A Plaza Fit For A King – Vancouver’s Boomerang Returns With More Homes, And Recommendations

602-644 Kingsway (formerly 610-644 Kingsway)
To say this simple six floor rental building has undergone a long journey would be an understatement, as its first Urban Design Panel review was in April of 2018. Considering it met a warm reception from both those volunteers, and an apparently disinterested community, I was surprised when it languished for months without activity. When it returned last summer, our world had changed beyond our imagination, and it too had lost its once warm tones, and expanded in size.

I assume those updates triggered this second review, and since I always supported this proposal more than Darren, we agreed I should be the one to summarize it. Granted, I thought this would be an easy assignment, as even the panel’s prior request for Vancouver’s engineering department to close East 15th Avenue to create a public plaza had been met. That said, by the end of this meeting, these individuals had drafted an even longer list of demands.

This was partially because the city had still not decided whether they will incorporate a protected bike lane into this new parklet in order to create a connection to the East 14th Avenue route. This group recognized that was outside the applicant’s control, yet some would have opted to expand this “great feature” instead. In their view the project was lucky to have it, and there was plenty of discussion around this concept, and how to better incorporate it.

It was felt this dove-tailed with their predecessor’s advice to re-create the granular feeling of the existing storefronts on this block, and was also something that had not been achieved. Launching off this, they recommended design development to break up the Kingsway storefront and improve its relationship with the mini-park. The new portion of this building at the corner suffered from similar issues, as this unrelenting corporate office like expression was seen as a poor pairing for this public feature.

I do not know what one member meant by calling it “coplanar,” but I understood others felt its aluminum panels lacked a human scale. Rather than recessing the higher quality bricks, they suggested re-examining where they was used, and recommended design development to the corner expression through articulation and materiality choice. Conversely, they appreciated how the articulation of the upper floors attempted to respond to this historical context, the problem was it had been done too well.

The result was an overly articulated vertical expression that diminished the original boomerang look. To restore the horizontal appearance, they recommended design development to simplify the upper massing and architectural expression. This only applied to the Kingsway frontage, as the calmer facade along the laneway was considered to be completely successful, and they particularly praised the retail store that wrapped around to activate it. That is becoming common place in Vancouver, however the large rooftop amenity area outshone their expectations.

The summary reflected that it far exceeded what was normally seen, and it seemed all agreed the monochrome colour palette was a bigger concern. Despite initially putting forward a recommendation to explore more colours on the building, the chair dismissed it as something more appropriately handled at a later time. Instead, they addressed their own pet peeve by adding a recommendation to provide livable outdoor space for each unit, which violated this body’s protocols that requires consensus for these items.

Nonetheless, the majority voted to approve this motion of support 8-3, ironically with the chair joining with the dissenters. Perhaps they wanted the project to return in order to see their demands realized, as city staff explained a third review would not be needed at the development application stage. That will only happen if city council approves this rezoning application, and you have the ability to influence their decision by sending them your comments here before June 15, 2021.

You can view more images of this scraped proposal here on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:
Developer – Bonnis Development Corporation
Architects – Studio One Architecture Inc
Landscape Architects – Prospect Refuge

3 thoughts on “A Plaza Fit For A King – Vancouver’s Boomerang Returns With More Homes, And Recommendations

Add yours

  1. All rezoning applications are approved. City Council should be engaged in the process way earlier not just the UDP.

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    1. That’s a very common misconception, but many rezoning applications are rejected long before they reach a public hearing. Others are significantly cut back, and/or undergo serious alterations.

      Arguably, our elected officials are engaged from day one, as although they don’t micromanage the process, they are the ones who set the policies and plans that allow these proposals.

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