Vancouver’s Engineers Urged To Loosen Up SkyTrain Focused Rental Home’s Concrete Burden

5055 Joyce St (DP-2021-00004)
For all of the Urban Design Panel‘s systemic faults, generally the panelists themselves want to do good by the residents of Vancouver. That was demonstrated when one member questioned whether one of this building’s smaller storefronts could host a small Filipino owned business. Hannah and I are both aware this community fears their culture is being erased around the Joyce-Collingwood station, as it factored heavily in the review of a project on the southern side of the guideway.

This applicant sympathized with this sentiment, and ideally wanted community-orientated stores in their nearly finished building across the street. However their hands were tied here, as Tim Horton’s had demanded the right to return, and have first right to the other retail spaces, before agreeing to temporarily shutter this doughnut shop. As powerful as multi-national companies are, their influence pales in comparison to Vancouver’s Engineer Department, who’s problematic demands were seen as a disservice to the proponent, and the public.

What looks like a plaza to you or I, was actually deemed to be a laneway, albeit limited to only bike and pedestrian traffic. Not even trees, fixed landscaping, or paving stones were permitted due to the need to have immediate access to the watermain below it in an emergency situation. Lamenting that the urban realm hadn’t been given a chance to shine, these volunteers appreciated how the proponent struggles with this, which is why they came to their aid.

The recommendation to review planting and materials in the public realm with engineering to improve its overall character and quality of materials was clearly directed at the city team. This specifically referenced the amount of concrete, and even the Public Art Committee couldn’t understand why the city had stripped this space of any interest. It took two meetings for that body to agree the location remained suitable for public art, and ironically it was this panel’s advice that convinced them.

It was one person who suggested maybe the as-yet to be designed artwork planned in this space could be incorporated into the building itself that made the difference. Their idea was reflected in a recommendation to consider landscape architectural features to identify residential lobby. In contrast, the commercial treatment was praised, as was the colour of the building. Only one remarked that, to set it apart, the podium’s tone should slightly differ from the tower’s copper paint finished panels.

For similar reasons, a few felt the balconies above should be loosened up, or incorporate a pattern. That said, this system designed by George Third and Son clearly enthralled everyone, both for its beauty, and innovative approach to addressing sustainability issues like thermal bridging. Each of these “attractive wonders” has a built in irrigation system, and are actually installed in sets of five, which allows them to be secured safely, with fewer connection points than traditional forms.

As I daydreamed about seeing a crane lifts these linked decks, another architect focused on the homes behind them, noting some could use more room, as the smallest are a tight 371 sqft. Undoubtedly, those residents will make good use of the rooftop amenity, though it lacks the pool planned in the previous strata version. Conversely, the protection of this space was considered excessive, which led to a recommendation to review the height of wind screen barrier at the rooftop.

With these simple instructions, I wasn’t surprised when a motion to support this project was approved unanimously. The design team happily welcomed this advice, and admitted they were proud to have saved this proposal when it switch from strata to rental housing. They also hoped it would convince the city’s engineers to provide some flexibility. Of course, your comments will make the most difference if you send them to project facilitator Erica Tsang-Trinaistich at erica.tsang-trinaistich@vancouver.ca or (604)-873-7031 by July 31st, 2021.

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

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Westbank Corp.
Architects – Perkins & Will
Landscape Architects – Hapa Collaborative

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