Vancouver's historic Shannon Mews may be rezoned

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Long before Vancouver became known as Hollywood North, director Mike Nichols came to town to film Carnal Knowledge, which starred Jack Nicholson and Candice Bergen. According to real-estate marketer Bob Rennie, some of the scenes were shot in a mansion built in the early part of the 20th century for sugar baron Ben Rogers.

The four-hectare site known as Shannon Mews, located on the northwest corner of Granville Street and West 57th Avenue, includes not only the Rogers mansion, but also a coach house, a gatehouse, ornate Italianate gardens, and a perimeter wall.

Recently, Wall Financial Corporation informed city staff that it is considering filing a rezoning application for the historic site. According to a staff report that went to council on September 8, the property has 162 rental units, including 15 apartments in original buildings. Many of the rental units are located in two-storey townhouses, which Rennie said were designed by legendary architect Arthur Erickson, who died earlier this year.

The mansion and the perimeter wall are designated heritage structures, according to the report. Its author, senior rezoning planner Ian Cooper, told the Georgia Straight that it’s difficult to say how long a rezoning process would take because it would require an unusually extensive consultation process. He said it’s too early to say if any redevelopment will include high-rise buildings because the developer hasn’t put any plans forward yet. “We’ve indicated that we want to see some options in the application,” Cooper said.

The chairman of Wall Financial Corp., Peter Wall, didn’t return a call from the Straight by deadline. Rennie, who has worked for Wall Financial Corp. in the past, said the developer is examining how to add density to the site. “Being green—more people living on less land—is probably the direction,” Rennie said.

Rennie hasn’t been retained to market the project, but confidently stated that the mansion will be saved. He also emphasized that there will be consultation with people living in the neighbourhood.

Cooper’s report recommends that any rezoning review be based on a principle of replacing and increasing the number of market rental housing units on the site. In addition, the report says that any redevelopment of Shannon Mews should accommodate people of different income levels and household types. Under a CD-1 zoning, which is the type suggested for Shannon Mews, council would retain the authority to stipulate what amenities it would like to see there.

“I think it’s up to us to be ambitious for the city, and to make the developer ambitious for the city as well,” Cooper said.

With Shannon Mews, staff want the developer to respect its historic value, according to the report. This would include finding a way to retain the original mansion, the perimeter wall, the gatehouse, the coach house, and the gardens to the south and east of the mansion.

That’s not all. Some of the most ambitious objectives relate to the environment. The report includes an appendix calling for any redevelopment of the site to achieve the LEED Gold standard or the equivalent. The plan should also include a “campus” or district energy system. The report also recommends having urban agriculture on-site, limiting the use of potable water for landscaping, and incorporating a transportation-demand management approach, which would encourage residents to travel on foot, as well as promote cycling and use of the public-transit system.

According to an appendix, the design of any new development “should respect the various eras of the site’s history as part of an ”˜evolved cultural landscape’ while offering architectural variety and a contemporary interpretation (not replication) of older forms and detailing. New buildings should be of their time and should have distinct forms, providing a richer architectural expression.”

At the September 8 meeting, council approved the report’s recommendations, which include a requirement that Wall Financial Corp. hold at least one open house in the community before submitting a rezoning application.

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