The Jericho Lands Soar Forward On The Wings Of A Magical Urban Design Panel Experience

Jericho Lands Planning Program
At ninety acres, it’s unlikely the Urban Design Panel will ever again get to examine something as large as this former military base, now dubbed the Jericho Lands. These volunteers were clearly excited by this process, a sentiment I didn’t share it as I’ve sat through enough of these meetings to know this would be a multi-hour process. I swore to Hannah there was no way I would sit through this one, that is until I saw its scale model.

In fact, there were two of them! Both of which included 20 acres of open space, enough housing for 15– 18 thousand people, and a million square feet of non-residential uses. The difference is in their layout, as the Eagle emblazes that bird’s image across its terrean, whereas the Weave pays tribute with its tightly wound networks. This wasn’t an artistic narrative forced upon the site, but rather a way of honouring The Partnership bringing it forward.

Everyone in this room was deeply touched by the emotion, and passion expressed by the representatives of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh. These designs reflect the last two years of consultation, ranging from elementary school students to their elders, as well as local neighbourhood representatives. With this scale of change, it’s not surprising some of the latter are already opposing this application, calling instead for duplexes and four floor buildings rather than the 2 – 38 floors proposed here.

That said, these volunteers had no hesitation about these heights, density or massing, with most confessing they were honoured to review these two beautiful visions. The “magical wings” of the Eagle’s diagonal spine were preferred by the majority, as they were commended for creating a welcoming presence whose continuity pulled activity in through this community. It certainly helped this was the most car-free design, as none of the pedestrian walkways or bike-paths were intersected by roads meant for cars.

A landscape architect was the most skeptical about this desire, noting it was tried decades ago in False Creek South, and resulted in abject failure. Others agreed transit service, particularly SkyTrain, would be key to this aspiration’s success, and it wasn’t shocking to hear there are ongoing discussions with TransLink to locate a station here (pg 2). The big revelation was this site would likely host the staging grounds for the tunnel boring machines needed to extend the Broadway Subway from Arbutus to UBC.

Simply put, the proximity to the escarpment meant there was no better place to facilitate this infrastructure. Nonetheless, some wondered if this future station should be moved northwards to connect better to the beaches. The impact this new foot traffic would have on Jericho Beach Park also raised concerns, which were eased when it was explained the Park Board is about begin a planning process on that very issue, Another member had a simpler answer, why not move the structure themselves.

They admitted their own prejudice was that the west side should be comprised of low-density housing, suggesting the tallest buildings should be located near West 4th and Highbury instead. That might increase their height, as The Nations wanted to honour their warrior lookouts of the past, by ensuring they could be seen in today’s skyline. Nobody opposed that goal, however there were a couple who preferred the Weave’s layout, and one person chastised their colleagues for overlooking it.

They insisted its shorter blocks would promote a finer-scale community, and questioned the need to transition to the surrounding single-family homes. Those weren’t the only thing they expected would change significantly in the years to come, as they hoped West 4th Avenue would be covered or become a tunnel. As is typical, this two hour workshop closed with no recommendations or motions, yet your thoughts can rise above their comments if you leave them here before if you leave them here before November 21st, 2021.

You can view more photos of the Eagle’s model here, and the Weave’s model here on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Partnership – MST Development Corporation, and Canada Lands Company
Project Lead – Urban Strategies Inc
Architects – Hariri Pontarini Architects
Local Architects – Formline Architecture, & RWA Group Architecture LTD.
Landscape Architects – PFS Studio

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