Operational Sacrifices Help The New St. Paul’s Hospital Win Urban Design Panel Support

1002 Station Street and 250-310 Prior Street (New St. Paul’s Hospital and Health Campus)
Something Darren and I have learned over these last few years is how powerful even one small voice can be in public consultation. For instance, we never expected our recap of the Urban Design Panel‘s recommendation for resubmission of the new St Paul’s Hospital would lead to a well-written article in the Daily Hive. Given this, I thought there might be several journalists at this proposal’s follow-up review, but, in the end, even my partner was not there.

When I arrived at City Hall, Darren was rushing out, as he was late for a prior commitment. As this review lasted over two hours there was a point I almost wished I had joined him. For the first thirty minutes, the panel was lectured that they were only to provide guidance on the open space and general directives. It was stressed finer detailed comments should come at the development stage, and relaxing the view cones was not an option.


However, city staff have been willing to compromise on at least one other aspect. They revealed they are considering allowing the building at the southeast corner to reach the 300 feet in height allowed by View Cone 3.2.4, even though it would shadow Trillium Park. That consideration may be due to the feelings expressed during the False Creek Arterial consultation process, which revealed the neighbourhood does not particularly value its synthetic turf.

Nonetheless, it is the hospital that has made the biggest effort, and the applicant team acknowledged they are making sacrifices operationally due to the layout. A quick look at the model reveals an entire building has been eliminated in order to comply with the recommendations for more plaza space. This also allowed for consolidation and larger floor plates in some areas as this “lost” density was transferred to other sites.

That has not been the case for the decreases seen in the Healthcare Boulevard. These changes have left it 100 feet shorter than what the applicant team claims is needed. The whole site has seen some pushing and pulling, as the modulation of the north face of the main hospital has broken up the street, but still allows the space for the heavy machinery required by the operating areas.

The applicant explained these hospital sections will be considered red zones where public movement is limited. Yet, they understood there needs to be a balance between these areas and the public blue zones. The panel seemed to agree with the rational that those spaces would see activation due to the very nature of a hospital. Their consensus was the applicant had made all the right moves when it came to the public realm.

Some on the panel took credit for this, believing their recommendations had a positive implact, despite the criticism in the media. There were also sharp words over the fact those professional outlets had received renderings that were not made available to the panel. Of course, as we are only simple bloggers, we did not have access to that information either. Meanwhile a few still felt more could be done to make this world class hospital a leader in sustainability too.

Given this new information, a motion to support the responses to the panel’s recommendations, the reallocation of the massing, and the additional height on the southeast corner easily received unanimous support. That said, despite the prohibition about discussing of view cones, some mentioned the entire campus should be allowed additional height. They firmly believed the general public would approve of a view cone relaxation to allow the hospital the space it needs to function.

As we have found, even one voice can make a real difference. We also know the planning department cannot unilaterally change city policy; sometimes our elected officials must hear your words directly. If you want to comment about this application generally you can do so here, but if you feel this hospital deserves the room it needs to look after our region’s current and future health care needs, make sure to contact Vancouver city council here.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Partnership Providence Health Care, Ministry of Health – Province of British Columbia, Vancouver Coastal Health, The University of British Columbia, and St. Paul’s Foundation
Master Plan ArchitectsIBI Group

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