The ability to work from home has been a mixed blessing for us. Obviously, I am grateful to have a job, I appreciate the extra time with Darren, and that I can wear pyjamas more often. Yet, I miss my colleagues, our home feels cramped, and online meetings drag on forever. Perhaps that is why those on the Urban Design Panel were disappointed to learn that, despite a planned September check-in, these virtual reviews will continue for the foreseeable future.
Of course, we will eventually overcome this pandemic, and the applicant team believes our friends, families, and communities will be hungry to reconnect with each-other. They also know our city was already critically short on places to do that, so they have proposed something far more than a typical modern Vancouver Special. As usual, these rental homes will sit above commercial spaces, but they will also be connected like no other mid-rise building in our city has been before.
This innovative plan to transform part of the lobby into a gathering area that will be integrated with the building’s cafe and restaurant excited several panellists (pg 22). The applicant’s desire was that it would allow for residents, and the community at large, a chance to mingle with each other. Though one panellist worried this space needed to be better announced to accomplish this, others hoped it could lead to a boom of public space across Vancouver.
This was not simply a one trick pony, as the panel praised the applicant’s skill in breaking up this long site. Some even remarked Kingsway could use more buildings like this, as they appreciated how this flatiron design, and the choice of materials, reflected the area’s character. They believed there was real opportunity to finally reclaim this street, as the plaza adjacent to the planned restaurant at the northwest corner (pg 3) would prove to be an incredible draw for people.
In fact, their first recommendation was to increase its size in order to better accommodate this influx of activity. The wider neighbourhood was not their only concern, as they also worried whether the building’s amenities were sufficient to accommodate its residents. I was not surprised to here one member dismiss the difficulties of including a green roof on a wood frame building, but I did not expect to hear another admit their suggestion was worth jeopardizing the project’s economic viability.
Several agreed that it was worth eliminating a couple rental homes to enlarge the existing amenities spaces. Fortunately for the applicant, the official recommendation proved more flexible as it just called for a general improvement to the amount of indoor and outdoor space available for residents. That said, the distance between this area, and the neighbouring single-family homes, was felt to be more than adequate, as it is larger than what is permitted under the existing C-2 zoning.
While city staff provided this insight, they failed to mention that these properties could permit four floor rental buildings if the proposed low-density transition zoning is adopted by city council. This proved to be a moot point, as the applicant acknowledged the lane facade needed more refinement, and the panel agreed. Their recommendation was to explore a finer-grade expression of the townhouse typology, and review the parapets at the top of this block.
I thought the panel may also address the very long pedestrian parking garage entrance on the building’s west side (pg (21), but instead they unanimously voted to support the project. Which is telling, as city staff made it clear that, if city council approves this rezoning application, it likely will not need to return for a second review. Whether you see something that should be addressed, or feel this extra scrutiny was unnecessary at this stage too, make sure to express yourself here.
You can view more photos from this meeting here on our Instagram.
Applicant Team Information: