St. Paul’s Hospital Turns The Other Cheek As Vancouver’s UDP Hopes 12 Floor Cutback Will Promote Patient Recovery

1002 Station St – New St. Paul’s Hospital (DP-2021-00085) – Campus Public Realm Workshop

It would be wrong to assume that in the middle of a pandemic, the Urban Design Panel would spend two hours reviewing city council approved plans to build a new hospital in Vancouver. In reality, this meeting dragged on for over four hours, roughly twice as long as scheduled. The only small mercy is that it was broken into two parts, and so will our post, as Hannah and I hope to summarize this into something that’s tolerable to read.

Like the panel, we’ll start with the workshop on the wider campus, which has undergone significant changes to accommodate city council’s chosen method of bypassing the Burrard Inlet rail line crossing. Their decision to provide an underpass at Prior Street, and reject the once preferred Malkin Connector essentially turned everything here by 90 degrees. Still, these volunteers believed this flipped vision remained true to the plan’s original intent, and actually thought it was a huge step in the right direction.

That sentiment is understandable, as this allows more access to sunlight, views of the North Shore Mountains, and addressed several of their previous recommendations. It also means the future Healthcare Boulevard will incorporate custom pavers, and raised crosswalks, as it will primarily be used as a drop-off area, and to access the public underground parking. While one worried it was now too minimalistic, most agreed the extra clarity was far better, and were more concerned with the wider public realm.

This space was considered too tight, with blame placed on the hospital for failing to “land” properly, which gave the impression it was bursting at the seams. When combined with the bikelanes that traverse these four precincts, the Wellness Walk was considered to lack room for folly, and delight, like a raised section to overlook the rail yards to the south. A few advocated for a more meandering journey, as they claimed it led to better patient health outcomes.

The applicant admitted they were no physician, but refused to introduce “wiggles for wiggles sake” as they would become blind spots for wheelchairs and walkers. Instead they established rest nodes with benches every 40 feet, and are working with a First Nations consultant to ensure that culture isn’t hidden either. That said, they were open to the idea of incorporating this pathway into Trillium Park (Vancouver’s 94th best), assuming the Park Board would even consider it.

This team has embraced the panel’s previous advice, as they’ve incorporated a public concourse and atrium through the centre of the hospital to comply with a desire for more east/west connections. This effort astonished one member who believed this represented a huge opportunity, yet some feared it would also bewilder the public too, as it lacked clear signage. That was reflected across the site, with most encouraging further development to the dimensions, widths, sight-lines, and connections of the public places.

Generally, there was a desire to link all these pieces of “human infrastructure,” though establishing a relationship between Thornton Park (ranked 213th) and the new public plaza seemed most important. To save this large “wonderful gesture” from any shadows, a few even suggested scrapping the 12 floor medial office building to the south. With the view cone overhead, moving it wasn’t an option, which one member was fine with, as they cautioned this area was already starting to resemble a canyon.

There were so many differing views that the official summary struggled to capture them, however most supported the updates to this city council approved master plan Their verdict on whether to support the proposal, or request its re-submission, along with several recommendations, were saved for this session’s second half. Fortunately you don’t have to wait to express your thoughts to project facilitator, John Freeman, at 604-871-6076, or john.freeman@vancouver.ca before the Development Permit Board decides this hospital’s fate on August 9th, 2021.

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

Applicant Team Information:
Developer Partnership – Providence Health Care, Ministry of Health – Province of British Columbia, Vancouver Coastal Health, The University of British Columbia, & St. Paul’s Foundation
Architects – HDR, & Stantec
Landscape Architects – Connect Landscape Architecture

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