City of Vancouver seeks input on densifying area around Commercial-Broadway Station

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      Vancouver City Hall sometimes deals with the most contentious planning issues during the summer. In 2011, the Vision Vancouver–controlled council pushed through a massive rezoning of Shannon Mews near the corner of Granville Street and West 57th Avenue on July 29. This allowed the number of housing units to more than quadruple on the site.

      Last year on June 27, the Vision-controlled council voted in favour of a controversial rezoning of St. John’s Church at 1401 Comox Street. It allowed 186 rental units against the objections of many residents.

      This summer, the focus is on Grandview-Woodland, which is bounded by Clark Drive on the west, the waterfront on the north, Nanaimo Street on the east, and Grandview Highway to the south.

      The city is laying a foundation for intense densification around the Commercial-Broadway Station. According to one map on the city’s website, there could be one building up to 36 storeys on the Safeway site. That’s in addition to four nearby towers between 22 and 26 storeys, and another six between 18 and 22 storeys.

      On city-hall watchdog Frances Bula’s blog, former Vancouver planner Frank Ducote claims that “this vision truly boggles my mind.”

      “Circa 2000 or so some then-councillors considered this area, with its abundance of transportation investment, to be ripe for densification, up to and including towers,” he writes. “However, it would have [been] suicidal to try and impose those kinds of pro-development ideas then, completely against community values. What has happened since to so embolden staff and, presumably, the public consultation process, to bring forward such a fundamentally transformative set of ideas and policy directions now?”

      The city’s assistant director of planning, Matt Shillito, told the Georgia Straight by phone that Broadway and Commercial is an “important transit-oriented development area”.

      “We’ve heard concerns, in particular, about the form of development and the extent and the height of the tower forms that we’d identified,” he revealed.

      In response to that, Shillito said that the city will hold a free, registration-only workshop between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. next Saturday (July 6). As the Straight went to press on June 26, the location hadn’t been disclosed.

      Shillito emphasized that this will be “a practical exercise where we work through different ways of achieving the objective of introducing higher densities in that area with different forms of development”.

      “It’s one of the most important regional nodes of transit already,” he added. “So there’s an existing planning rationale for increased density in the area. But certainly the potential for future expansion of that transit is an additional reason to look for increased density in the area, but it’s not the only one.”

      The Grandview-Woodland Area Council plans to hold a community forum on the city’s draft community plan at 7 p.m. on July 8. It will take place in the community room above Eastside Family Place (1655 William Street).

      The city has forecast that Grandview-Woodland’s population, based on existing zoning, could conceivably rise from 28,380 to 37,370. The document states that this “assumes the maximum residential floor space could be built on each site”.

      However, this doesn’t take into account rezonings, in which council grants developers greater densities in return for community-amenity contributions.

      The city’s draft community plan proposes focusing the majority of new development around the area’s two transit stations (Broadway-­Commercial and VCC-Clark) and along arterial streets such as Hastings, Dundas, East 1st, Nanaimo, and Broadway.

      The document states that building heights will remain the same along much of Commercial Drive. However, it recommends increased heights at “key locations”, defined as the intersections with Hastings, Venables, East 1st, “and selected sites” south of East 5th. And it raises the possibility of “modest increases to retail and commercial space…at key nodes” along Dundas, Nanaimo, Broadway, and East Hastings.

      The draft plan also mentions the possibility of “long-term expansion of key facilities (including Britannia Community Centre)”, but there’s no suggestion of adding any housing on that site.

      According to the city website, staff will finalize the plan this fall and winter before presenting it to the mayor and council for approval.



      Please no.

      Jun 26, 2013 at 6:55pm

      This will ruin the area. It will make it look like the rest of the Lower Mainland. Wings will open up a restaurant.

      Commercial Drive is one of the few remaining mom and pop neighbourhoods left in town. It has a vibrant arts scene, and a community feel. To bring in new towers with Marketplace IGAs and Browns Social Houses underneath will devastate the area.

      Please, people. Let's keep what remains of the real Vancouver here.

      Save Vancouver

      Jun 27, 2013 at 12:02am

      @Please no - Vision Vancouver doesn't care what you think about your neighbourhood. They only care about creating opportunities for developers. However, no doubt the granola crunching lemmings on the Drive will blindly vote for Mayor Moonbeam and the Vision Crew next year. He creates bike lanes dontcha know.

      Read the plan!

      Jun 27, 2013 at 12:04am

      Read the plan. The towers are going in at the Safeway replacing an ugly parking lot. The shops on the drive will remain there.


      Jun 27, 2013 at 1:30am

      Increasing the availability of the housing supply in the City of Vancouver is only of the only way to bring the costs of renting or owning a home down to levels where families could conceivably afford to live there. The NIMBY attitude of many in the Grandview-Woodland area is predicated out of an attitude of entitlement and elitism. Beware of opponents to densification who do so simply because they do not want 'a certain type' of people to live in their neighbourhood. Mom and pop stores will enjoy new and entrenched business with the addition of 10,000 residents to the area. The real Vancouver is a growing Vancouver where private business can thrive and individuals can prosper.

      We have no say

      Jun 27, 2013 at 6:49am

      At the end of the day no matter how much we complain or protest, the government will push through this plan with or without public support. Most of the time they just humour us with public forums but if they want this to happen, there isn't anything we can do about it.

      Vision Vancouver's Vision for Vancouver

      Jun 27, 2013 at 8:00am

      Simple: turn the whole city into a copy of Coal Harbour/ Yale Town. A bland, lifeless sea of 15, 25, 35, storied glass and concrete towers on top of squat, ugly 2 to 3 storied podiums. It's a nightmare, but it's a real estate developer's dream, and who else does Vision serve? Oh yeah, but we sure are 'changin the world' with our top of the line recycling and bike lanes, whoopee.


      Jun 27, 2013 at 8:28am

      Perhaps the problem lies not in new development but the SORT of development that happens. I hate ugly architecture (e.g. condo towers), love the artsy, left-wing feel of Commercial Drive, but I support densification and population growth. I want a city bursting with business people who support the arts and artsy types who support business (like the New York City of my childhood). So for me the question is how do we combine Yaletown densities with Commercial Drive rents. Is there a way to persuade developers to build more high quality apartment buildings and take a lower profit on them. Think of the West End but with buildings that looked like Yaletown converted warehouses.

      Occupy Medic

      Jun 27, 2013 at 9:32am

      If I thought for a SECOND that this would result in social housing, new community gardens, social services and actual 'eco density', I might support it. but we all know that this will just be another free for all for condo developers. It will do nothing good for the Commercial Drive neighborhood, but WILL secure donations from said developers to VISION.

      Save Grandview

      Jun 27, 2013 at 9:43am

      The highrises planned at Broadway and Commercial (ever tried to catch a 99 bus?) are only one problem with the plan. Look at the densification planned around parks and schools, the 14-story tower planned at Venables and Commercial, and what they're already doing to Hastings and its former strip of small shops. If Vision insists on pushing this through in the neighbourhood that voted them into office, they won't be getting power again. It's time for a good, old-fashioned East Van revolt.

      Shannon Me-OW

      Jun 27, 2013 at 10:03am

      Having gone through the 'process' with the city over Shannon Mews, a few things will shine through this process:

      1. The city is only paying lip service during discussions over the density being implemented and the overall height of the development. The fact is that it's already a done deal and the numbers have already been approved. Citizens might feel a win if the overall height is reduced by a few floors...but that aspect was already discussed and approved behind closed doors with the developer.

      2. Our civic representation was not elected to benefit it's citizens. These developments are based on greed and aren't meant to 'improve' the areas/neighbourhoods that these developments are rammed into. Our civic representation overwhelmingly favors the developers and does a poor job of pretending that it/they care(s).

      3. The dangling carrot of 'affordable' housing that will be built into the new development will not be honoured in the final plan.

      4. There will be no infrastructure enhancements for these developments.

      5. The number of parking stalls proposed in the development will be less than 10% of the number of units being built. The Safeway parking lot will become a pay/metered lot.

      6. Other real estate in the area will undergo significant expansion given that the rezoning was green lit.

      7. The overall appearance of the development will mirror the other developments being built in Vancouver. That is the whole chrome/concrete/glass look which won't take the tone of the neighbourhood into account and will stick out like a sore thumb.

      8. People traveling through the area during (and post) construction won't hesitate to ignore 'do not enter', 'no left turn', 'one way' street signs even more than they already do.

      ... and I could continue.

      I wish the residents of the Commercial/Broadway area the best of luck in their attempts to sway the minds of the developers or city officials. It certainly didn't work for the Shannon Mews project. It didn't work for the Granville and 70th project, the Marine Dr. Gateway project and the Oakridge Shopping Center redevelopment project. It's not that we didn't try.