Seven Deadly Sins Strike Down Another Proposal Along Vancouver’s False Creek Arts Walk

304 East 1st Avenue – DP-2020-00370
Darren usually covers the Urban Design Panel, but given the lack of open house events, I thought I should pitch in, especially since this project was across from one that was recently reviewed. I instantly regretted my decision when city staff revealed two versions of it would be presented. To our knowledge, this has only happened once before, and though the applicants had sought permission beforehand, the panel was still cautioned not to provide any commentary on the updates.

Both are somewhat similar, as this site is challenged by poor soil quality, a high water table, and a right-of-way to allow for a widening of East 1st Avenue. Utilizing mass timber construction above a concrete base, they provide a 64 space childcare facility, and 112 rental homes with a third set at below market rates. However, the applicant’s preferred design places the parking garage entry off of East 1st Avenue, nearly 10 feet lower than the original lane-way location.

Not only does this allow for more vehicle and bike parking, but it also creates room for two artist studios, and according to the design team, a better response to the False Creek Arts Walk (pg 66). This revamped version was so improved that some panellist flouted the city’s instructions and expressed their strong support of it. Had the majority followed suite, this may have been a shorter meeting, but instead they followed the city’s instructions, and picked apart the existing concept.

Obviously, their recommendation to further resolve the experience and contribution of the Arts Walk should be easy to resolve, but the marathon that followed may prove more challenging. It is possible the panel’s advice exceeded their authority on several matters, as a separate civic committee handles the mural approval process, and our health authority regulates the daycare. While both were heavily criticized, the latter proved most contentious, as one member insisted children needed sandboxes and to be rained on.

The large overhang above the outdoor play-area mostly prevents that, but it has been sculpted to allow for angled sunlight. Nonetheless, the majority insisted direct sunlight was necessary, and requested further design development to ensure it has open skies. They were so passionate about this they even included this wording in another recommendation to explore increasing the building’s overall height to improve the livability of the rental homes.

Certainly people deserve to feel comfortable at home, and one individual feel they deserved to have a more celebrated experience when they come home as well. Two other volunteers expressed a similar feeling about the daycare’s entry, and together this led to a recommendation to increase the legibility of both. This set a tone, and by the end of the meeting enough individual grievances led to a result that almost seemed like the panel wanted the entire project redone.

It started off with one person’s confusion over whether the elevation images and renderings depicted the same treatment of the podium, but quickly escalated. Ultimately, this recommendation suggested further design development to the podium and tower expression, articulation, materials, and the context fit with the strata building to the east. Compounding this was another call to improve the activation on all frontages. Even the amenity areas drew the ire of a lone panellist, which led to a long winded instruction.

This final recommendation was for design development to the roofdeck to increase the intensive planting, include a covered area, improve its programming, and livability, as well as increase the size of the indoor amenity room and reconsider its location. With seven recommendations, the unanimous vote for re-submission was hardly a surprise. The decision to allow two concepts to be presented, but permit comments on only one, may have doomed both from the start.

Then again, as the proposal to the immediate north was also requested to be resubmitted, maybe the problem lays in the False Creek Flats Plan itself. To address that, you would need to write to city council, but the deadline to comment on this proposal is more eminent. So do not wait, we think you will have until September 18, 2020, roughly one month from the date of this meeting, to send your comments to project facilitator, Jamie Lynn Borsa, at jaimelynn.borsa@vancouver.ca or (604)-829-9782.

You can view more photos from this meeting here on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Cape Group
Architects – Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership
Landscape Architects – PMG Landscape Architects

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