Rising From The Ashes – Chinatown Grandfather Hopes To Spark A Cultural Connection

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There may only be a few weeks left until the December break in city consultation, yet I did not think it was cold enough that there would be plans for a new development in Chinatown. Frankly, neither Darren nor I thought we would see any growth here after the large opposition to 105 Keefer led to the down-zoning of the community plan last summer. However, as this application was submitted beforehand, it has been grandfathered under the old rules.

One might assume that is connected to the lawsuit launched by proponents of 105 Keefer, but this is actually a different applicant who’s project never experienced anywhere near that level of opposition. There were no jars of bed bugs sent to the developers; no death threats to the Urban Design Panel, and; its first open house was relatively tame, with only a small group led by Jean Swanson peacefully occupying a corner in the room.

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The reason for that was simple. Even when this proposal reached 15 floors, it blended in with its neighbours to the north and east. That makes sense, as these nine floor strata buildings were built within the last decade, and have elements that resemble the H1-A1 Design Guidlines. That policy always seemed a little patronizing, as it required every new building to adopt a faux heritage look (pg 16), instead of celebrating the historic structures of the past.

This might be partially why the project was reduced in height to 12 floors, as two years ago the Urban Design Panel believed its appearance did not justify the height and density proposed (pg 8). Certainly some members of the Hogan’s Alley Society felt this aspect needed improvement too. They were rightfully upset to see their namesake’s culture was still being repressed decades after the community was demolished to create a freeway network that would have carved through Downtown and Stanley Park.

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The applicants sounded willing to address these concerns, and hopefully city policy allows for this, as this concept should relate to the new Hogan’s Alley development set to replace the viaducts. It would also be a respectful nod to this site’s own history, and the Jimmy Hendrix Shrine that celebrated it. Of course, it is harder to pay tribute to the current empty lot on this site, but I appreciate the look of the Brickhouse will be recreated.

In contrast, the treatment of the taxi stand feels wrong, as the top-heavy look seems overbearing on this tiny element, robbing it of any distinctiveness. Still, the new storefronts look appropriate, and should help animate this block that is saddled with a deadzone caused by the BC Hydro’s Murrin Substation across the street. Nor should it lead to further gentrification in the community, as the floor area of the existing rooming hotel will actually be expanded.

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However, not all of the 24 single occupancy rooms in the Creekside Student Residence will be replaced, as only 19 can be built to the new standards. That is unfortunate, but this policy will ensure each resident has their own home with facilities so they can sleep, eat, and use the washroom in privacy. No matter their background, everyone will have room to socialize, as the amenity space is one of the few things that has increased since the downzoning.

As in the past, this open house proved uncontroversial. Only 32 people came by, and just one seemed visibly angry as they yelled they would return with a camera. I do not know why they were upset, as ultimately they never came back. Considering the past, I can see why some would be nervous about any proposed development in this neighbourhood, but you should never be afraid to leave your comments here.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Partnership Bonnis Development Corporation
ArchitectsStudio One Architecture
Landscape Architects – Prospect & Refuge

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