Ironically, I heard similar comments echoed at the open house, so perhaps their hesitation wasn’t warranted.

However, there was no hesitation when it came to recognizing how important these elder care homes will be to our community. Not only will 150 of these spaces be publicly funded, but the new building will also be more sustainable, as it’s being designed with rain water management strategies, and a new central kitchen will result in a 15% reduction in hot water use.

That said, by nature of what services are being provided, the design has to have a certain layout, even though the panel wanted the residents to have more views to the courtyards. To their disappointment, the applicant explained it was not possible to reorientate or bend the hallways, as the village-like homes had to remain within sight of a central nurses’ station. Still, some suggested that moving the mechanical services could allow for this.


That recommendation was put forward as a last minute amendment to the chairs motion, as were two others. The first, once again, related to the courtyard spaces, as there was a desire to see the southeast one made accessible. The other was perhaps the only time the rental building was mentioned, as there was a desire to see it made more legible from Victoria Street.

The chair accepted both of these amendments into the official recommendations, and the motion was passed unanimously. Clearly the panel knows how important it is for everyone’s voice to be heard, so don’t let yours sit unheard. Whether you’re of German descent, rock out to Rammstein, or just enjoy a good beer, make sure to take a quick minute to express your thoughts here.


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