June 23rd, 2022 Public Hearing – Strathcona Residents Feel The Sting Of “Unjustified” Rental Housing

Public Hearing – June 23rd, 2022
Time can be a funny thing, as these last two years have felt like an eternity, which in hindsight have also flown by. Supposedly as you get older this feeling only gets worse; since you’ve experienced more years, minutes, and hours can seem far quicker. Maybe that sense of time travel is why Item #1, the Fleck Brothers Warehouse in Railtown, warrants heritage protection despite being built only a couple years before my own parents were born.

It has also outlasted both of them, and my own children could very well be teenagers before Item #2 is finally finished construction. So, it’s no wonder that this proposal to fill in a gap between the mix of strata, and social housing apartments at Cambie Gardens hasn’t drawn any negative attention. It can be tricky to envision a brighter future without losing track of today, but Item #3 hasn’t had any problem with that.

This office building preserves its past while embracing a car-lite future for hundreds of employees. Conversely, Item #4 is struggling to overcome Stathcona’s old wounds, as the wasp’s nest that convinced a then Mayor Campbell to evict a charity run by May Gutteridge is once again buzzing. Except now their target is the 262 “unjustified” rental homes, and medical offices located near the future St. Paul’s Hospital, which shows how even the small voice can leave a generational impact.

Backlash Expectations

Item #2 – 500-650 West 57th Ave. (Pearson Dogwood/Cambie Green)Very Low
A few extra floors of market, and moderate income rental homes won’t be noticed on this ~25 acre site

Item #3 – 524-526 Granville St.Very Low
This provides space for 500 jobs, and that never causes controversy Downtown

Item #4 – 450-496 Prior St., 550 Malkin Ave. & 1002 Station St.High
Councillors Carr, Fry, and Hardwick voted against the New St Paul’s Hospital right next door (pg 11)

The Second Item – 500-650 West 57th Ave. (Pearson Dogwood/Cambie Gardens) – Very Low

What is it?:
This adds 200,000 sqft of market, and 65,000 sqft of moderate income rental homes to the mix of strata, and social housing apartments that was approved on Pearson Dogwood Lands in 2018.

Where is it?:
Here, in an area now called Cambie Gardens, between Sir Wilfrid Laurier Elementary School, and the Langara Golf Course. This neighbourhood is already planned to include 2,160 strata homes, 540 social housing apartments, 114 supportive homes, a community health centre, a 69 space daycare, 2.5 acres of park space, and a one-acre urban farm (pg 1).

What will it contribute to the community?:
At a minimum, these extra homes will be charged ~$4.6 million to pay for civic utility improvements, and contribute public art worth ~$525,000.

What has changed since it was first proposed?
Unlike Hannah and I, it looks pretty much the same as it did back when we I first saw it in 2020.

What was the open house like?:
Those who attended the applicant-led event on the eve of the global shutdown seemed more interested in buying one of these homes than anything else. Which might explain why the only question at the city’s virtual session two years later was about a mistake in the notice card that announced it.

What are its strengths?:
This gives households who earn between $30,000 – $80,000 annually a chance to call our city home, and saves others from a five or six-figure down-payment.

What are its weaknesses?:
With the shortage of trades’ people, it’s going to be more than a few years before the construction on this 25.4-acre site is anywhere near finished.

What is the opposition like?:
Most just want TransLink to build the promised W 57th Ave. Canada Line station, though there is a long rant from a self-described former developer / city planner / parking-ticket adjudicator too.

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 – 524-526 Granville St. – Very Low

What is it?:
This 24 floor office building provides enough space to employ ~500 people, preserves the exterior of an 110-year-old structure, and offers ~$8 million in community benefits.

Where is it?:
Here, atop of the Leckie Block, which will be retained as part of this process. If you don’t recognize this suit store, it’s just a two-minute walk south of Waterfront Station’s Hasting Street exit.

What will it contribute to the community?:
Broken down, it offers ~$2.9 million to help create affordable housing, and daycare space in the Metro Core, and pays a ~$2.7 million levy to improve civic infrastructure. $250,000 of public art is also being provided, and city staff have valued the Leckie Block preservation as a public service worth ~$2.2 million (pg 12).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
It looks pretty similar to the model Hannah and I spotted in 2018, but as the design team never responded to our email asking for any information on it, we can’t say for sure.

What was the open house like?:
If ~5,000 households, and businesses are notified about a online event, and not one of them cared enough to ask a question, did it ever really need to happen (pg.41)?

What are its strengths?:
Aside from the obvious? Well, some people will probably really like that it doesn’t need to provide an underground parking garage due to the area’s high walk-ability, and level of transit service.

What are its weaknesses?:
These old buildings always have trouble with accessibility, and the small size of the amenity space was also problematic. Fortunately, both are issues that city staff are requiring to be addressed (pg 17).

What is the opposition like?:
Other than two responses which claim this “jeopardizes the character” of Granville Street, there wasn’t any (pg 43).

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 – 450-496 Prior St., 550 Malkin Ave. & 1002 Station St. – High

What is it?:
These two 19 storey towers provide 262 rental homes, and are connected by a five floor podium, which includes 246,000 sqft of office space, and retail store at the ground level. A public plaza carves through it, and includes a 4,400 sqft cultural centre that will be owned by the city.

Where is it?:
Here, just east of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts, adjacent to the once opposed Trillium Park, and the northeast corner of a massive construction site that will become the future St Paul’s Hospital.

What will it contribute to the community?:
At least 10% of those involved in its construction will be hired from low-income or equity-seeking communities, and so will 10% of the materials (pg 19). When that is finished, the completed $5 million cultural centre will be given to the city, as will room for a future road. In terms of hard cash, a levy of at least ~$10 million will be paid to improve things like sidewalks (pg 21).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
In response to public feedback (pg 72), and the Urban Design Panel, city staff are requiring significant updates to reduce the appearance of the building. These include further setbacks, terracing the towers, and potentially eliminating the bridge-like amenity spaces over the breezeway (pg 26 & 28).

What was the open house like?:
A lone individual asked a third of the questions at this virtual event, and couldn’t understand how the False Creek Flats Plan allows for what is proposed (pg 9, & 10). This concern about height was echoed by a few others, albeit in a more polite manner.

What are its strengths?:
The winding plaza breaks this form up nicely, assuming you can see it through the thick trees on Prior Street. For residents, it’s turned its large podium roof deck into an ample amenity space, and if you work in the healthcare sector, these rental homes will provide a quick commute to work.

What are its weaknesses?:
The indefinite delay of the Prior Street Underpass mean any travel eastward will remain at the mercy of the rail signals. Similarly, if Concord Pacific ever moves forward with its plans for the Northeast False Creek, the demolition of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts will lead to several years of disruption.

What is the opposition like?:
Largely comprised of the well-represented Strathcona Resident’s Association who feel this amount of rental housing can’t be justified by the New St. Paul’s Hospital. While they claim they would support a scale comparable to the Villa Cathay Care Home, they forgot some of their members (pg 7) were opposed to it back in 2013.

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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