A Hillock Of UDP Recommendations Fail To Surmount Pearson Dogwood’s Tallest Offering

500 West 57th Avenue (Pearson Dogwood Parcel D) – Cambie Gardens – DP-2019-00390
One could argue this meeting of the Urban Design Panel marks an important milestone in the Pearson Dogwood Lands redevelopment. As Parcel D is bordered by Cambie and 57th Avenue, it will host the tallest towers, reaching 28 floors, and be comprised of 488 strata, 30 supportive and 233 non-market homes. Given that parcels A (pg 3), C (pg 4), and E have been approved, and B is under review, it also marks the halfway point in the site’s development process.

Then again, that might not be the case, as city council recently approved (pg 19) allowing consultation on whether Parcel C could be converted to provide moderate income rental housing. In exchange, the strata living space would be added on to the western parcels. After all, even the best laid plans must evolve to reflect the needs of today, which is part of why these buildings have been slightly altered from the rezoning application.

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These changes are mostly cosmetic, like new retail space that creates a hillock in the landscaping, or the mid-rise element that has been stretched out to the corner. Also, the tower’s massing has been brought down to ground level to help activate the large plaza space. This represents the biggest change as the applicant revealed, despite their funding and the city’s best efforts, TransLink will not support a Canada Line Station here in the near future.

That’s not the only missed opportunity, as one panel member asked how the energy wasted from the slab balconies could be justified. The applicant noted that by providing a 50% window to wall ratio, they meet the city’s greenhouse gas emission policy, and are only required to achieve LEED Gold. That said, the homes at the lower levels pay the price as they have less windows to balance the extra glass on the higher levels.

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The panel didn’t address that specific issue, but Hannah and I find this completely unacceptable considering the applicant admitted solar shading could be used to improve their energy efficiency. Instead, their criticism focused on the solid wall along 58th Avenue, which was described as monotonous and unfriendly. The consensus was that this 4 storey concrete wall needed more design development, as did the relentless canopies and retail glazing.

A similar instruction was to enhance the entrances of the residential lobbies, though I only noted one person mention that aspect. However, the panel was very concerned over the steep slope of the vertical mews, and the absence of planning in the plaza space. It was recognised that, while a transit station could be many years away, some programing and weather protection was still needed in the interim.

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Another recommendation focused on my favourite feature, the landscaped hillock. A few members understood this element was meant to welcome people in, but worried it may become an unintended climbing feature. They suggested using shrubs, or swooping it up from the ground to prevent this. The later comments won out, and so the recommendation called for development of this idea to support its curvilinear imagery.

When it came to the site’s overall look, almost everyone expressed a different opinion. Generally there was strong support for the overall massing, and the curvilinear forms of towers D2 and D3. However, one person felt the design had not evolved from the rezoning stage, and another lamented its geometric form was lost. Some called for the orange terrace element to be expanded, and one hoped solar shading could be used to better inform the design, echoing my thoughts.

Acknowledging this big project was bound to generate lots of comments, the chair composed these thoughts into the last recommendation. This called for design development to enhance the building’s visual character and encourage sustainability. In the end, only one person voted against the motion of support. Whether you feel that list should be expanded, or believe it went too far, make sure to send your comments to project facilitator, Jennifer Catarino, at jennifer.catarino@vancouver.ca or (604)-871-6023 before September 30th, 2019.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Onni Group
ArchitectsIBI Group

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