800 Waitlisted Renters May See Relief As UDP Support Overcomes Vancouver’s Courtyard Blind Spot

2735 East Hastings Street
It’s no secret that city staff are having a hard time keeping up with the many conflicting priorities of our elected officials. No sooner do they start acting to address one problem, when another directive is issued, forcing their attention elsewhere. Which might be part of the reason why this proposal was forced to undergo a review by the Urban Design Panel, despite the approval of a similar six-floor buildings to the east and west within the last two years.

The former was actually designed by the same architecture firm responsible for this project, and I was stunned to learn that, when it was completed, over 800 people were on a waitlist to rent a home there. It’s clear something has to be done to speed up this process but, as this review revealed, there are many barriers to that goal. Remarkably, there aren’t even guidelines to deal with buildings like this who have courtyards taller than three floors.

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This may have proved controversial at the panel in the past, but the applicant felt this element helps to create a stronger sense of community. It’s also created another 15 homes, and increased the portion of family-sized housing to 40%, as it allows them to meet the city requirement of providing at least one window for every bedroom. One panellist understood the groups scepticism about this massing, but admitted their work on The Duke has changed their mind.

Perhaps their opinion helped convince their colleagues, as though a lone voice continued to describe the courtyard as their biggest concern, others simply worried it wasn’t being utilized to its full potential. To remedy this, some suggested incorporating a glass elevator or stairwell, but most believed it would be best accomplished by relocating the electric rooms which back onto on every floor. In the end, the recommendation unified these ideas, calling for design development to improve the area’s visual connections.

2735 E Hastings NW Corner Render.jpg

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While this was supposed to be a review of the building’s general form, city staff encouraged the panel to provide feedback on the finer details. This spurred various comments, and the consensus reflected a desire to improve the lighting, colour, and even the guardrails in the courtyard. It seems unfair that the applicant is expected to provide this level of detail, when the building’s size and shape still haven’t been approved by city council.

Then again, these wedding-cake style developments, a base of four floors capped by two smaller levels, are essentially the modern day Vancouver Special. Acknowledging the energy loss this creates, one person questioned whether the setback along Hastings Street could be justified. Another thought this area felt too much like West Georgia, and should seek inspiration from the building to the east. They are also worried balconies at the corner with Slocan would end up showcasing bicycles and vacuums.

2735 E Hastings SW Corner Render.jpg

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However, most were more concerned about how the treatment of the laneway transitioned to the single family homes to the north, There’s not much room to accomplish that, as BC Hydro is requiring this site to not only host its own pad-mounted transformer, but a large power transformer (pg 3) for its low density neighbours as well. More than that, the property’s steep 8% slope has forced the creation of a long access ramp in order to access the underground parking.

As this has choked the loading space into the northwest corner, some felt this presented an opportunity to create a friendlier appearance to the low density neighbours. Which is why the final recommendation in this unanimous motion of support called for more design development to buffer this service space from these residences. That said, nothing should get in the way of you making your opinions known, so make sure to leave them here.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Chard Development Ltd
ArchitectsBHA Architecture Inc.
Landscape Architects –Enns Gauthier Landscape Architects

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