Homeless in Vancouver: Dumpster-dived blueprints show Granville subway station in new West Broadway tower

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      My pastimes of binning and blogging unexpectedly came together on Friday (June 28) when I pulled actual blueprints for a Granville Street Skytrain station out of a cardboard Dumpster in the 1400 block of West Broadway.

      I have been speculating in my blog about the possible location of the Broadway subway’s station in the 1400 block for years!

      The blueprints and accompanying documentation that I found may finally end that speculation.

      They show that the Broadway subway’s Granville Street station will be located on the northeast corner of West Broadway and Granville Street.

      The station will be part of a mixed-use retail, office, and residential tower, intended to replace the existing four-storey RBC Bank building at 1489 West Broadway, which—as I have recently written—is expected to fully empty out by October.

      The inclusion of the Granville Street subway station in a private development follows the pattern of three other known locations of Broadway tunnel stations.

      As I detailed in 2016, TransLink—the regional transit authority overseeing the creation of the Broadway tunnel Skytrain extension—approached the developers of new buildings in 2008, 2012, and 2016 to integrate spaces for potential transit stations to serve Cambie, Arbutus, and Oak streets respectively.

      The blueprints for the Granville Street station are dated May 24, 2019, and bear the names of two Vancouver-based companies: architectural firm Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership (MCM) and building contractor PCI Developments.

      In total, the documentation consists of 16 tabloid-size, 11″ x 17′ blueprints by MCM and 13 letter-size pages of explanatory text by PCI.

      The MCM blueprints only include those parts of the PCI development that are necessary to show the integration of the Skytrain station.

      This consists of detailed floor plans and cross-sections of five above-ground storeys and six underground parking levels.

      The fact that there is much more to the PCI development than the five storeys of retail and office space shown is indicated by a vertical element in one cross-section labelled as “future residential elevator”.

      And there are the six levels of underground parking, which provide a whopping 332 stalls—far too much parking for a five-storey building.

      Informed sources have told me that the new tower planned for the northeast corner of Broadway and Granville may reach a height of 40 stories in total.

      By comparison, the new 40-storey condo tower at 1335 Howe includes 430 vehicle stalls, while the proposed 28-storey rental tower at for 2538 Birch Street includes five underground levels accommodating 187 vehicle stalls.

      A glimpse behind curtain of Broadway subway planning

      The new station will be at the northeast corner of West Broadway and Granville, currently the site of a four-storey Royal Bank building.
      Charlie Smith

      The first page of PCI’s explanatory notes, which accompany the blueprints, refers to “Integration Works” including “those works and elements of the Head House or related to the integration of the Head House into the PCI Development not included in the Finishing Work”.

      Head House” is an architectural term commonly used by the railroad industry to denote an element of a train station, such as an entrance.

      The PCI Integration Works detailed on the blueprints are indicated in the explanatory notes as including:

      • street level entrance to the Head House situated at the corner of West Broadway and Granville Street;
      • head house structure;
      • entrance plaza;
      • stairs, escalator and elevator providing access to the station concourse level;
      • and connection opening to the station concourse.

      All work, PCI explains, will meet Canadian, British Columbian, and City of Vancouver building codes, as well as those specific to TransLink.

      Other interesting details found in the explanatory notes include:

      The connection opening to the station concourse shall be “approximately 8 metres below West Broadway, to provide sufficient room below the road and above the underground station structure to accommodate the rad base and utilities”.

      And it will be 12 metres wide.

      The station entrance will have floors and ceilings of concrete and all exterior facades will be primarily glazed [glass] unless approved by the Province.

      Plaza components will be located to “prevent errant vehicles from hitting the Station entry hall headhouse”. I take this to mean anti-accident/terrorism features, such as boulders, Jersey barriers, and steel bollards.

      The design of the station will employ “crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED)” to “minimize the opportunities for loitering and crime-related activity”. So, expect boulders, bollards, Jersey Barriers, bright lights, CCTV cameras and an absence of blind spots and potential panhandling and sleeping spots for homeless people.

      Station plumbing and power supply will be independent of the PCI development-proper’s power supply. And there will be a mobile emergency generator connection.

      The entire transit station—the plaza, the entrance and the concourse—will be built to have a useful design life of 100 years and it will all be seismically proofed against a “100 Year Return Period Earthquake Event Level”.

      Expect the return of RBC but not any WCs

      Surprisingly, the blueprints show that RBC will have ground floor space fronting on Granville.

      This is to say that the anticipated move of the RBC bank branch from 1489 West Broadway to 2735 South Granville will be temporary—just for the five years it takes PCI to build the new tower at 1489.

      One thing, however, not in evidence anywhere on the blueprints, or in the explanatory notes regarding the Granville Skytrain station, are public washrooms.

      Since 2017 a variety of public advocacy groups have been calling for public washrooms to be included in all stations along the line of the Broadway subway.

      And at the end of 2018—after a TransLink survey found that 72 percent of respondent felt that public washrooms would improve the transit experience—the regional transit authority announced that it would consider putting public washrooms in the busiest Skytrain stations.

      Their apparent absence in the Granville station plans may piss off some people but one supposes that TransLink will argue that until the Broadway subway has been in operation for a while, it will not know which of the stations are busy enough to warrant washrooms.

      Some people should give more of a toss where they throw things

      The view of the blueprints and documentation through the slot in the cardboard Dumpster, where Stanley Q. Woodvine found them.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Just as in 2014, when I found real Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) uniform shirts in a Fairview Dumpster, I would characterize the tossing of these blueprints and accompanying documentation in a public Dumpster as an act that borders on careless.

      TransLink and the several other Broadway subway stakeholders may not be too happy to see the negligent way in which public disclosure came about—not after the efforts they have made to keep a tight lid on this kind of detailed information.

      But in fairness to whomever trashed the blueprints, I have to say that the lid of the Dumpster I found them in was tightly locked.

      It’s just that the slot on the front of the dumpster—which makes it so easy to toss things in, also makes it easy to fish them out again.

      I hope that my luck isn’t some unthinking employee’s misfortune but c’est la vie.

      It’s like they say: one person’s trash is another person’s treasure—or blog post, in this case.