More Than A Cold Brute, Urban Design Panel Expects A Warm Response For Landmark Rental Homes

3701 W Broadway (DP-2020-00888)
It’s rare for the Urban Design Panel to run ahead of schedule, let alone by 15 minutes, so I imagine this applicant team was quite surprised when they were told to log in ASAP. The only thing more uncommon, at least according to Hannah and I’s friends, would be finding a rental home in our city’s western neighbourhoods. However, that doesn’t mean submissions under the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program are expedited, as this review is the project’s second.

While city council approved this building’s height, shape, and FSR last year (pg 18), staff explained the finer aspects remained open to debate, as they’ve changed significantly due to public feedback. Still, the most noticeable, a shift from a rust-coloured grid to look more in line with the area, failed to prevent over 200 pieces of opposition (pg 12). The response to these sensitivities hasn’t stopped because this development application was submitted, but it may be heading in the wrong direction.

The materials selected now look backwards, as the pre-cast concrete cladding was inspired by cold tones of the similarly-sized 50 year old building down the street. These volunteers acknowledged that was the right move, yet gave it a mixed reception, as they preferred the warmer look found in the 2020 concept. Others challenged how these elements came together, and so it was recommended the applicants continue to develop the design of the materiality and tone of the cladding.

That said, they strongly supported the evolution from the rezoning stage, with many praising this modular, Dutch-like, Brutalist style. One stressed this was a great project, though admitted the immediate neighbours might disagree. Another who attended the previous review countered they were more certain than ever this was a groundbreaking piece of architecture. They speculated whether city staff’s questions reflected their anxieties, or those of the neighbours, as they believed this form would eventually become a warmly welcomed community standard.

The summary reflected that sentiment, as it noted this building had successfully achieved a residential expression. There was debate over whether the lobby had done so as well, as some individuals worried the adjacent bike repair amenity made this space feel tight and hidden. The majority countered it actually made the entrance more prominent, and visible, like how the design itself marked the terminus of Broadway. Of course, everyone expected it would soon be joined by a Broadway Subway station.

Given that, it’s no wonder why they were so concerned about how the planned public art would impact the movement of pedestrians at this intersection. Regrettably, that work wasn’t displayed, despite conversations with the Public Art Committee on February 8th about whether it should be located on the building, or in the public realm. This group preferred the latter, but issued a recommendation to consider ways for the public art to not interfere with the public realm.

The proposal has incorporated some artwork already, as metal panels break up the pattern of windows and balconies to add variation, and reduce the bulky appearance. These will vary from 1 – 3 panes in each module, and also give the glass a black tint, which they expect will create a soft glow at night. It was a different darkness that led to the final recommendation, as the further protrusion of level 8 away from the single-family homes proved problematic.

This vague instruction was to consider the extent of the overhang along Broadway and Alma, with a couple members specifically suggesting moving floors 5-7 closer to the intersection. A lone person felt a lack of closets was a bigger livability issue, but no one opposed a motion to support this vision. They had the last word, as the deadline for public comments was February 26th, 2021, but your questions can still be answered by contacting project facilitator Jamie Lynn Borsa at 604-829-9782 or jaimelynn.borsa@vancouver.ca.

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

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Westbank Corp.
Architects – Leckie Studio
Landscape Architects – Hapa Collaborative

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