Vancouver’s Case Study Of Magnificence Leaves Urban Design Panel Greedy For Future Volumes

650 W 41st Ave (DP-2020-00759) – (Food Hall, & Meadow Gardens)
It was oddly comforting that an Oakridge Centre related application was the last item on this year’s Urban Design Panel agenda, as this mall’s redevelopment has been reviewed seven times since 2018. Hannah would have been happier to see a physical model, but agreed it would have been weird to go an entire year without seeing it in some form. That said, these volunteers already had their hands full with what was in front of them.

After all, in addition to the two floors of restaurants and dining space that will occupy the mall’s centre, was the community “Living Room” and Meadow Gardens section of the new nine-acre park. Together they form what was described as a heroic, magnificent, and an amazing opportunity for the future, with one recommending it be studied in universities. Others admitted they were overwhelmed by this large complex vision, and apologized for their inability to answer city staff’s questions.

Some felt that staff’s guidance had already helped the applicant flush out any issues, and one of their peers claimed they looked forward to getting lost here. It was acknowledged way-finding was usually challenging, yet they weren’t afraid of fumbling in the dark as the skylights provided plenty of lighting, and the dining areas were well configured. Meanwhile, the Living Room was recognized as a great place to celebrate during the winter, but one wanted slightly more details.

Maybe a lone member was feeling nostalgic given this time year, as they hoped to see a porthole showcase the old building’s ceramic tiles and the various transformations of its architectural genealogy, Conversely, the homeowners of the adjacent Terraces building preferred to be covered up, and The applicant’s have respected their input. As such, timber fins will clad the retaining wall of the existing parkade, and their homes will be buffered from the public park by a large forest.

As the developer is responsible for maintaining this space, they’ll be on the hook for any increased costs, but the Park Board will manage this space. They’ll have a lot to look after, as there will be community farms interlaced with wheelbarrows, education stations, and numerous amount of trails. Unfortunately, the only way through rooftop meadow gardens will be on a floating path lined with transparent guardrails to prevent access to the large skylights.

The teahouse on the third level isn’t quite as difficult to reach, and a couple panellists actually appreciated that its isolation helped it act as a beacon in the park. Many envisioned the various activities that would occur here, and though there was a desire for more moments of folly, it was agreed this would become a real heart of the community. Which is why three members insisted the mistakes of a previous large project must be avoided.

Apparently a lack of resilient thinking at the time doomed the forest (pg 8) that was envisioned as a part of the Plaza of Nations. It’s been a tough year, so I won’t say how old Hannah and I were (or weren’t) when Expo 86 took place, however these individuals conceded landscape architects can get a little greedy at times. Nonetheless, they were instrumental in shaping the night’s only recommendation, which was to consider increasing the soil volume to- *clothes washer noises*.

Yes, that’s right, I missed the tail end of this year’s last instruction due to household noise. Even so, it’s easy to extrapolate the intention was to allow for a greater diversity of plantings to respond to our changing climate. Mercifully, I did catch their vote to unanimously approve a motion of support for this project, and you can ensure your voice is heard too by leaving your comments here before January 22nd, 2020 or speaking at the Development Permit Broad on February 22nd, 2021.

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

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Partnership – QuadReal Property Group, & Westbank Corp
Architects – Henriquez Partners Architects
Landscape Architects – PFS Studio

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