Little Mountain Housing social housing proposal promises "thoughtful design"
People often associate social housing with drab-looking buildings, according to architect Gair Williamson.
That may well be the case with many public-housing sites, but Williamson says the one he’s designed for Little Mountain in Vancouver is different.
“If you drove by, you’d think it’s just another good-looking building,” he proudly told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
Intended for families and seniors, the proposed five-storey building at 155 East 37th Avenue will be the first on the former Little Mountain Housing site. Located east of Queen Elizabeth Park, Little Mountain was Vancouver’s oldest social-housing site until its buildings were demolished starting in 2009.
Gair Williamson Architects Inc. filed the development application on behalf of the Holborn Group, the company chosen by the provincial government to redevelop the six-hectare property.
Holborn ultimately plans to build 1,400 market housing units and replace the former 224 units of social housing at Little Mountain with at least 234 new homes. The project designed by Williamson has 53 social-housing units.
According to Williamson, the 43,900-square-foot development promises interesting features like gardens around the base and on the roof of the building. With only 11 parking spaces but 19 spots for bicycles, the building wouldn’t be car-oriented.
It would also have two façades. Its main frontage would face north toward what will eventually be the main square of a new Little Mountain community. Its other front faces south, and the building on this side steps down to three storeys to fit in with the scale of East 37th Avenue, Williamson explained.
“It will be a thoughtful design,” he said.
At five storeys, the development is “considerably lower than many of the trees on the site”, reads the design rationale submitted by Williamson to the City of Vancouver. According to Holborn’s overall plan for Little Mountain, 75 percent of the buildings on the site will be eight storeys and under in height. The rest will be taller, with some reaching 14 storeys.
B.C. Housing spokesperson Fergus McCann told the Straight by phone that the provincial Crown agency will own and operate the Williamson-designed social-housing building.
City hall’s development permit board will review the application on March 25. The city will accept comments from the public until March 5.
Williamson expects the project to break ground in April, and possibly finish construction in 18 months.