Urban Design Panel Seeks To Uncover East Van’s Hidden Wonder

1015 E Hastings St
Last year certainly upended most of our plans, forcing Hannah and I to exchange vows in a short outdoor ceremony with a trio of guests. I don’t think anyone’s plans escaped unaltered, as these weekly meetings left many on the Urban Design Panel wondering where their August break had vanished. The pandemics caused a similar hitch in the consultation for this mixed housing proposal, as its pre-application event was cancelled. Fortunately, Vancouver’s SHORT program has helped keep things on track.

Time is of the essence as the warehouse that hosts the existing shelter at 201 Central Road has seen better days. This building will offer far more than a temporary roof, as a mix of non-market and market rental homes have also been included. In addition, there’s social enterprise space, bike repair workshops, and even somewhere to store canoes. The later hearkens to the lost waterways of Ch’ech’ilmn/Chetchailmun (Group of boulders), and sits within a large setback required by the CN Rail line.

The timeline to twin that line continues to be shrouded in mystery, as rail companies only answer to senior levels of government, leading all but one panellist to hold back on their criticism of this adjacent frontage. The laneway wasn’t as lucky, with several members noting they were saddened by its bleak appearance. It was suggested more vegetation, or fenestration, could soften this tough experience, and was summarized with a recommendation for design development to the laneway elevation.

This wasn’t the only area where more green space was desired, as one member hoped to see landscaping pour out of the shelter’s courtyard and onto Hastings Street. Others disagreed, and though the chair noted their feelings, they still believed more than just one street tree should be provided on this great street. While these instructions are supposed to be consensus items, and shouldn’t criticize city policy, in practice that isn’t always the case.

As such, a recommendation was issued for design development to the Hasting Street public realm in terms of adding greenery within the city owned public realm. In contrast, everyone agreed the landscaping and amenities in the building itself were exceptionally well handled, and mitigated the lack of balconies on the studio and one bedroom homes. One member even remarked they would be proud to live here, but that sentiment likely led to another recommendation.

Wayfinding wasn’t considered to be a problem, yet the panel felt more design development was needed to increase the legibility of the affordable housing entry. This criticism was born from its the proximity to the adjacent social enterprise space. Despite support for this use, and appearance, some feared its overhang could result in unintended uses after hours. It was suggested bringing the café closer to Hasting Street could mitigate this, but another individual couldn’t understand what was driving this design.

There was another feature they wished to bring into the light, as many believed there was a wonderful one hidden on Glen Street. Echoing a previous suggestion, this recommendation was to reconsider the location of the bike repair shop entrance so it reads more prominently. Others hoped a more indigenous look would be brought out in the development application stage, and all were eager to see how the building’s “wooden boxes” would eventually look in our skyline.

A lone voice admitted the amount of Graeco-Roman language used in this evaluation left them ill-equipped to answer the city’s questions about the indigenous place-making. That said, there was no unease about the motion to support this concept, as it won the panel’s unanimous approval. There’s no reason for you to be hesitant either, as it’s easy to leave your comments here, or to register to speak at the February 11th, 2021 Public Hearing and help decide this project’s fate.

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

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Partnership – Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society, BC Housing, & the City of Vancouver
Architects – Low Hammond Rowe Architects, & Urban Arts Architecture
Landscape Architects – PWL Partnership Landscape Architects Inc.

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