Vancouver’s Office Building Evolution Overcomes A Tough Climb To Win Urban Design Panel Support

1166 W Pender Street – DP-2020-00345
I had hoped this would be a short Urban Design Panel review as, like many other couples, Hannah and I have had a rather tough year, and one lacking in quality time together. That wasn’t an unreasonable expectation, as last year’s group had supported this office building’s rezoning application without any recommendations, and city council approved it a couple months later. Unfortunately, city staff encouraged the opposite, noting development application reviews should be more fussy as they’re more real.

These stumbling blocks are nothing new, as this project has been largely shaped by city policy. Like The Stack across the lane, its height was reduced (pg 18) due to a prohibition on increased shadowing of Harbour Green Park, while its rooftop was carved due to its proximity to an adjacent building. Now, as a condition of approval these terraces have been lined with semi-opaque glass to ensure any furnishing on them remains hidden from those on the streets below.

This aspect troubled one panellist as they couldn’t believe the city could fit another building into their neighbourhood. They accepted council’s decision, but remained concerned the public realm was becoming too crammed and compressed. That’s despite the efforts that were made to expand and enlarge the canopies, and to relocate the signage above the entrance to the side. The applicants have even worked with the VSOCC throughout this process to ensure the new pedestrian right-of-way respects the adjacent daycare.

Obviously there will be some disruption, and they have offered that childcare facility a lump sum of money to temporarily relocate. Yet, these volunteers remained worried about the interface between these two areas, and with how individuals with strollers or mobility devices would transit this steep 20 foot incline. They understood that made it impossible to incorporate a ramp here, but after one member noted “accessible” was a code-related term, they softened their demands.

Instead, this recommendation suggested design development to the mid-block connector to create a more inclusive space, and broaden the array of users. That group has likely increased since it also now hosts the entrance to the restaurant planned along the lane. which will be served by a new passenger drop-off spot. The panel questioned the wisdom of locating the parking garage’s exhaust vent near that spot, and others felt it would be better used to create room for more landscaping.

Together these issues led to a final recommendation for design development to the lane interface to better address its pedestrian nature, and enhance the scale of the landscape features. However, one member insisted it also include language to mitigate views of the site’s loading bays which, along with its parking garage entry, have been slightly moved. These were seemingly done to accommodate its southern neighbour, as our region’s tallest office building is bound to bring more activity to this lane.

Some panelists worried similar nearby developments would make it hard for this project to stand out, leaving it as a simple background building. Which would be disappointing, as they expressed their appreciation for how this selection of materials, and the frit patterned glass, has helped this design evolve a more elegant and refined appearance. Many also noted they appreciated that it had stayed true to its original intent, and their consensus reflected support for the changes that had been made.

As this meeting took place on September 16th, 2020, it’s possible more changes have occurred since then, but it seems the fate of this project has already been decided. That’s because it’s no longer included in the list of applications on the city’s website. Unfortunately, neither that result, nor the official minutes have been uploaded. That doesn’t mean you have to stay silent, as you can always send any thoughts you have about this process to city council here.

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

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Reliance Properties
Architects – Hariri Pontarini Architects
Local Architects – IBI Group
Landscape Architects – Perry + Associates

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