Density has a bad rap in Vancouver. It’s become almost synonymous with towers being forced on local residents who prize the peace and quiet of their predominantly single-family neighbourhoods.
Some local urban designers like Lewis Villegas have argued that density doesn’t have to be a dirty word. They say that multifamily developments can be made to fit the scale of residential districts through less imposing forms like row houses.
Silk Properties Ltd. aims to accomplish this with its proposed townhouse project on St. George Street, which will be the subject of a public hearing by city council on Monday (May 14). It’s been smoother sailing for this project than for much bigger developments that caused a lot of turbulence when they came before city hall.
“This is gentle densification,” Silk Properties principal Chris Bardon told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “We would put 16 households in where there are presently two single-family houses but without significantly altering the roof line of the neighbourhood.”
The development would serve as a demonstration project in the South Vancouver neighbourhood of Sunset. It would be the first time a ground-oriented and strata-titled housing form was introduced in the community.
“As a demonstration project, we were aware that the site in question is in an area that has exceedingly large single-family lots, which are not serviced by a lane,” Bardon said. “Given that, we knew that they couldn’t be redeveloped for laneway houses. And so given the…city’s need for new housing, we knew that such large single-family lots could be good candidates for a subtle densification, the type we proposed.”
The project site is located in the 5700 block of St. George Street, where it is bordered on the east by John Oliver secondary school, the west by part of Mountain View Cemetery, and the north and south by single-family homes.
Council accepted city staff’s recommendation to hold a public hearing on Silk Properties’ application to rezone the site during a meeting on April 17, when councillors also approved the huge four-building, mixed-used commercial and residential project by developer Rize Alliance at East Broadway and Kingsway.
A report prepared by staff states that the new homes by Silk Properties would be more affordable than single-family residences in Sunset, which go for $800,000 to $1 million. For townhouses measuring 1,273 square feet to 1,407 square feet, Silk Properties is offering an average price of $619,000.
While town homes are typically two-bedroom affairs, each home in the St. George Street development would have three bedrooms. The houses would be two-and-a-half storeys tall. Parking would be underground, a feature that makes it possible for the height of the homes to conform to the existing single-family zoning in the area.
“That helps them fit in better with the neighbouring single-family homes,” Bardon said. “So the addition of density that comes with the project represents less of a visual change to the people in the neighbourhood, because they don’t have these enormous towering buildings around them.”