Strike Three! Urban Design Panel Throws The Book At Latest Version Of SkyTrain Focused Housing

5163-5187 Joyce St
It’s ironic that buildings around the Joyce-Collingwood SkyTrain station are prohibited by the similarly named area plan from exceeding the Telus Boot’s height, as four high-rises are now planned there. While Burnaby debates which structure will become the region’s tallest, on this side of Boundary Road, opponents decry this development as the new 105 Keefer. They fear displacement of the existing businesses could erase the community’s Filipino culture, and some described the planned public library as another part of gentrification.

That seems to be happening anyways, as an Associate Professor at UBC’s SCARP demonstrated at a recent town hall attended by Councillors Boyle, Fry, and Swanson, as well as MP Don Davies. That educator planned to eventually move from their West Point Grey home, and retire here, assuming no further towers were approved (0:35:46). An Executive VP of the BCGEU echoed that developers have made enough money in Vancouver (1:16:46), and suggested a working class movement was needed to repeat Chinatown’s success (0:33:10).

Hannah and I admittedly lack the lived experience to fully comprehend these issues, but it’s understandable why this applicant team, and city staff, appeared rattled at this Urban Design Panel meeting. I don’t fault the planners for not knowing offhand what’s allowed in the wider area (pg 25), and in fairness some questions were focused on details normally handled at the development application stage. Still, I was stunned the proponents weren’t sure how the metal exoskeleton would be attached to the building.

Obviously, that means it’s not a structural element, and it won’t be thermally broken either, as the proposal isn’t pursuing the Green Buildings Policy. That was met with strong disapproval, as to warrant this costly element the feeling was it should be proved out, and deliver a real means of solar shading. Others felt it was responding to the wrong condition entirely, as more people could enjoy it had it faced Kingsway, rather than the commuters taking SkyTrain.

The podium didn’t fare much better, as the prominent frame was criticized for failing to convey the presence of the library since it exceeded it by two floors. That community amenity was the source of much of the project’s problems, as the larger floor plates it required had several negative knock-off effects. As these would have led to deeper homes with little natural light, the applicants opted to include a gym, and movie theatre on the podium’s remaining floors.

The former will receive light from a skylight located two floors above in the ourdoor amenity, which to several member’s disbelief was bordered by homes rather than an indoor amenity room. The improvised reply to shield them with tall hedges didn’t impress anyone, and neither did the admission that a rooftop amenity on the tower wasn’t incorporated due to cost concerns. The treatment of the public realm was also considered to be spartan, mostly because it seemed liked an afterthought.

As the applicant wasn’t even sure how cars would access the garage from the cul-de-sac, it’s no wonder one panelist felt this area had been abandoned. That said, neither the pedestrian connector, nor the section along Joyce Street were much better. These volunteers suggested the library needed a stronger street presence, and should take over one of the retail spaces to avoid being hidden like Fairview’s Firehall Branch. More importantly, they wanted to see the community’s character proudly reflected.

The engineering department’s guidelines were criticized for creating this utilitarian form, however some considered the busy architecture to be a greater problem. Frankly, there were so many critiques the chair acknowledged the summary couldn’t incorporate them all, so despite support for the height, density, and overall massing, a motion of re-submission passed unanimously. Though this application’s third design (1, 2, 3) didn’t charm the panel, the Q&A on the city’s website proves your comments can shape a potential fourth iteration if you leave them here.

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

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Partnership – 1112151 BC Ltd (pg 1) aka The Nest Group
Architects – J+S Architect
Landscape Architects – Durante Kreuk Ltd.

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