A Square Peg In A Round Hole – UDP Recommends Rental Housing Confirm To Main Street’s Eclectic Character

4745-4795 Main Street
Ironically, as I was busy at another Urban Design Panel meeting, I missed out on this six floor rental building’s open house last November. Unfortunately, Hannah wasn’t able to attend that event either, as she had a prior commitment that day too. So, we simply don’t know whether those who came out supported the transformation of this car dealership or if they questioned its fit with the vibe of Main Street. However, it soon became clear these volunteer panellists were worried about the later.

It wasn’t a debate on whether this height and density was appropriate, but whether the architectural style was. Almost everyone was confused why the applicants had chosen to emphasize the height of the building through the use of repetitious pilasters. A couple members criticized it for creating a lifeless monolithic appearance, and almost everyone agreed it looked out of place. The majority believed this could be remedied if the long frontage was broken down, varied, and better articulated.

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One member described the special feeling they have when they visit Main Street, and didn’t want to see it ruined like larger projects have done to Chinatown. In contrast, another explained that by being different, it matched the neighbourhood. Nonetheless, the first recommendation called for further design development to reconsider the architectural expression of the design. Specifically, it noted the materiality, and repetition should be reexamined to create a better contextual response to the eclectic, fine-grain nature of Main Street.

The pilasters seemed to be the root cause of nearly all the criticism. Aside from their aesthetic impacts, they had physical ones too, as they force the retail windows on the ground level to align with the size of the residential ones above. While everyone appreciates a bit of privacy at home, the panel reconsigned retail stores thrive when people can look inside. To remedy this, they recommended the exploration of the expression of fine-grained storefronts, and to add more glazing.

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Similarly, it was felt a lot more consideration was needed to make the public realm successful. This went beyond the usual request for more benches and chairs, as one commented they couldn’t see a compelling streetscape, let alone one that could interface with the fabric of Main Street. They didn’t feel things were any better for those who will make their home here, as the residential entrance lacked the embellishment needed to create a pleasant coming-home experience.

The recommendation to address this once again stressed the need for variation. This time it was between the building and the public realm, as well as a need to further explore the relationship between the residential entry and commercial portion of the proposal. To further improve the lives of the residents, another recommendation suggested the applicants reconsider the size and programming of both the indoor and outdoor amenity, as both were far too small.

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Though they acknowledged the difficulty of providing a rooftop amenity on a wood frame building, a few remarked there was plenty room for it to expand as several of the homes had patios the sizes of suites. Some even hoped to see the amenities moved from the middle of the building to a spot closer to the elevators. One thing that the applicant explained couldn’t change was the location of the parkade entrance, as the laneway has a steep six foot incline.

The panel agreed the building transitioned well to the single-family homes to west, but debated whether the treatment of the lane was successful for pedestrians. Ultimately, the final recommendation suggested design development was needed to improve its character and activation. Considering this long list, it seemed the panel would request the project’s resubmission. Instead it won their unanimous support, but one member may have abstained. Still, those who speak up have a greater impact, so make your voice is heard here.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Strand Development
ArchitectsYamamoto Architecture
Landscape Architects – Prospect & Refuge

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