Vancouver has never seen a neighbourhood like this. While the city has managed to balance residential and entertainment land uses in areas such as Robson and Davie streets, Vancouver city planning director Brent Toderian says that the future housing development at B.C. Place Stadium will break new ground in redefining livability.
Some 1,200 residential units are expected to rise at the stadium’s site at the northeast end of False Creek, a district that Toderian noted will become an entertainment, sports, and cultural centre. At present, this area houses GM Place, the Edgewater Casino, and the Plaza of Nations, which will soon be the new home of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Noise, traffic, and lack of community amenities are some of the challenges future residents will face. Obviously, these housing units aren’t for everyone.
“It’s going to be a different kind of buyer here,” Toderian told the Georgia Straight. “It would be someone with a very urban perspective, someone with a high tolerance and even interest for that kind of environment, individuals who are choosing to live in what would ultimately be an entertainment and cultural district. If you want peace and quiet, it would probably not be your first choice.”
Not too many families with children are likely to settle here. “You might end up with more singles, you might end up with units where there’s even a market cachet for being associated with the stadium,” Toderian said.
Aside from 700,000 square feet of housing spaces, the B.C. Pavilion Corporation, which operates B.C. Place for the provincial government, will also develop another 700,000 square feet of commercial space.
On October 30, Vancouver city council approved PavCo’s proposal to upgrade B.C. Place, including the installation of a retractable roof, at no cost to the city. However, this would entail an amendment to the False Creek North Official Development Plan to allow the provincial Crown corporation to undertake development.
According to a city flyer handed out during an open-house event regarding changes to the development plan, a three- to five-storey podium will be put up at the west side of the stadium. Above this base will rise three towers of eight to 10 storeys. A tower of 21 to 27 storeys is also proposed on the east side of the stadium.
A city staff report submitted to council noted that B.C. Place Stadium sits on 6.78 hectares of property, of which 2.93 hectares is undeveloped land.
Under the deal approved by council, there will be no provisions in the amendment of the development plan for family-suitable housing and affordable housing.
The deal likewise doesn’t allow the city to collect a community amenity contribution from PavCo to fund parks, child-care spaces, and other items of public benefit, even though the provincial government has consistently boasted of a budget surplus.
“Staff agrees that the Stadium rehabilitation should be considered the only public benefit because the Stadium is a publicly-owned and operated facility which is unique and critical to the downtown and city economy,” the city staff report stated.
Toderian said that the B.C. Place model is one that is unlikely to be replicated in other parts of the city.
“It’s certainly different than the livability we’ve stressed elsewhere,” Toderian said, explaining that the common notion of livability usually involves family-friendly amenities. “We often say that neighbourhoods that work well for kids tend to work well for everyone.”
This past May, B.C. Liberal premier Gordon Campbell announced the renovation of B.C. Place and the relocation of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Sought for comment by the Straight at that time, former Vancouver councillor Anne Roberts, who chaired council’s planning and environment committee, predicted that this signalled the start of a development rush in the waterfront area.
“So now it seems to be—irrespective of ideas about livability and city planning, the province seems to just say, ”˜Well, let’s just open her up for development and let ’er rip,’ without really looking at the quality of the kind of housing that would be built around there,” Roberts said.