Second Place Champion Overcomes A Troubled Rental Family History

277-291 W 42nd Ave
As city council grapples with whether to raise property taxes to fund a pandemic-hit budget, this rezoning application feels particularly senseless. After all, what public benefit is achieved by spending tax payer resources on such a lengthy in-depth examination when this project’s nearly identical sibling was approved only a few months ago immediately next door. Maybe that’s why city staff are studying if rental, and non-market housing buildings in the Oakridge Municipal Towncentre should be allowed to skip this process (pg 5).

Ironically, that program was axed due to fiscal shortfalls, meaning the Urban Design Panel were forced to review this project, which one noted was essentially trapped by the Cambie Corridor Plan (pg 86). Some of these volunteers must have felt similarly, as they had reviewed its paler doppelganger last year. So, there was never any real doubt that its height, massing, and density would ultimately win support, rather the question was whether it was doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

Technically that was impossible, as its location in the middle of this block meant it didn’t need to fear the impact of a side street loaded with ride-share vehicles, unlike its predecessor. Instead, part of this property will be taken to establish the beginnings of a pedestrian focused mid-block connection linking Elizabeth Street to Columbia Park. The problem was its response to the existing adjacent single-family homes, and church parking lot across the lane had overlooked this feature’s future potential.

Which is why the panel recommended design development to the public realm to improve the mid-block connector and ensure future viability; clarify the public and private realms; and improve the relationship to the park. It was hoped this would promote accessibility, create more open space, and most importantly fully integrate the lobby’s entrance into a natural setting with robust planting. However, it was acknowledged that due to city policy, the treatment of the floors above this space threatened this goal.

Actually, it was being torn apart by two separate rules, as the need to provide a transition to the new public pathway conflicted with the required height of the podium. Like the previous instruction, this caused some discord, and confusion amid the panellists who differed on how best to resolve this. What started off as a desire for clarity, found consensus in a recommendation for design development to the southern façade to clearly define a four or two-storey expression.

Another member was more anxious about this family’s look, as they would have preferred a bigger departure by either rotating this entire form, or adjusting its height. Others appreciated how the charcoal grey colour and offset patios had provided a slimmer contrast, though a landscape architect questioned if some could be enlarged for the family-sized homes. Together, they combined into a recommendation for design development to the balcony expression to provide visual interest, and variety.

The podium rooftop amenities will do something similar, as after construction is finished, the plan is for them to be united and shared between both building’s residents. Which shows there’s advantages to coming second, and that’s true for this proposal as well, as it did better than it older “sister” by winning the panel’s unanimous support. Of course, you don’t have to settle for their hand-me-downs, make sure your opinion stands out by contacting rezoning planner, Tess Munro, at tess.munro@vancouver.ca or 604-871-6168.

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

Applicant Team Information:
Developer – Macron
Architects – Rositch Hemphill Architects
Landscape Architects – Hapa Collaborative

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