A Patient Grasshopper Waxes Urban Design Panel Support For Vancouver’s Peak Evolution

650 W 41st Ave (Oakridge Centre) (September 4th, 2020 Application)
It feels redundant to say that the events of the last year have effected even our nation’s oldest institutions, yet this Urban Design Panel review reflected that reality. The collapse of the retail market is perhaps most visible, as even The Bay’s has decided to forgo its leasehold rights, and like others tenants (tour), voluntarily closed to speed up the ongoing construction at the Oakridge Centre. That has had a human cost, but the project’s design team hasn’t been immune from this suffering either.

After a months’ long illness, and testing negative for Covid-19, the managing principal of Henriquez Architects had recovered enough to present the latest evolution in Vancouver’s first CD-1 Rezoning. As one panellist reflected, that process has dominated their coffee table over the years, which is something Hannah and I can understand, as combined we’ve attended over a dozen meetings about this project. Nonetheless, I endured another to hear the panel’s opinion about its response to where our world is today.

To survive these seismic shifts, and deliver the promised 9-acre park, ~103,000 sqft civic centre and Vancouver’s second largest library, it’s seeking to add 319 market rental, and 362 strata homes here. In exchange, the space dedicated to the latter has been reduced by ~100,000 sqft, with 94 homes with rents geared towards moderate income households provided instead. In contrast, the amount of office space has nearly doubled, and will be focused on medical services, and other local needs.

These changes are primarily limited to Buildings 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, and 14, but there will be tweaks across the site. For instance, the existing office building will no longer be renovated, but rather replaced and expanded, though its shape will remain similar due to various utility hookups. This, along with the Transit Plaza’s extended weather protection, are enough to trigger a second development permit review of that stage, but were welcomed as a step in the right direction.

That said, these volunteers worried how those coming from outside would find the park within, and recommended considering additional permeability from Cambie Street, and West 41st Avenue. This instruction was mostly directed towards the new moon gate entrance near Building 5, which was described as beautiful, but in need of design development. That was the only concern raised about effects on the park itself, as a program called Grasshopper was arguably the night’s hero, if not time-saver.

That software allowed Buildings 12, 13, and 14 to be sculpted in a manner that allowed the latter to be increased by 9 floors without creating any new significant shadowing. These refined proportions were considered a big improvement, but the panel felt this family should be more unique, and recommended they receive design development to further the individuality between them. Only one person was troubled by this, as they couldn’t understand how this overly ambitious scale benefited the wider community.

This criticism included Buildings 6 and 7’s two new office floors, but wasn’t unexpected as they typically oppose taller forms. Their colleagues suggested Cambie Street was more than wide enough to handle what one deemed a fortress wall, but were troubled their residential and office uses weren’t expressed. To solve this, and respond to the site’s solar conditions, they recommend Buildings 5, 6, and 7’s architectural expression be reviewed with a goal to be more responsive to environmental factors.

The elevation of the land itself will make Building 5 our city’s highest point, as well as its tallest rental building. However, that geography also essentially hides it from view along most of Cambie Street and that helped a motion of support easily pass 8 -1. One member remarked that the market should determine these issues, and another lamented the lack of direction from city hall, but your opinion will rise above the rest if you leave it here.

You can check out our Instagram for more photos of this application’s evolution here, or see how it will appear from several major intersections on Cambie Street here.

Applicant Team Information:

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: