Large residential densities planned for South Cambie raise concerns
Retired city planner Trish French says that she’s enjoying a very nice life. It’s not that she didn’t like doing what she did before, but 35 years or so in the business was plenty.
Because of her background, the assistant director of planning in Vancouver until 2009 is naturally drawn to development issues. The city’s plan for Cambie Street is one of these. She also happens to live near the strip where the Canada Line runs. It’s also where the city plans to put more residents.
When she was interviewed, French hadn’t decided whether or not she’d go to City Hall on Monday (March 26). On the evening of that day, council will hold a public hearing on the second of three major development projects at Cambie and Marine Drive. That’s where the Canada Line makes its last stop in Vancouver before crossing over to Richmond, a place that the Cambie Corridor Plan calls Marine Landing.
French has concerns over the large residential densities being eyed for this area. She had suggested that a development plan for the entire Marpole community may be needed first.
But with council’s approval of the Cambie plan on May 9, 2011, there wasn’t much faith left that future developments there will somehow be downscaled. “When council approved the Cambie Corridor policies for that area, they basically hard-lined the heights and densities in that plan in a high level of detail,” French told the Georgia Straight by phone. “And I don’t think council is open to considering the kinds of more moderate heights and densities that the community wanted.”
On March 17, hundreds of people lined up to buy the condos that have yet to be built for the first Marine Landing area project okayed by council. It’s on the southeast corner of Cambie and Marine. Council approved 418 condos for the PCI Developments project called Marine Gateway. It will see two residential towers of 26 and 35 storeys, and a 14-storey office building rising beside the Canada Line station there. The condos sold out in hours.
At the March 26 meeting, council will hear speakers from the public regarding an application to rezone the northeast corner of Cambie and Marine, starting from 64th Avenue. Intracorp S.W. Marine Limited Partnership wants to build 441 condo units and 110 market rental units. The development involves two towers of 31 and 25 storeys. These will sit on podiums of seven and five storeys, respectively, of commercial and office spaces.
French said she believes that based on the principles laid out in the Cambie Corridor Plan, council will approve this project.
“Given that, I think what that project needs still is significant improvement at the public ground level,” French said. “It needs a much more active treatment with more active pedestrian retail uses at the north end, specifically, and a much more useful and engaging landscape treatment in the setback.” French added that council needs to ensure that the development will produce a pedestrian-friendly, safe, and interesting connection from 64th Avenue down to Marine Drive. “They have to have eyes on the street,” she said.
According to Marpole resident Janet Fraser, there is a strong desire in the neighbourhood to see more retail services to make that part of Cambie an interesting place on which to walk, and not just a sidewalk with private green space.
Fraser, a key organizer in the community group Marpole Matters, also said that locals want to have a say where development fees and amenity contributions from Intracorp will go. “I don’t think the city has really asked how it would be spent,” Fraser told the Straight by phone. “We’re not saying it should be spent on this or that. We’re just saying there needs to be a process for the city to make this decision.”
More towers are coming to Marine Landing. Across from the Intracrop development on the northwest corner of Cambie and Marine Drive is another prime location. Wesgroup Properties has big plans for that as well.