Five Vancouver city staff and Wall Financial Corporation president Bruno Wall met today (January 25) with selected reporters in a second-floor boardroom to discuss the process for a major rezoning.
In August 2010, Wall Financial submitted an application to redevelop Shannon Mews in southwest Vancouver. The company wants to build 891 units, including more than 200 rental apartments, on its site west of Granville Street and 57th Avenue. The tallest two towers would be 14 storeys on the southeast corner of the site and 13 storeys in the middle of the property.
The city hopes to begin a public hearing in July.
City staff explain why they and developer Bruno Wall met with reporters at Vancouver City Hall to discuss the public process around Shannon Mews.
According to Wall, there would be between 1,500 and 1,600 residents on the site if his company's application is approved. That's a four- or five-fold increase over the current population on the property.
Developer Bruno Wall outlines his company's plans to "redensify" Shannon Mews.
The director of planning, Brent Toderian, explained at the meeting that council has instructed staff to conduct an "enhanced process" because Wall's development proposal contains "strategic opportunities for enhanced densification" that go beyond the Arbutus Ridge/Kerrisdale/Shaughnessy (ARKS) Community Vision.
Wall Financial has submitted five options, two of which conform to the ARKS guidelines, according to Toderian. He stated that residents have been invited to offer comments on all the different proposals.
Toderian also mentioned the possibility of "landing heritage density" on the site. At that point, one reporter asked if he could explain what this means in English.
"In English, we have preserved heritage features throughout the city using the density bank tool, which allows us to take the density that is foregone, and land it somewhere else," he said. "And we have a very large density bank that is unlanded."
He noted that there is about 1.2 million square feet in the heritage density bank. "Mr. Wall is a holder of some of that density, for example," Toderian added. "One possibility is to land some of that heritage density as part of this process."
Wall was accompanied at the meeting by architect David Dove and Nicola Lambrechts of National Public Relations.
Wall said he hopes to increase the number of rental units on the site from 162 to "in excess of 200" units.
"What we're looking at doing with this proposal is a greater variety of rental housing options, from smaller units to larger two and three bedroom townhomes, but also to provide ownership within a multifamily setting," he commented. "Right now in that neighbourhood, there is no opportunity to age in place."
He explained that this would require the demolition of five buildings that were designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson.
Wall maintained that the "majority of the design works" on the buildings was actually done by Erickson's former architectural partner, Geoff Massey, and claimed that they are not "iconic" Erickson structures.
The historic mansion and Italianate gardens developed for sugar baron Ben Rogers in the early 20th century will be retained, Wall stated. “There will be opportunities for more visual access to open up the perimeter wall so it doesn’t feel like this private estate that’s kind of hunkered in the middle of the neighbourhood,” he added.
He also suggested during the briefing that area residents are opposed to developing a park on the site, which would be an amenity in return for higher density. Later, Toderian clarified Wall's remark by saying that some residents support a new park at Shannon Mews.
Wall also said that there is a possibility of retail being included in the project near Granville Street and West 57th Avenue. This is not part of the company's preferred option.
The city's assistant director of media services, Wendy Stewart, insisted the meeting with Wall and reporters did not mean that the city's communications aparatus was being used to benefit a private developer.
Toderian said that he didn't see any need to seek advice from city legal staff before deciding to hold this media briefing with Wall at Vancouver City Hall while Wall had a rezoning application before the city.
"The role is very different between city staff and a developer," Toderian said. "Where we have a common interest at this point is in making sure that the public has a very good understanding of the process because we can certainly see the downside of having confusion or misinformation out there about what the process will be."
The meeting was attended by the Georgia Straight, freelancer Frances Bula, the Province, and the Vancouver Courier.
City spokesperson Wendy Stewart claims that "misinformation" has been disseminated about the rezoning of Shannon Mews.
Stewart jusitifed the meeting by claiming that there were "errors" in reporting and "misinformation" presented to the public. However, Toderian later said that there wasn't misinformation being disseminated about the project.
"We always try to make our public processes fair and transparent—that is our basic goal—and make sure that all stakeholders, certainly all members of the public who are interested—but all various stakeholders—have a chance to be heard, to be understood, and ultimately have their concerns and ideas seriously considered as we go through the process," Toderian said.