Arts, Homes and Job Space – UDP Supports a Grittier Look for the False Creek Flats

1717 Lorne Street
One of the things Hannah and I enjoy about our civic engagement is getting to see the various models of all the buildings proposed in Vancouver. In fact, that’s actually why I first started going to the meetings of Vancouver’s Urban Design Panel. As development applications usually don’t need an open house, this is often the best way to learn more about these projects, and see their model without going to a sales centre.

I soon discovered that while this building will be offering rental housing it will need a sales team, as the office and industrial space it provides will be strata titled. That said, in order to reach that point, the proposal needed a height relaxation from 60 to 140 feet. That may seem like a lot, but it’s allowed for under the False Creek Flats Plan (pg 43), so long as the Development Permit Board and UDP approve of it first.

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The applicant acknowledged it was a privilege to design a building that comprises an entire city block. Industrial space will make up the first two floors in both buildings, but the residential and office use is separated by a mid-block connection to the “arts walk.” That aspect is also call for in the area plan (pg 66), though the large art piece on the building was not. The design team simply felt it was a fun way to relate to Emily Carr University.

Unsurprisingly, the panel had no problem granting the height necessary to bring this badly needed job space and rental housing to reality. The applicant admitted that limit, set by the same view cone that impacts the future St. Paul’s Hospital, may not allow them to get rooftop patios, but unlike that previous review, the panel stayed silent on this issue.

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That wasn’t the case when it came to the laneway “arts walk,” which was described by one panellist as weird. Another countered that weird can be a good thing, a feeling that appeared to represent the majority, as the treatment of that element won near unanimous praise. Ironically, despite the applicants hope that BC Hydro would remove the hydro polls in this area, the chair felt they create a commotion that adds to the industrial feeling.

This focused in the panels recommendations, as they desired to see more of an industrial theme introduced to the lower floors. In contrast, the panel felt the rental building was too busy, and needed to be simplified, with a particular look at the regiment of materials, and how it was articulated. I found this sort of odd, as it seems requiring the lower floors to stand out more would make the building look more busy.

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Still, they are the experts, and the final recommendation for further design development of the loading dock makes sense. After all, as one panellist noted, this area will be highly visible from Main Street. More importantly, the large art piece will have even more eyes on it. Like many of the panellists, I thought that aspect was really interesting, and will be appreciated by those walking past.

As the panel only seeks to correct the perceived faults in an application, that aspect didn’t feature in their motion of support. Just before the vote, one panellist urged the chair to consider a recommendation that the flat iron corner of the building should see further design development, and that an industrial feel should be expressed at the top of the building.

I’m sure the applicant was thankful when the chair dismissed this last minute interjection, noting this was a nice building, and that the applicants deserved the leeway to design it. Soon after, the panel unanimously supported this proposal, and the meeting was over. However, there’s still time for your opinion to make an impact. So, make sure to send your thoughts to project facilitator, Andrew Wroblewski, at andrew.wroblewski@vancouver.ca or by phone at (604)-673-8460 before June 23rd, 2019.

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