Public Plazas Take Rental Homes To The Rack, As The Urban Design Panel Splits Over A Haircut

622 SW Marine Drive

Perhaps these virtual Urban Design Panel meetings are getting to me, as Hannah caught me dozing off at the start of this item. Then again, maybe it’s because the previous one was a modest industrial building, also on Southwest Marine Drive. Unfortunately, I may as well have slept through that previous review as I later lost my notes when I reformatted my computer. However, I can confirm it won this body’s support, albeit with a few recommendations.

It took about an hour to reach that conclusion, and roughly twice that to review this mix of 456 market, and 117 below-market rental homes, with 35% of those operated by the YWCA. Those deeper levels of affordability are only possible due to a city council directed issues report that’s currently in a draft phase. Yet, it already includes some restrictions that split the panel, like prohibiting shadowing on Ash Park (Marpole’s third best), or challenges to Marine Gateway’s prominence in the skyline.

A few believed that to be subordinate, at least one or two floors should be eliminated, and a lone architect suggested that existing development at the Canada Line’s Marine Drive Station was also too tall. As for the majority, they felt this extra height, and density were a non-issue, especially given the type of homes it allowed, and the handling of the public realm. That treatment united these volunteers, as all applauded the effort and ingenuity that went into it.

They were impressed that nothing was written off as a back of house use, as every side was welcoming, and well activated with retail stores, restaurants, and fantastic landscaping. While a member struggled with the flat iron concept at the southwest corner, it was another’s desire to better celebrate Ash Street, and West 70th Avenue that was reflected in a recommendation. This was to provide greater distinction to the tower lobbies and their presentation to the respective streets.

Those two entry points will actually connect inside, so all residents can access the numerous rooftop amenities, and the gym which is large enough to host a pick-up game of basketball. Understandably, one person insisted this amenity space should be open to the public, and integrated with the adjacent lower plaza. A series of these form what was described as a wonderful passage, lined with restaurants, and patios, which some worried could diminish the livability of the homes above.

The noise from children at the daycare was a bigger issue for a single individual, but the rest focused on the needs of an older generation. Though the applicant’s response to the site’s 70-foot change in elevation was commended, they recognized the series of staircases that connected the plazas would pose a barrier for some. That lack of visual connection, along with unanswered questions about whether an indoor elevator would be open during the night, led to the next recommendation.

This called for design development to the series of plazas relative to one another and internal program. Conversely, it was thought the expression of the towers and podiums related to each-other far too much, as the white frame design on the former seemed to invade the latter, creating a monolithic presence. As the structures positions, and shapes weren’t problematic, they issued a fairly timid recommendation for the applicant’s to consider design development to architectural expression of the tower and podium.

With this, a motion of support for the project was approved 7 – 1. The aforementioned architect was the sole dissenter, as despite admitting the proponent had done an excellent job, once again made it clear they don’t believe vertical residential buildings are conducive to communities. This proponent overcame that, and the failure of their video-walkthrough, proving everyone encounters the occasional gremlin. Fortunately, even an ocean full of them can’t prevent you from shaping this design by leaving your comments here.

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

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Partnership –  Chard Development Ltd & YWCA Metro Vancouver
Architects – Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership (MCMP)
Landscape Architects – PWL Partnership Landscape Architects Inc.

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