Vancouver city council moved to adopt LEED Gold as the new standard for rezonings as of July 2010 with LEED Gold certification in early 2011.  Director of Planning Brent Toderian’s blog post is here and the staff report is here.

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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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One of the benefits of bringing the world to our doorstep is that we get to see our city through a panoply of different eyes.  Gary Stephen Ross of The Walrus provides his take in the upcoming March 2010 issue entitled A Tale of Two Cities.  Perhaps this says it all: “…younger than she seems, less sophisticated than she might like, undeniably radiant, proud to be attracting attention but not quite sure how to deal with it, a little self-conscious as the first complications of maturity settle upon her. You can’t help but marvel at her good fortune, her beauty. You admire the earnestness of her endeavours. You envy the wealth of her possibilities.

You wonder what she’ll become.”

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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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Rising to New Heights – Part 3

Brent Toderian, Director of Planning, sells his staff report recommendations in this follow up article by Doug Ward of the Vancouver Sun.

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Rising to New Heights – Part 2

Back in December, I posted a link to Frances Bula’s article about the current consideration being given at Vancouver’s City Hall for a limited number of “intrusions” into the sacred view corridors.  In this follow up article in yesterday’s Vancouver Sun, Tiffany Crawford discusses the recommendations that were tabled in a staff report to Council on January 5th.  The article is here.  At the time I posted this today, there were already more than a hundred comments posted on the Sun website (why is it that the uninformed always seem to have the most to say…?) which is indicative of how passionately we Vancouverites are about our views and building heights.

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Vancouver engineers its own urban dream –

An outsider’s perspective on the current state of the city, Vancouverism and growth in Surrey.

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