Art studios removed from Rize high-rise development
City of Vancouver staff have instructed the developer of a proposed multi-use high-rise development at East Broadway and Kingsway to pay a community-amenity contribution instead of building 10,000 square feet of artist studios.
The Rize building, which has met with community opposition, was initially proposed with 20 levels of market residential units and five levels of 62 rental units under the Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) program.
Subsequent revisions brought the number of STIR units down to 15 and reduced the building height to 19 storeys from 26. But on January 16, the city advised Rize Alliance Properties Ltd. that the STIR units and the artist-studio production space should be removed and converted to a cash Community Amenity Contribution totalling $6.25 million, of which $4.5 million will be directed toward cultural use in the Mount Pleasant community, and $1.75 million will be placed in an affordable-housing fund.
That decision was part of a report submitted to city council on January 31, where council voted to refer the rezoning application to a public hearing.
“At the end of the day, and relatively late in the process, it became apparent to us that this is expensive land, expensive development, and the economics were such that we were getting fewer and fewer rental units, for example,” explained Kent Munro, the city’s assistant director of current planning. “For the same amount of money that would have been spent in this development on a brand-new building, brand-new space, the city could probably get better bang for the buck and greater amenities for the community if we took the equivalent in cash and committed to spend it elsewhere in the neighbourhood.”
Chris Vollan, Rize Alliance’s vice-president of development, said the developer would have liked to keep the artist studios in the building. “Our preference was that the amenity space be built out on-site,” he said, “but ultimately it’s the city’s decision to deal with or to determine how the amenity space or the funds for the amenities that best serve the community.…Having the artist space in the building, right on the corner of 10th and Watson, we thought was a plus. That will now be converted to probably commercial space. So you still get a pretty good dynamic along 10th, probably with some service retail and such, but probably it will be different than what we were anticipating as far as an artist-based space.”
Stephen Bohus, one of the directors of the Residents Association of Mount Pleasant, which has been opposed to the Rize building since it was first proposed, expressed frustration at the removal of the amenities from the building.
“The City of Vancouver made this change on their website without really any community consultation,” he noted. “There were two amenities that the city and the developer were telling the community would be in this development.…A lot of the comments [at public workshops] in favour of it might have been done on the assumption that there is an art space.”
Munro said the city had not yet specified how the amenity contribution would be spent. “We try our best to get our amenities in the development, and we recognize what people are probably reacting to is that at least if it’s in the development, they get to see the fruits and the benefits arising from the development as soon as it’s built,” he acknowledged.
The loss of the studios in the Rize development also takes some wind out of Vision Vancouver’s October 2011 campaign pledge to create 10,000 square feet of art studios within its three-year term.