In “Banking on the Games afterglow”, Frances Bula discusses the next steps for Millennium’s Olympic Village development with Bob Rennie and Cameron McNeill.

This is an image of Rize Alliance’s proposed redevelopment of the Cecil Hotel site on Granville at Drake. According to Malcolm Perry of the Vancouver Sun, HOK, Busby Perkins+Wills and IBI|HB have all had a hand in the design.  Additional information and images can be viewed here.
For years, I’ve been somewhat puzzled  as to why there is decidedly more “progressive” residential architecture in Toronto than Vancouver.  On the multi side of the equation, developers like Peter Freed of Freed Developments have built profitable brands based on delivering interesting, adventurous, design-forward mid- and high-rise communities.  Vancouver has a few exceptions – James Schouw’s one-ofs Grace, Iliad and now Artemisia; Robert Fung at The Salient Group’s Garage in Gastown; a number of Intracorp Developments’ projects including Folio and Jacobsen; architects Lang Wilson in conjunction with Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden’s Roar_One; Wall Financial’s One Wall Centre; and Cressey Development’s Milano, which I had a hand in. However, for the most part Vancouver’s skyline has been dominated by pretty straightforward point towers clad in glass and either painted concrete, stucco or Alucobond panels.  Most are virtually indistinguishable from one another, to the point of being bland and banal.
I realize that part of this is driven by simple economics: different is taken to meet less easy to build and therefore potentially more costly to construct, plus there’s the perceived added risk that you may alienate part of your market that’s looking for things that are safe and conservative.  Undeniably there is a measure of truth in this, but it is tremendously encouraging to see projects like The Rolston, 5590 Balaclava, Jacobsen, PCI Group’s Crossroads, Bastion Development’s Pulse and Coast,  and even Westbank’s Living Shangri-La pushing the envelope.  The public benefits will include a more interesting skyline and a measure of choice not seen here before.
Bring them on!
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5590 Balaclava

Shades of Arthur Erickson’s Evergreen Building perhaps, but this approved project by Emaar Canada at 41st and Balaclava in Kerrisdale hasn’t garnered much press to date. Curious, considering the design was created by Adrian Gill + Gordon Smith Architecture, the architects for the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building.  Additional detailed information is available on the architect’s site here.  Hope it gets built!

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What are the chances we’ll see a suburban entry level detached housing project this ‘adventurous’ in Metro Vancouver?  Unlikely, I venture.  Additional photographs can be found here.

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Follow up article on yesterday’s Council decisions regarding the Planning Department’s recommendation that four sites it identified on the downtown peninsula be allowed to penetrate existing view corridors and increased building heights in Chinatown/Gastown.

via CBC News – British Columbia – Vancouver rejects downtown high-rise proposals.

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Nothing gets people’s knickers in a knot faster than creating affordability by reducing unit size.  Back in the early 90s, VLC (now Concert Properties) caused serious commotion when it sought approval for the inclusion of  300+ square foot studio “micro-suites” in a proposed rental project on Seymour now called 600 Drake. Rather than welcoming the introduction of a new choice for combatting the declining affordability of rental accommodation, VLC and the micro-suite concept were vilified in the press. Battery hen coop comparisons were common, as were armchair psychologists’ predictions of increasing suicidal tendencies amongst micro-suite residents.  Council of the day bravely forged ahead and the project was built.

The controversy has been rekindled by Reliance Holding’s announcement that it was proceeding with the renovation of the Burns Block east of the Woodward’s project in the DTES into thirty 275 square foot “micro-loft” rental suites.  Frances Bula’s article in Tuesday’s Globe and Mail is here.

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The Woodward’s project has received a great deal of press in part because it is perceived by many to have been a bold and risky venture given the neighbourhood and in part because of the speculation about its potential for being a transformative force.  In anticipation of its formal opening next month, Frances Bula writes about some of the many variables that were at work in bringing the project together in this article in today’s Globe and Mail.

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This article by James MacGee, associate research analyst at the Reserve Bank of Cleveland and associate professor at UWO, examines the similarities and differences between the US and Canadian housing markets to answer this question. The article is posted here.

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With media focus shifting to Vancouver in anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympics, I expect we’ll see a lot more articles like this one which describes the social experiment that is Woodward’s.  The article is here.

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Vancouver council endorses high-density plan to develop former Expo lands


The view north over False Creek from the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games Athletes Village.

Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

City council unanimously endorsed a plan Tuesday night to create a high-density, mixed-use neighbourhood of about 7,000 people around BC Place Stadium and GM Place on the final undeveloped section of the former Expo lands.

The controversial concept includes a new civic plaza plus four million square feet of residential space and 1.8 million square feet of office space.

What it doesn’t include is the 2.75 acres of park space per 1,000 people that city council holds as a goal.

Coun. Suzanne Anton, who unsuccessfully pushed for changes to the plan to include more park space, said she thinks residents will be shortchanged if the developers don’t provide the expected amenities.

“I am an advocate of density,” Anton told The Vancouver Sun. “I think it makes a city more interesting, I think it makes it more livable, and most important, I think it’s better for the environment.

“However at the same time, if you’re going to ask people to live in high density, you must, as a city, provide the right amenities.”

If the park ratio of 2.75 acres per 1,000 residents was to be met, it would require an additional 19.8 acres of park land for the 7,200 new residents, according to the staff report.

As proposed, densities in northeast False Creek will be among the highest in the downtown peninsula, the report said, noting the high-density push is being driven by the city’s goal of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Coun. Geoff Meggs stressed that the plan will take years to be implemented.

“This just the first stage of what is going to be a long discussion,” Meggs said. “The onus is now on the developers to bring forward proposals that meet the community test for amenities.”

PavCo, the provincial arm that manages BC Place, wants to cover much of the cost of the stadium’s new retractable roof through the development around the stadium.

“What the community is getting for that new density is the roof,” Meggs said.

The new neighbourhood, according to the staff report, would include rental and market housing — and would “appeal to those who want to live in a busy, vibrant area and who have a tolerance for noise, crowds and activities.”

Patsy McMillan, who lives in Citygate near Science World, said she isn’t happy with city council’s decision.

“Everybody’s very disappointed. There was nothing in [the motion] for the larger park or the community,” McMillan said.

“You’re going to get more of a transient, single population, which is okay, except 7,000 of them is not exactly movement towards a stable community.”

“We’re not in favour of that much density without the appropriate amenities and park space,” McMillan said.

The city’s plan for the new northeast False Creek isn’t exclusively for young singles or childless couples — it calls for housing suitable for families with children, including units sheltered from event traffic and noise.

The report also calls for child care centres. A new elementary school in International Village was also discussed by council, but there are no plans now for a new secondary school in the downtown core.

There is no other comparable development in any North American city.

Some cities have baseball parks or hockey rinks with one or two residential towers located nearby or integrated into the sports venue. No other city has multiple stadiums surrounded by a cluster of towers.

The strategy calls for building design requirements to reduce the impact of noise from the two stadiums.

The city will be reviewing height restrictions and view corridors in January. Buildings in Citygate near the proposed development are between 22 and 28 storeys high.

The five owners of property in the area are Concord Pacific, BC PavCo, Canadian Metropolitan Properties, Aquilini Developments and Central Heat Distribution.

The report, Northeast False Creek Directions for the Future, is authored by planners Michael Gordon and Paula Huber.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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