May 26th Public Hearing – The Night Of The Living Laneways Brings An Eastside Revival & A Chance To Fix An Alley Oopsie

May 26th, 2020 – Public Hearing
This public hearing might leave some with a sense of déjà vu, as the first two items are identical to the ones from the meeting earlier this month. Apparently, an error in the notice distribution process forced city staff to reschedule both at the last minute for this night instead. Of course, Item #1 is accustomed to delays, as this rezoning application for a new office tower adjacent to the Royal Bank Tower has taken four years to get to this stage.

In a way Item #2 is kind of similar, as this minor application will finally recognize the reality that this building on Commercial Drive has been serving quality pasta for over 60 years. Item #3 marks the starts of the new projects, but ironically also plans to add a new office tower next to an existing heritage building. However, its exciting design will reflect Vancouver’s pop culture, which is appropriate, as it’s bordered by the Twice famous Alley Oop Laneway.

While the treatment of that space has raised concerns from one person, the applicant appears committed to ensuring that the magic public space will be retained. In contrast, the laneway of Item #4 has driven much of the opposition to the proposal. While some are angered that more affordable housing might come to their neighbourhood, the primary concern has been the city’s requirement to locate a parking garage entrance across from a children’s playground.

Finally, we should note another public hearing focused on a trio of Cambie Corridor proposals will take place on May 28, 2020. As our time is limited, we won’t be covering either of the four storey proposals (1, 2,) or the small amendment that seeks to facilitate a better connection between the Oakridge Centre and the nearby Canada Line station. Frankly, given our city’s fiscal challenges, we have to wonder why city council feels these simple projects need their attention, and the public’s limited resources too.

Backlash Expectations

Item# 1 – 619 – 685 West Hastings Street – Very Low
It’s telling that only eight people have commented on this proposal in almost four years (pg 32).

Item# 3 – 443 Seymour Street – Very Low
This Downtown office building is only 37.5 feet taller than the current zoning allows (pg 10).

Item# 4 – 2776 Semlin Drive & 2025 East 12th Ave – Low
The city’s decision to place a parking ramp across from a children’s playground has angered some (pg 33).

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The First Item – 619 – 685 West Hastings Street – Very Low

What is it?:
A 28 floor office building that will also legally preserve and seismically stabilize (pg 5) the adjoining Royal Bank Tower. This rezoning application was first filed back in 2016.

Where is it?:
Here, almost kitty-corner to the Granville Street entrance to the Canada Line’s Waterfront station, sandwiched between the Sinclair Centre and the Harbour Centre on Hastings Street.

What was the open house like?:
Held back in 2016, this event was one of the first I attended. I still remember that one of thirteen attendees was very upset (pg 32), as their Realtor had promised them this site would never be developed, forever preserving their view from the Jameson House.

How will it benefit the community / city?:
It should help alleviate our city’s critical shortage of office space, and has earned the support of the Downtown BIA. The cost it will incur to conserve the Royal Bank Tower is valued at $9,633,000, it will pay a further ~$3,278,000 in Development Cost Levies, and contribute another ~$314,000 to public art funding (pg 15).

What are its strengths?:
It’s super cool that a mirror system (pg 13) will be used to illuminate the lightwell, and its design will also ensure the Royal Bank Tower will not collapse in a pile of rubble if there’s an earthquake.

What are its weaknesses?:
Some feel that it should imitate the historic look of its neighbour, but I think it’s more respectful to have a modern design, rather than one with a mock heritage look.

What is the opposition like?:
Even though its height is below the limits of the View Corridor Policy (pg 4), one person believes it should be reduced. Another expressed this area was already over-saturated, and overcrowded, suggesting it should be built it the Downtown Eastside instead (pg 33).

Want To Speak Up?:
Email your thoughts to City Council at publichearing@vancouver.ca or register to speak in person or better yet by phone here.

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The Third – 443 Seymour Street – Very Low

What is it?:
This new 29 floor building will provide nearly 400,000 sqft of leasehold office space, retail at the ground level, and be capped off with a green atrium. This application is only needed to add another 37.5 feet in height (pg 10).

Where is it?:
Here, replacing a 5 floor above-ground parking garage at the corner of Seymour and Granville, it borders the K-pop iconic Alley Oop laneway.

What was the open house like?:
Hannah accurately noted about 40 people attend this event, and aside from the complaints of some nearby strata homeowners about the building’s height, felt it was a pretty calm affair (pg 33).

What will it contribute to the community?:
It will contribute roughly ~$4,000,000 towards childcare and affordable housing in the Metro Core, and another ~$8,670,000 in Development Cost Levies for other city improvements. There will also be a contribution of ~$830,00 to the city’s public arts program (pg 11), and there are plans to improve the already award-winning Alley Oop laneway too.

What are its strengths?:
One way or another, the adjacent  laneway will see improvements, as city staff are requiring them as part of the conditions for approval (pg 16). Like the Urban Design Panel, Hannah is really enamoured by this building’s design, and I can understand why.

What are its weaknesses?:
Despite their praise, the Urban Design Panel noted the relationship between the fourth and fifth floor and the neighbouring Rogers Building should be improved. City staff are requiring this to be remedied as part of the conditions for approval (pg 16).

What is the opposition like?:
Though this building is just slightly taller than what’s allowed currently, four people felt it’s too tall to belong in Downtown Vancouver. These individuals may comprise the same voices worrying it would lower their property’s value (pg 34).

Want to speak up?:
Email your thoughts to City Council at publichearing@vancouver.ca. or register to speak in person or better yet by phone here.

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The Fourth Item – 2776 Semlin Drive & 2025 East 12th Ave – Low

What is it?:
Proposed under the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan, this six floor building will renew the Lakeview United Multicultural Church, and also add 104 homes that will be owned and cared for by the 3 Point Housing Society.

Where is it?:
Here, roughly a block north of Trout Lake, and less than a 10 minute walk from the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station.

Is this the first version?:
No, based on community feedback from the pre-application open house, several changes were made to reduce the impact on the co-op to the north (pg 2).

What was the open house like?:
Nearly 60 people attended this event (pg 44), but in our experience it seemed most were members of the church’s congregation. The others were likely pacified by the home cooked treats they provided the public.

What will it contribute to the community?:
A legal agreement will secure all 104 of these homes as social housing, with 30% to be rented at Housing Income Limit rates (pg 5).

What are its strengths?:
One doesn’t have to be religious to appreciate that this community gathering place will return in a revamped home. It’s commendable that the pedestrian entrance will pay homage to the existing building.

What are its weaknesses?:
The location of the parking ramp not only negatively impacts the neigbours, but this building’s amenity area as well (pg 13). Unfortunately, its location has been dictated be city staff . It’s unfortunate that a lack of funding means the existing daycare services won’t return.

What is the opposition like?:
Up until now, most of the comments have been about the city’s requirement to locate the parkade entrance across from the neighbouring co-op’s children’s play area. That said, at least one person is upset that more affordable homes are coming to the Trout Lake area.

Want to speak up?:
Email your thoughts to City Council at publichearing@vancouver.ca. or register to speak in person or better yet by phone here.

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