Balfour Monster Leaps Forward After Shedding 34 Homes With Parkside Diet

906-982 W 18th Ave and 907-969 W 19th Ave (Balfour Block) – (revised concept)
With how poorly this project’s last Urban Design Panel review went, I imagine this applicant team was looking for every advantage they could find in preparation for its requested return. So the sight of Terra Breads’ bagged sandwiches in this townhall room probably came as relief, given this city provided catering would ensure none of these volunteers would be hungry. After all, as Hannah’s loving husband, I can vouch how dangerous it is to be around someone that’s feeling hangry.

Though they didn’t just rely on food for thought, as they revealed how this group’s prior comments, and considerable negative public feedback had eliminated an entire building with 26 townhomes. Six strata and two rental homes were also taken out, and the combined loss of 20,000 sqft of living space was enough to convince this panel the height and density suited the neighbourhood. That said, they felt to truly foster a sense of community, more needed to be done.

The intent wasn’t only to promote interactions with the wider neighbourhood, but between those who would call this block home as well. They looked to what one landscape architect described as the project’s best feature to solve this, a new publicly accessible park at the site’s southeastern corner. Regardless of whether the Park Board votes to officially assume ownership of this feature, they recommended design development to strengthen the connection between the corner park and the development.

Others urged sacrificing a couple town-homes on its eastern side in order to establish a common room where residents from all these homes could gather. The central courtyard created from shortening, and merging the parking ramps was seen as a better spot by another faction. After a third group suggested including it in the amenities added to rental building’s roof, they compromised with a recommendation to explore the provision of indoor amenity space at grade to serve all units.

The cubic terraced of this mid-rise structure was seen at odds with the Scandinavian styled peaked roofs of the townhomes, which aligned with the surrounding multi-million dollar detached homes. The contrast with the inner building’s flat roofs was even more stark, and led to a recommendation for design development to the townhomes to better address contextual relationships. Included in this was a desire to see the rest of the stairs case that had once cluttered this internal pathways eliminated.

It was hoped that would allow for a series of activity nodes that could be used for seating and casual meeting spaces. Still, it was understood this was early in the process, and more details would come later, however the blank walls facing the outside single-family properties were something that couldn’t be left to chance. As such, they recommended design development to simplify the architectural expression to soften its currently hard edges, and create a more human scale.

The refinement of its colours and materials probably won’t calm those at the open house, who feared “Vancouver classics being dwarfed by a monster.” These panelists felt otherwise, as their appreciation for the increased permeability, sunlight, and alignment with the Cambie Corridor Plan (pg 161), was summarized by one noting it had “improved by leaps and bounds.” Ironically, the retention of the non-market homes, and 37 space daycare drew little interest, despite the costs and delays necessitated by this second review.

Then again, maybe it’s a matter of priorities, as the demand from a landscape architect to preserve two landmarks led to a last minute recommendation to investigate retention of the existing willow trees. It was acknowledged this probably wasn’t possible, yet it may have helped to secure a unanimous vote to support this project. Which proves just a lone voice can make a difference, so whether you’re teraphobic or prefer to raise the peaked roof, make sure to leave your comments here.

You can view more photos from this meeting on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Wesgroup Properties
Architects – Formwerks Architecture
Landscape Architects – Connect Landscape Architecture

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