Restoration Of Vancouver’s Colourful Village Roots Stokes Urban Design Panel Excitement

5 W 2nd Ave
It seems unreal that when Hannah and I moved to Vancouver, the Olympic Village is where we took our car to get serviced. Decades earlier, another man immigrated to Canada with a goal to allow his family to eat rotis for a lifetime (pg 7). After years of working hard, 16 hour days between two blue collar jobs, he saved up and purchased this industrial site to fulfill that pledge. Now his children want to share their proud legacy with the community.

It would have been easier to propose a strata building, with a two floor penthouse, which even Councillor Swanson has supported in the Olympic Village (pg 10). Instead, they chose to provide 121 rental homes, with 20% dedicated to moderate income households, in exchange for three extra floors allowed under the Below-Market Rental Housing Policy. That modest increase provoked an immediate backlash from two volunteers, who questioned what city staff were hoping to achieve with this “relentless pursuit of height and density.”

This was a bit surreal, as both this architect and landscape architect agreed with their colleagues that this “quality design” was “prepared with care,” and “had addressed the spirit of the community plan.” The latter even noted the design interventions, stepping, materials, aesthetics and overall approach were really successful, it was simply that they believed it provided too much housing. Meanwhile the former asked nothing about this project, but demanded more study of these policies, before the city became denser.

One member disagreed with this premise entirely, countering the area’s plentiful amenities could easily accommodate this housing. Though a few others conceded the density was problematic, they understood these squat, compact blocks were prescribed by the community plan, and felt it could be resolved through minor alterations. Which is why the first recommendation was for design development to the massing of the building to reduce shadowing on adjacent outdoor spaces, and to maximize separation to the adjacent living spaces.

There was a particular concern for The One strata to the north, especially after city staff indicated they had a rooftop pool. The windows on these stacked boxes were also problematic, as their repetitious pattern prevented them from being offset from those across the lane. Realigning them, and the balconies, was how they suggested achieving their second recommendation, which was to consider methods to address privacy concerns and overlook to the northern neighbour.

An architect who generally approved of the proposal, inquired if a similar instruction should be made about the relationship with the western building, though they were fine with leaving it as a comment instead. As a result, the only recommendation that dealt with this side was to consider an alternate location for the children’s play area amenity. That should be pretty easy to pull off, as this terraced look was praised for the amount of usable common space it created.

Almost all were equally excited to see something really different, that was actually distinct, compelling and offered colour, as well as real joy. Most also appreciated the efforts when it came to the ground level, recognizing that only so much could be accomplished between the guidelines, and the traffic on West 2nd Avenue. That’s why many believed the new western pocket plaza had struck a perfect balance of activity, and providing an enhanced connection to the laneway.

All agreed that section failed to live up to the guidelines, or the community’s established standards, so they recommended to improve the urban realm of the lane by reducing or moving service areas below grade. Still, it was obvious the vote wouldn’t be unanimous, and sure enough a motion of support passed 7 – 2. Lately it feels that’s the best anything other than the most modest of proposals can achieve, yet you shouldn’t be bashful about expressing your thoughts here.

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

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Point Grey Developments Ltd.
Architects – MA+HG Architects
Landscape Architects – Durante Kreuk Ltd.

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