Expo Garden’s First Step Forward Earns A Warm Response Despite City Engineer’s Great Failure

750 Pacific Boulevard (DP-2021-00830) – Block A (Phase 1), Expo Gardens (Plaza Of Nations)
I imagine spending seven years locked in a legal battle with your neighbour might make anyone feel colourful, especially if it involved a 10.2-acre waterfront property worth $800 million. Yet, I never expected the Urban Design Panel’s latest review of the Plaza of Nations to start with an applicant team member asking if another individual still worked for that “Concord idiot.” Which is understandable as until that firm moves ahead with their proposal, this development will continue to face challenges.

That’s because their rezoning application is needed to pay for a future street network that would enable the demolition of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts, and revitalization of Chinatown, and Hogan’s Alley. Several panelists simply couldn’t picture what a direct connection between False Creek and Vancouver’s entertainment district would look like. As one bluntly stated, the treatment of Pacific Boulevard was so far from being a “Great Street,” that they could ramble on for the rest of the night.

The applicant immediately began to apologize for this, however these volunteers made it clear that, once again, the onus was on the city’s Engineering Department for this failure. The combined decisions to require street parking so close to the Cambie Bridge, a lack of street trees, and narrow sidewalk left them prepared to send a message to this agency. It was only a senior city planner’s last minute intervention that dissuaded them from including this criticism in an official recommendation.

That leniency didn’t extend to the public plaza that separates this western building from the rest of its family. While they differed on whether it should celebrate the arrival to the waterfront or BC Place, they all feared it lacked the landscaping, and friction needed to prevent people from just passing through it. To ensure it didn’t become a missed opportunity, they recommended “design development of the central plaza, canopy, and trees to be less directional and more centred.”

Unlike the legacy forest, which will be raised to mitigate sea level rise, it was thought these plants would struggle under this ceiling. This sentiment also applied to this building’s own rooftop, but it was understood the view cones that limit them were unmovable at this point. That didn’t mean the panel was willing to accept such an unnatural end to this unique terraced form, which was strongly praised for departing from Vancouver’s usual tower/podium expression.

The previous architect firm who crafted its master plan deserves at least some of the credit for this, that said the panel felt this firm’s significant evolution had made it even more handsome. The only exception to this was the podium which like the aforementioned rooftops felt in-congruent with this curvy style. When combined, the result was a recommendation to “consider design development to the office and residential interface and top of the building to be more organic in nature.”

The effects of our long, cold spring probably didn’t help matters, and some lamented this entire structure’s appearance seemed to have been cooled down. By now perhaps they’re already regretting their recommendation for “design development of materiality of the building to enhance it’s warmth.” By this point two hours had past, and the dinner Hannah prepared certainly needed to be reheated, though the panel had enough energy to joke that perhaps a recommendation to include a barge should be added.

They’re high spirits, along with their unanimous vote to support this proposal, demonstrated just how much a significant contribution to the fabric of our city they believed it represented. That is something the Development Permit Board will decide at around 4pm, June 27, 2022. So whether you think this is comfortable, needs a patch, or should be ripped out make sure to send your thoughts to Project Facilitator John Freeman, at John.Freeman@vancouver.ca before that deadline.

You can view more images of this application’s model, evolution, and renderings from this meeting here on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Canadian Metropolitan Properties Corp.
Architects – Francl Architecture Inc.
Landscape Architects – PFS Studio

One thought on “Expo Garden’s First Step Forward Earns A Warm Response Despite City Engineer’s Great Failure

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  1. Yo, I really appreciate all the write-ups you do for these UDP meetings. Thank you so much! However, sometimes I find the writing impossible to follow along with what’s happening. I wasn’t at the meeting so I don’t get the little inside jokes. What was their take on the Pacific Blvd treatment? Also, can you just use people’s names please? Why hide who these public figures are? It would make it way easier to follow. Please keep it up, I love what you do, but straightforward please! Just tell me what happened. Also if you have a bias, don’t be afraid, just own it. You are pro-density, so be that, it’s your blog!

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