Condo tower proposed on culturally sensitive site in Vancouver's Chinatown

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      The civic panel that advises Vancouver city council on issues relating to renters is holding a special meeting on Wednesday (July 20).

      On the agenda of the renters advisory committee is a controversial development proposal in Chinatown. That’s the 13-storey condo tower that the Beedie Group wants to build at the northeast corner of Keefer and Columbia streets.

      The proposed development is in a location that Melody Ma described in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight as a “culturally sensitive site”.

      According to the website developer with deep roots in Chinatown, the proposed building will “dominate” its surroundings, which include the adjacent Chinatown Memorial Plaza and the Chinese Cultural Centre and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden across Columbia Street.

      Following Ma’s presentation last month, the committee voted to meet on July 20 to pass a motion about the project. Although the committee doesn’t review development proposals, Ma hopes the panel will “recognize and acknowledge that the development pressures in Chinatown are intense, and it is having a significant and negative impact”.

      Because of opposition from Chinatown advocates, the Beedie Group proposal has been revised twice since the first rezoning application for 105 Keefer Street and 544 Columbia Street was filed in September 2014.

      The newest application, on April 15, calls for a 120-foot building with 119 condo units and 25 social-housing units for seniors above commercial spaces on the ground floor.

      Last month, the proposal faced rough sailing before two Vancouver civic committees. After a presentation by Ma, the children, youth, and families committee voted on June 2 to write council and express concern about the gentrification of the historic neighbourhood.

      As well, following a review last June 1, the urban-design panel decided it cannot support the development. According to the minutes of its meeting, the building is “too tall” and doesn’t reflect the “spirit” of Chinatown.