Vancouver Families Squeezed Out To Save Artistic Daycare From Another Year Of Darkness

304 E 1st Ave (DP-2020-00370)The Sophia – Resubmission
Maybe it’s because Hannah covered the Urban Design Panel’s review of this proposal’s original iteration last September, but I think this revised concept is far more interesting. City staff seemed to agree, as they were satisfied most of the recommendations that resulted in this resubmission had been addressed, with only four issues deserving consideration. Whether that justifies delaying this mix of 96 affordable rental homes, artist studios, and 64 space daycare for a whole year is, of course, another matter.

Meanwhile the elimination of 18 middle class residences was rationalized in order avoid shadowing the daycare’s play-area, and to separate the upper floors from the adjacent building by 80 feet. The cries of protest soon forced city staff to go on mute, as anti-vaxxers outside city hall disrupted more than just emergency vehicles. However, as this meeting was held over Webex to help keep everyone’s loved ones safe, these volunteers weren’t silenced, either by their agenda’s guidance or the ill-informed.

It was refreshing to hear the recent additions to this group focus on aspects that affected families, and those with different levels of ability, instead of simple aesthetics. That doesn’t mean the latter subject went ignored, as the comments about the treatment of the False Creek Flat’s future Arts Walk (pg 96) demonstrated. No one denied that the updates meant it would now function extremely well during special events, rather the question was would what happens during the average day.

To that end, they recommended to consider strategies to improve the connectivity and prominence of artists’ spaces from Scotia and the lane. A few believed that could be accomplished by allowing artists to take over the loading and daycare drop-off stalls at certain times. Yet the main focus was how pedestrians would access this location, as the successful activation of the public realm along East 1st Avenue meant many would now be willing to climb this steep hill.

The problem was once they reached the top, the columns that supported the podium’s frame element would force them from the sheltered path into the street. To promote a more natural and accessible route, they recommended to consider increasing the permeability through the structural frame at grade to provide covered space of the pathway. This wasn’t the only connection they hoped to strengthen, as they also recommended to consider an appropriate match between the amenities spaces and artistic program.

The intent was to provide artists the necessary room to work on their craft, instead of just somewhere to sell it. There may have been a little healthy jealousy too, as one person sparked a lengthy discussion implying that Hank Bull was chosen to design this site’s public artwork, since this location housed his studio. Others felt that local input had helped this architecture better align with the surrounding neighbourhood, and its historic appearance.

As that look necessitated the reduction of homes, their recommendation to consider more two and three bedroom suites over studio suites given a daycare is on site was somewhat hypocritical. This wasn’t the only contradiction, as some suggested the daycare needed more shading, since the offending overhang had been cutback. Ultimately, a recommendation was issued for design development to all roof areas with particular attention to providing a high quality varied experience for children of different ages and abilities.

This desire for inclusivity evolved from wordsmithing concerns about its plain monochrome appearance, and the collaboration didn’t stop there. The applicant appreciated the advice to pull back the tricky southwestern corner and with this mass timber project now heading in the right direction, the panel unanimously approved a motion to support it. Your comments will be the compass for that journey, if they’re sent to project facilitator, Joseph Smallwood, at joseph.smallwood@vancouver.ca or 604-871-6442 before the Director of Planning decides this project’s destination likely by October 1st, 2021.

You can view more photos from this meeting here on our Instagram or view a video of the proposal here.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Cape Group
Architects – Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership
Landscape Architects – Connect Landscape Architecture

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