November 18th, 2021 Public Hearing – Ashley Marr Housing Co-op Shoots For A Cambie Corridor Hat-trick

Public Hearing – November 18th, 2021
(Update – November 19th, 2021 – Despite relatively few speakers, city council only finished Items #1-3, meaning you still have time to comment on Item #4, which will be heard on November 25th, 2021.)

Like recent Canuck’s games, it would be tempting to ignore this public hearing. After all, Item #1 is essentially the result of applying spell check to a few previously approved policies, and Item #2 is simply a trio of the typical low-rise strata buildings found along the Cambie Corridor. Well, technically they’re on Ash Street, but with the Heather Lands located immediately to the southwest, it’s not going to make much difference in a few years.

Given the recent discussions about False Creek South, one thing Hannah and I know likely won’t change, is the passion some have for co-op housing, and which is something Item #3 delivers in a big way.. The replacement of the Ashley Marr Housing Co-op comes with its residents blessing, but there is a modest expansion of non-market housing, and a large component of rental homes too. As for Item #4, it’s just a short journey away on the Canada Line.

When you arrive at this transit hub, the ongoing construction at the Oakridge Centre might distract you from the small strip mall this mix of strata homes, daycare, youth centre, and office space will replace. Ironically, a far smaller proposal here generated some vocal opposition only a few years ago, but time and Phase 3 of the Cambie Corridor Plan appears to have calmed those voices. That said, there’s certainly no need for you to stay silent with your thoughts.

Backlash Expectations

Item #2 – 4992-5138 Ash St. – Very Low
Aside from a couple adjacent homeowners that are upset, there hasn’t been any interest.

Item #3 – 8640 Ash St. & 8495 Cambie St. – Very Low
Co-op housing has been getting a lot of love lately, at least at the other end of the Canada Line.

Item #4 – 5812-5844 Cambie St. – Very Low
Construction of the Oakridge Centre is well underway across the road, so this isn’t unexpected.

The Second Item – 4992-5138 Ash St. – Very Low

What is it?:
This trio is comprised of a couple four floor buildings, and a lone six story structure that offers a combined 133 strata homes.

Where is it?:
Here, in a very central location. Within a ten minute walk is Queen Elisabeth Park, BC Children’s Hospital, Eric Hamble Secondary School, and the Oakridge-41st Avenue Canada Line station.

What will it contribute to the community?:
There will be roughly $5.3 million paid to fund new community services as outlined in the Cambie Corridor Public Benefits Strategy. A further $3.3 million will be paid in infrastructure fees, and another ~$230,000 will go to creating public art (pg 9).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Its conditions of approval cut back the western most building (pg 16), and relocated the loading bay and parking ramp to accommodate the single-family homeowners that likely complained about them (pg 32).

What was the open house like?:
161 individuals viewed this virtual open house, and while no one submitted any questions, ten people did leave their comments (pg 31).

What are its strengths?:
The location is a huge strong point, and the design, while simple, does have an elegance to it. In short, it’s what one would expect under the Cambie Corridor Plan.

What are its weaknesses?:
At 185 stalls, there’s more space for cars than people here, and it doesn’t exactly transition well between the six floor buildings on Cambie, and the taller forms in the Heather Lands.

What is the opposition like?:
They might be the owners of the two leftover detached homes to the northwest (pg 5) or just a married couple, as the letters they’ve submitted insisting that multi-family housing be kept on arterial roads read very similar.

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak by phone, or in-person, here.

The Third Item – 8640 Ash St. & 8495 Cambie St. – Very Low

What is it?:
At 31, 27, and 16 floors, this trio of towers will become the new home of Ashley Marr Co-op, add another 71 non-market homes, and create 424 market rental homes. Plus there’s one little retail store included too.

Where is it?:
Here, at the present day location of the Ashley Marr Housing Co-op, right next to the Marine Drive Canada Line station, and bus loop.

What will it contribute to the community?:
While the additional below market rate co-op homes are their own unique community benefit, there will also be ~$4.1 million paid in infrastructure improvement fees, and ~$800,000 for new public art (pg 93).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
When it was first proposed in 2017, two of the towers were shorter, and included strata housing. Since then, the city council voted to consider their current height in order to afford converting them to rental homes.

What was the open house like?:
There’s been several, including events dedicated for existing co-op residents, and a pre-application event in late 2018 that met a pretty positive reception. Earlier this year a city-led virtual open house drew a couple questions about co-op home’s size, and affordability, with the answers viewable here.

What are its strengths?:
The support of the existing Ashely Marr residents for this co-op’s renewal and expansion is a huge win, especially considering the current building wasn’t designed to be located right next to a Canada Line station.

What are its weaknesses?:
The mid-block connector on the south side of the building feels like a really unfriendly place to walk.

What is the opposition like?:
Of the ~3,600 households notified, only five comments have expressed concern (pg 73), with some complaining that too many homes, and not enough parking stalls, are being created at this transit node (pg75).

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak by phone, or in-person, here.

The Fourth Item – 5812-5844 Cambie St. – Very Low

What is it?:
This is a pair of 33 and 12 floor buildings linked by a four floor podium that includes ground floor retail, a youth centre, and 37 space daycare. The rest of the podium, and the shorter tower is occupied by ~107,000 sqft of office space, while 265 strata homes are in the larger one.

Where is it?:
Here, roughly kitty corner to the Oakridge 41st Ave Canada Line station, across the street from a future nine acre park, and a block west of Columbia Park.

What will it contribute to the community?:
Quite a bit! The 37 space daycare, and ~5,900 sqft youth centre are valued at ~$14.5 million, and another $2.5 million will go to providing new neighbourhood services. On top of that, $630,000 will be used to fund new public art, and an ~$8 million levy will be paid to improve infrastructure like sewers (pg 12).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
It was first proposed in 2016, under Phase 2 of the Cambie Corrdior Plan which only allowed for a twelve and eight floor building with 117 strata homes, including eight classed as live-work (pg 12). After Phase 3 was approved, a new vision was submitted in 2019 that was largely similar to this one. Public feedback led to the current concept’s submission last year.

What was the open house like?:
While the city report notes it was held February 2nd, 2020 (pg 44), it was actually held on the fifth, when I was at the Urban Design Panel, and Hannah was attending the reveal of a different project. We didn’t miss much, as the number of parking stalls provided was the biggest concern of the 26 attendees (pg 45).

What are its strengths?:
A daycare, a youth centre, millions of dollars in cash for community funding, oh and there will be a public plaza provided too.

What are its weaknesses?:
It’s kind of weird that the youth centre doesn’t have its own outside entrance, which city staff are requiring to be addressed (pg 19). Even stranger is that it provides 318 vehicles stalls in this transit rich area.

What is the opposition like?:
Aside from aesthetics, and the amount of parking there isn’t any (pg 45), which is ironic as in 2016 some passionately opposed the smaller ten and eight story buildings first envisioned here.

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak by phone, or in-person, here.

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