3615 – 3645 Fraser Street
With city council’s decision not to renew or replace the Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning Policy, Darren and I have watched the activity in our guide to that program wither away. A few active rezoning proposals linger, awaiting the judgment of our elected officials, but one has remained jarringly stuck at the pre-application stage. We have heard several times that many rental housing projects failed to pass that stage, and we have learned this final one will share their fate.
This was not due to the moderate amount of opposition at its applicant-led open house, as it paled in comparison to a now approved rental building under the same program a few blocks to the south. Nor was it related to the questions that event left us with, which combined with the monotony of the pandemic, is why we reached out to discover what happened here. After all, if cats could become lawyers, what did we have to lose.
As that clip dominated the internet, this firm, fresh off purchasing a 100-acre industrial site in Bristol, England, agreed to speak with us, and almost as shockingly owned this failure. Arguably, there was plenty of blame to share, as their partnered residential real-estate brokers were apparently not deeply familiar with the development process of land assemblies. Unable to handle the sensitivities associated with municipal and neighbourhood desires, they failed to facilitate what essentially was a transaction with seven property owners.
Unbeknownst to us, the original submission included the home on the southwest corner, who’s owner was shocked when the city requested their property be reviewed for its heritage value. Despite not being on the official register, it was deemed to merit protection, and those requirements helped sour this deal. Naturally that single-family home has only increased in value, though the price expected by its owner was no longer conducive to the costs involved with creating this specific concept.
Those difficulties were demonstrated at a recent Urban Design Panel meeting, which highlighted how it can be easier to complement these structures as separate designs rather than unify them. That was showcased by the architecture and landscaping in this project’s second concept, which itself faced an unexpected, and ultimately, fatal problem. Ironically, this too was decades in the making, as it dated back to 1907 when the laneways in Vancouver were supposed to be transferred to the city’s ownership.
This was not an isolated incident, as the social housing building at 2221 Main Street faced the same problem. Nonetheless it was fast tracked for approval, whereas this applicant was left to take the lead, as their legal team traced the property registry back to 1907 to someone who obviously does not exist anymore. Unfortunately, against their hopes, they understood the city needed to run its own independent process, but that 2 – 5 year delay was a death sentence.
The banks funding this vision could not wait that long, and would not proceed without knowing whether the underground parking garage would be accessible. As a result, the developer forfeited their sunken costs, and hundreds of people lost the opportunity to ply their trade in the construction of these 64 purpose built rental apartments. Others were deprived of the ability to call Fraser Street home, yet the developer still defended, trusts, and believes in Vancouver’s planning department, and rental housing strategy.
With faith in city hall, and belief that Vancouverites want to live near reliable transit, they moved ahead with a moderate income rental building on land they own at East Broadway, and Renfrew. This trust was not misplaced, as they claim the pre-application response was positive, with many people eager to move in, and admittedly, its ongoing city-led open house reminded us to write this post. However, to discuss what happened on Fraser Street, we suggest contacting the developer here, or city council here.
You can view more images of this scraped proposal here on our Instagram.