Reflections on a busy waterway. A warm departure from the usual green glass and concrete.
The always-insightful Guest has a comment worth bringing forward:
(The plaza’s) success will depend on whether it is programmed with any frequency.
If there’s nothing going on, as others have noted, it’s just a big empty space.
The paving is rather busy – but is softens the vastness of the space.
The white pavilion looks better at night and provides a bright spot on the darkened plaza. The tynes on the roof provide an interesting play of light at night when walking on the other side of Howe (Nordstrom side), with the curvey side interweaving with the straight Howe side.
It’s certainly different than the North Plaza as it existed before the age of protestors.
I remember office workers lying on the grass during lunch breaks.
Years (arguably decades) in the making, Courthouse Plaza is finally finished. And it looks like this:
Love the stonework, hate the wooden benches. And then there’s that white pavilion – about which few will be neutral.
So what do you think? – as a design, as a public space, as the definitive gathering space for the city. And as a name. Can we do better than ‘Courthouse Plaza’?
Jeff Olson, a retired urban designer for the City of Vancouver, submitted this “idea on the pathway to housing affordability.” We’re pleased to post this in its entirety (lightly edited), since Price Tags welcomes considered essays on topics relevant to our readership.
The essential feature that distinguishes the following urban development concept from current urban-design practice is the elimination of the street as we currently understand it. This act results in the elimination of the car and truck as a dominate feature of the urban environment, along with the disappearance of surface and underground parking.
The elimination of the street allows us to treat the ground plane as a public pedestrian space upon which we can toddle, shuffle, walk, jog, run and dance or otherwise move using our feet. Or a variety of old inventions: the little red wagon, the baby buggy, the wheel chair, and the bicycle in all its various manifestations. Then there are all the new inventions: the power unicycle, the hoover board, the skateboard, the inline skate, the Segway, the senior’s four-wheel power scooter, and the power wheelchair, etc.
All of these inventions have common characteristics: they are tiny by car standards, generally designed for the transport of one person, with the exception of the Dutch Bicycle and the very lovely bicycle built for two. Additionally, they can be accommodated on public transit or stuffed into elevators – an important feature of their utility.
All of these machines appeal to our basic human nature: the joy to be found in motion, an experience we know from the time of conception, one that brought gleeful smiles and cheerful giggles as our fathers joyfully tossed us in the air and caught us as infants and toddlers. Surely there is something very basic and human in these instinctive acts. We fly downhill on skis and snowboards, we fly across water on surf boards, sometimes pulled by sails or parachutes. We ride the thermals on sail planes and hang gliders and, when we reach old age, we jump out of airplanes hanging by treads for happy birthday celebrations. This is the cycle of life celebration.
The neat thing about all these wheel contrivances is that they are so humanizing. These wheelie things place people in active space with other people where courtesy matters – greetings and smiles. The bicycle is the most common and ubiquitous of all these machines: a social facilitator, a wonderful motion experience and a machine to be celebrated. Welcome to Bicycle City.
The Infinite Happiness
World Town Planning Day Film Screening And Panel Discussion Night
In celebration of World Town Planning Day, join the Planning Institute of BC’s South Coast Chapter and Vancouver Public Space Network for a film screening and panel discussion of The Infinite Happiness.
The Infinite Happiness is a personal video diary shot entirely in Copenhagen’s “8 House” designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), following a group of residents as they experience life in a contemporary housing block that was designed to be ideal housing for all families.
The film by Beka and Lemoine “constructs a collection of life stories all interconnected through their personal relationships with the building (drawing) the lines of a human map, which allows the viewer to discover the building through an internal and intimate point of view – all while questioning the architecture’s ability to create collective happiness.
– Ian Ross McDonald, Architect AIBC, Partner – Carscadden Stokes McDonald
– Keltie Craig MCIP, RPP, Social Planner– City of Vancouver
– Stephanie Williams, General Manger – Better Environmentally Sound Transportation
– Ericka Stephens-Rennie, Co-founder and Resident – Vancouver Co-Housing
6:00 – 9:30 pm
Rio Theatre, 1660 East Broadway
REGISTER by Thursday, November 9 at noon
*Must be 19+ w/ID for entry and bar service.
PIBC/AIBC Members: $10
Students: $ 5
Tickets will be $15 at the door (Cash, Visa or MasterCard accepted)
Clearly picking up on the stacks of containers a few blocks away at the port, this under-construction development in the 900-block East Hastings adds colour and dynamism to what’s being branded as Strathcona Village.
One part is being marketed as the WorkSpaces @ Strathcona Village:
Comprised of more than 60,000 square feet of industrial-retail flex and office space designed to LEED® Silver standards by the award winning GBL Architects, The WorkSpaces at Strathcona Village are distributed over two floors …
The condos above are being sold as the Heatley @ Strathcona Village:
As another harbinger of transformation (or gentrification, take your choice), there will be no shortage of opinions on this one.
The Mayor of Vancouver and the Chief City Planner Gil Kelley have jointly submitted an editorial which has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. Under the headline “Vancouver Looks to Collaborate with San Francisco on Housing Solutions” there is an out of context photo of the housing on First Nations Land beside the Tsawwassen Mills Mall. This housing is lease hold land not free hold, but the caption states that this housing “starts at $619,900” and is part of an “economic boom“.
And here are portions of the Mayor’s and Mr. Kelley’s text: “The cities of the North American West Coast share so much as vibrant, sustainable and prosperous places to live and work in the 21st century. However, our success is no accident; through thoughtful city planning, San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia are cities that are the envy of the world.
We also face a common threat to that livability. We are seeing unprecedented escalation in housing costs for our working families, the “missing middle” and young professionals, as well as the increasing pressure on our most vulnerable populations…
We’ve learned the causes of the housing crisis are deep and powerful: housing is increasingly not “home” first but rather a commodity for investment on a global market for investors large and small, foreign and local, as interest rates remain low and equity searches for substantial returns. Who can blame the couple with equity to invest for buying a house or a condo that in a few years might double their return and provide a nest egg? For larger real estate interests, building and selling at the top of an ever upward-moving market or “reno-victing” tenants to increase rents are a matter of “rational” market behavior…
In Vancouver, we hope to get ahead of the same pressures San Francisco is facing. We’re taking action to limit speculative investment and put our housing stock to its best use by implementing Canada’s first Empty Homes Tax, a 1 percent annual tax on empty or under-used residential properties. We are preparing an ambitious 10-year housing strategy to lay the foundation for a diverse and equitable city. It starts with the notion that supply is not the issue — we have produced lots of housing over the past decade — but rather lack of the “right supply….
As a city similar to San Francisco with a finite supply of land, Vancouver will rely on density bonuses to augment our inclusionary housing requirements, as the primary tools to incentivize developers to provide the range of rental housing we need. We are also looking across all of our neighborhoods — from transit station areas and major corridors to single-family neighborhoods — for creative infill opportunities that maintain the character of these neighborhoods while providing new homes. These opportunities might include duplexes, row homes, town houses and more…
Overall, we aim to produce over the next decade about 7,000 new homes per year affordable to various household sizes and income levels, and not exceeding 30 percent of the household income on housing costs. Like San Francisco, our greatest reservoir of affordable housing is actually already built and rented by working singles and families, students and elderly residents on fixed incomes. We will need to look at ways to secure or replace much of that as affordable long-term rental stock…
We believe it is time for our mayors and planning directors to formalize a working West Coast Collaborative to tackle this and other issues facing our beautiful and prosperous cities, to share experiences and learn from each other as we advance our efforts to remain just and sustainable places. We hope you will join us.”
The full text of this opinion editorial can be found here.
The housing-income disconnect
Vancouver, British Columbia
$56,474 (in U.S. dollars) Median total household income (2015)
$1.119 million Median single-family home price (3Q, 2017)
$88,518 Median total household income (2015)
$1.130 million Median single-family home price
The Exchange Tower is the newest downtown office building:
THE EXCHANGE TOWER
This project involves rehabilitating the Old Stock Exchange Building and adding a 31-storey office tower. The heritage status of the original building is being retained, and the entire project is targeting LEED Platinum certification—which will make it the second-largest LEED Platinum building in Canada.
With the financial backing of Credit Suisse and Basel-based Harry Gugger Studio, along with Iredale, as architect of record, it’s being characterized as “Swiss Style on the West Coast” – apparently a buttoned-down corporate sleekness.
The Pinstripe Principle
The Pinstripe Principle defines the design of The Exchange. The pinstripes themselves are aluminum louvres – beginning at ground level of the new building and stretching skywards above the original Edwardian building – creating a seamless integration of the two structures.
So … what do you think? Sleek, discreet or just boring? Successful integration of heritage or facadism? Contextual or crowded?
Vancouver City council has unanimously approved the Ryerson development in Kerrisdale.
Justin McElroy writes on CBC News.
By a 10-0 vote, councillors approved rezoning parts of two blocks at West 45th Avenue and Yew Street to allow an eight-storey residential tower and five-storey addition to Dunbar Ryerson United Church. . .
. . . But 74 per cent of correspondence the city received from residents prior to a public hearing was in support of the project, and 20 of 29 people who spoke at the public hearing also supported the project.
More on the project HERE.
The planning process moves along with documents and another open house about this 21-acre (8.5 hectare) site in the heart of Vancouver. What you read here (or see there) is likely to contain strong hints about other developments by this same group. Namely, the 92-acre Jericho Lands.
November 2 2017, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
VanDusen Garden Floral Hall, 5251 Oak St, Vancouver
City Planning Background: HERE (10.4 MB PDF).
Owners’ Info (including 3 conceptual site plans): HERE (18.4 MB PDF)
Several things caught my attention, first from public input at the previous open house events, as captured in the City Planning Background PDF (above):
Housing types: families, seniors, rental were top of the list
Transportation: Pedestrian focus, limiting motor vehicle traffic, improved transit connections. (A Canada Line station at 33rd & Cambie is still visible as a “Future Potential Station”. Hardly very reassuring).
Design new public streets to prioritize people walking and cycling over motorized vehicles. The site will be comfortably and safely accessed by people of all ages and abilities. Traffic will be highly calmed, with routes designed for vehicles heading to homes, shops, services and deliveries on the site, rather than for travel through.
Protect important cross town cycling routes from increased vehicle turning patterns. Maintain an efficient north-south cycling route on Heather Street that provides a safe environment for cyclists of all ages and abilities.
Cyclist routes through park space will be designed to enhance the cyclist and park user experiences, while maintaining efficiency for commuter cyclists.
From the Joint Venture Partnership Document (MST Partners-CLC) PDF (Above):
Potential for “attainable housing” (for essential services providers and Nations members).
Three conceptual site plans: starting on p14 HERE. There are larger site views, perspective (massing) views and specialized plan views on parks, mobility and land use. Here’s a taste of the concepts: “Gathering”. Note building heights up to 18 stories, some retail, childcare, cultural centre and park land. This is unlikely to be a car suburb full of McMansions, but rather a densely-populated site, integrated into the Cambie corridor’s transit-oriented Oakridge Municipal Town Centre (see City document, pages 6-8).
As usual, click either for a large slideshow view of both
As gas-station sites are being redeveloped (a consequence of rising land values and dropping gasoline consumption), major intersections are changing identity. Gas stations, after all, were the ultimate in low-density use: primarily parking lots with gas pumps. Typically located on high-traffic intersections in prominent locations, the sites are being filled in with, at best, prominent buildings.
Here’s the latest at the southeast corner of Cambie and 12th, immediately opposite City Hall:
It went through several iterations in massing in order to avoid affecting the view of City Hall from from the north – and the mixed-use result looks good. Anyone know the architect?
There is a growing gap between the knowledge of place and how we treat one of the most important early settlements of Vancouver. Given the housing and affordability crisis and the growing lack of direct and practical information on issues coming out of City Hall we are lucky to have people like local activist Melody Ma, historian John Atkin and former City Planner Nathan Edelson and many others come out to talk about Chinatown, why it is important, and why we should all care that a 111 unit building of market housing is going to be plonked at 105 Keefer Street.
This is the fifth time the Beedie Living group has submitted a plan for this site to the city. The last iteration of the project did include 106 units of market housing and 26 units for seniors in a twelve storey building. That building was nixed because of “building’s height, lack of adequate social housing and deep community opposition” as reported in the Vancouver Sun. The developer’s answer to this thumbs down is to bring an amended plan for a nine storey building, no social housing units (which by the way would have been paid for fully by BC Housing) and a cultural space on the main floor, as well as three underground levels of parking. This plan simply needs approval from the four folks on the development permit board at the city. And guess what~this board can only review applications based upon the permitted zoning and area guidelines, nothing else. A new generation of concerned citizens are learning how the city approves development projects with minimal public input and context.
Price Tags Vancouver has already written about this project showing the dark underbelly of city hall’s lack of inclusion and meaningful engagement needed for a growing seniors’ population in the Chinatown area. Instead, the focus has been on providing market units as if increasing condo supply and turning Chinatown into the southern extension of Gastown will magically lift the low-income seniors that live and rely on the services in this area.
This is a nationally significant early settlement district with people from a rich culture whose forebears built the railway across Canada, developed buildings and connections in an area unique to North America and also endured tremendous racism. The residents of Chinatown and Strathcona were also responsible for the early 1970’s stopping of the downtown freeway that would have eviscerated Chinatown, and emasculated downtown Vancouver.
And in a way, this whole debacle is City Hall’s fault. It was former City Development Planner Jim Lehto that noted that somehow the outright approved height of 70 feet allowed in 2003 became 90 feet with no merit test, compounded in 2011 with permitted heights up to 120 feet on Keefer Street and up to 150 feet on Main Street. As Jim Lehto observed “as heights have been continually raised, the city has lost its leverage to test the merit of the project despite the original intent of the Chinatown zoning… The community against the rezoning wonders how many truly affordable senior’s units will be available, whether the form of the building respects the historic character of the neighbourhood, and is highly concerned about potential negative gentrification.”
There are no seniors’ units and the building shape and form does not mirror Chinatown’s rhythm on the street. How will these condos add to Chinatown? As Jim Lehto states “much damage is possible in a rush to rezone and densify, without a comprehensive understanding of the host neighbourhood, a digestible densification phasing, and an inclusion plan to protect and value the people and amenities of the host neighbourhood that have evolved over time. In this time of hysterical land values, care must be taken to value what will be lost — as much as what will be built.”
The development permit board will be making their decision on November 6.
Apparently the 74 beautiful new-old lights on the Burrard Bridge have some hi-tech aspects.
Controlled by gizmos located in one of the galleries above the central piers, the lights play all colours of the spectrum, and can change under program control.
Some, or all, of this will be displayed on Wednesday, Oct 25 at 7 pm at the NW corner. Invitation PDF HERE, also containing great background on the Burrard Bridge.
“The glass globes and bronze lamp housings are based upon an original surviving light fixture, and have been replicated by a BC company,” explains Heritage Vancouver Society. “They incorporate tri-LEDs, allowing almost any colour of light to display along the bridge.”
Rattan Mall has written in The Indo-Canadian Voice on the Burrard Bridge project and Saturday’s opening ceremonies. The article treads that line between broad overview and detail very nicely.
Good quotes from Heritage Consultant Don Luxton, too, that help to understand the bridge’s importance and the project’s elements that support heritage.
Luxton said: “As a coastal city, Vancouver is defined by its iconic bridges. The Burrard Bridge, opened in 1932, provided a gateway between downtown and the new developing west side of Vancouver, and it survives as one of the only truly Art Deco bridges in the world.”
Councillor George Affleck responded on Facebook to this post asking whether more supply can address afforability. Here’s his comment:
We must start by developing policies and managing the city so developers are encouraged to build homes versus commodities. (And by developer I don’t mean the big guys – let’s spread the net to include co-housing groups, co-op groups, churches, individuals etc.) Several city reports have pointed out that towers are not providing the “units” that will be occupied or affordable. But row houses and town houses could be … (affordable being relative these days).
Yet we have done very little to fast track, encourage, promote, change regulation policies or bylaws to build more of the homes staff keep saying locals want and will live in. Extracting the possibilities City Plan set up 20+ years ago would be a good place to start. (Your take on this would be good, Gordon Price *).
I will say I am impressed with City planning GM Gill Kelly’s thoughtfulness on the subtleties of developing Vancouver. I encourage everyone to read his report from Council yesterday.
Hope that helps…for now.
*From Gord Price:
Two thoughts on CityPlan, conducted in the 1990s over several years when I was on Council:
CityPlan focused on the existing neighbourhoods, primarily single-family, while growth was being concentrated in the megaprojects: comprehensively designed and zoned brownfield sites over 50 acres. Six of them were occurring simultaneously: Concord Pacific, Coal Harbour, Bayshore, Collingwood Village, Arbutus Gardens and Fraser Lands. In addition, we also rezoned Downtown South and Triangle West on the peninsula. Thousands of units could pour into the market every year at the height of development.
Therefore, we could take a slow, incremental approach to growth in the low-density, developed parts of the city since there was plenty of capacity to handle demand elsewhere – notably on parcels requiring little demolition or displacement of existing housing and rental stock, and away from neighbourhood groups which would contest any significant change in scale or character.
CityPlan never really entertained significant new capacity. The neighbourhood visions that resulted were modest, with growth concentrated on arterials and neighbourhood centres – and even some of those were contested, notably in Norquay, when actual zoning was proposed. Today, those visions are often used in defense of the status quo.
If there was a failure, it was the lack of immediate follow-through from the visions to actual changes in the zoning that reflected them. The process was way too slow, and then subsequently displaced by Sam Sullivan’s policy of EcoDensity.
Nor did CityPlan allow for the amount of ‘missing middle’ development that George noted above. If it had, it might have made a difference.
But, even so, we never imagined the consequence of the flows of global capital and external demand for our favoured housing stock that the city and region have experienced in the last few years. I’m not sure anyone could have – or what they would have done about it.
From Jake Fry:
Eight good-sized three-bedroom apartments.
I lived across from this for a number of years and it disappeared into the streetscape of single-family homes.
(Other contributions welcomed.)
With the seemly relentless attack on the Agricultural Land Reserve from Mega Malls, Port development, speculators and farmland banking from countries including Mainland China and Saudi Arabia (More here), what does the future hold for food security in Vancouver? Well, perhaps our numerous rooftops are the solution. A friend recently experienced a delightful stay at Hôtel du Vieux an Eco-minded boutique hotel in the heart of Quebec City’s old town.
From the hotel owners:
“Hôtel du Vieux-Quebec is an officially recognized and award winning leader in the environmental movement. Committed to reducing its impact on our natural environment, this Quebec City hotel has launched a series of initiatives to lighten its ecological footprint.”
As impressive as their commitment to carbon reduction and recycling is check out their jam-packed rooftop gardens:
The hotel compliments its abundant crop production by maintaining 5 beehives as part of the Miel Urban or ‘Urban Honey’ project, increasing urban pollinators in an insecticide free zone while producing Honey for local cafes and restaurants.
“Hôtel du Vieux Québec has installed three green roofs. Our rooftop gardens grow an assortment of organic vegetables, flowers, herbs and other plants. This helps to keep part of the hotel cool in the summer thereby lowering our energy consumption, sequesters carbon and captures runoff rainwater. This also enables us to provide fresh organic produce for staff and clients. We also insure that our gardens have plants that help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other pollinators in our area.”
More on Hôtel du Vieux and their sustainability initiatives here.
Could Vancouver be doing more with our numerous condo tower and mid rise rooftops? Could this be our new Agricultural Land Reserve:
Tomorrow in Part two I visit a Vancouver example.
Continuing on the small scale infill theme (see previous posts in the series here and here) we travel to the Westside of Vancouver where the Airey Groups Bishop Kerrisdale development makes the most of an unusual narrow sliver of land.
The project mixes residential rowhomes with a classic brick clad retail space located on a unique wedge shape lot addressing the street with excellent scale and proportion.
I had to check that this wasn’t an existing heritage structure as its seems most new developments bypass traditional materials and look in favour of more contemporary elements when designing commercial space.
It all works and compliments the neighbourhood node of small scale shops across the street. Development is located on W 57th Ave & East Blvd across from Choices Supermarket.