Rize Alliance proposal in Mount Pleasant receives a thumbs up from Vancouver city staff

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      Vancouver city staff gave a strong endorsement last night to a contentious rezoning application in Mount Pleasant.

      On the first day of a public hearing for Rize Alliance's bid to build a large mixed-use project on the southwest corner of East Broadway and and Kingsway, several city staff explained why they felt the application deserved council's support.

      Rezoning planner Yardley McNeill pointed out that the Mount Pleasant community plan identifies three sites in the neighbourhood where rezoning proposals are encouraged: Kingsgate Mall, the IGA site on Main Street, and the Rize property.

      "It's important to note that a significant goal of the plan is to retain the existing character in the area while permitting a select series of sites to redevelop through the rezoning process," McNeill told council. "The plan specifically mentions this site as one of the three larger sites strategically located within the area where higher densities and greater building heights should be considered. The plan does not, however, describe the maximum height or density for this site."

      McNeill explained that Rize has applied to rezone its site from C-3A (commercial) to CD-1 (comprehensive development) to allow for a series of buildings that would include 241 strata-title housing units and a two-storey commercial podium with a green roof and urban agriculture for building occupants.

      "To facilitate greater traffic flow, a new left-turn bay will be installed on Kingsway so traffic can turn onto westbound Broadway—a movement that is currently prohibited," McNeill said. "With respect to the 10th Avenue bikeway, the proposal is to make 10th Avenue flow one way, except for bicycles, which will reduce car and truck volumes and limit adverse effect on the bike path."

      McNeill and senior urban designer Scott Hein each told council that Rize redesigned its project twice in response to criticism from the neighbours at community open houses.

      Hein noted that the first proposal included a 340-foot tower and a 7.5 floor-space ratio. The final proposal now before council has a 215-foot tower and a floor-space ratio of 5.55.

      "We anticipate no building taller [in the neighbourhood] under the auspices of the plan," Hein said.

      Later, he suggested that this will be the tallest building in the area for the next 100 years.

      McNeill acknowledged that there is still considerable opposition in the community, with 80 percent expressing a negative opinion at a January 2012 open house. However, she also said that of 425 pieces of written correspondence received up until completion of a council report, 51 percent were in support. Another 92 comments flowed in after that point, with 59 percent in opposition.

      "Comments received as part of a staff-advertised public meeting showed consistent opposition to the project," McNeill said. "However, the comments that have come in as a general public feedback over the course of the rezoning process show a closer relationship between opposition and support."

      The developer has offered a $6.25-million community amenity contribution to the city. McNeill told council that $4.5 million would be directed toward a cultural use within Mount Pleasant, with the remaining $1.75 million going to an affordable-housing fund. This would be added to other funds to eventually create an affordable-housing project in Mount Pleasant.

      "All residents have emphasized a desire to have these amenities stay within the Mount Pleasant area in order to benefit local residents," she said.

      City planner Peter Burch told council that one of the "over-arching principles" of the Mount Pleasant community plan is to recognize the neighbourhood as a "hilltown that slopes up to the Main, Kingsway, and Broadway area".

      A key component of the plan, he said, is to create a cultural district north of Broadway at Main Street, which would retain existing cultural spaces, such as the Goh Ballet building, and add new space for the arts.

      "New development will be encouraged south of Broadway along Kingsway, including the Rize Alliance site," Burch said. "New development should lead to the creation of more housing, more units close to a future transit station, the prospect of site improvements including more open space, improvements to the existing built form, more customers for local business, plus contributions to public benefits, like support for the cultural district north of Broadway."

      Later in the meeting, the city's director of transportation, Jerry Dobrovolny, described the Rize property as "an ideal location for additional density and for additional jobs as well".

      "There has been a lot of discussion about future rapid transit, but even today, there is five major bus routes there," Dobrovolny said in response to a question from Coun. Geoff Meggs. "It's a situation where you don't need a schedule. You simply go out and grab the next bus and it takes you to SkyTrain or along the Broadway corridor. So even with the existing transit levels today, it's an ideal location."

      William Lin, president of Rize, said his company bought the first portion of the site in 2004 because he felt that Mount Pleasant would be a "critical area to accommodate Vancouver's growth".

      "The demand for homes is growing as demonstrated by another project council approved last year: Marine Gateway," Lin said. "To date, Marine Gateway has received approximately 8,000 registrations of interest for approximately 400 new homes, showcasing the great demand for housing on transit corridors. Vancouver will continue to grow. A project like this will continue to make our city one of the most livable in the world."

      Rize founder William Lin speaks to council about the demand for housing.

      Architect Mark Ostry expanded on this theme in his comments to council, noting that 40,000 people move to Metro Vancouver every year.

      "Metro Vancouver will need to house one million more people over the next 25 years," he said.

      Ostry suggested that given the Rize project's proximity to major transit corridors as well as the highest residential and employment densities in the region make it "ideally located for an increase in density to support and encourage future growth and motivate anticipated transit investment in the Broadway corridor".

      Architect Mark Ostry says the form of development aligns with the community plan.

      Prior to the public hearing, neighbourhood activists raised a red flag over a supposed misleading architectural rendering of the project, which purportedly makes it appear smaller in scale than it actually is.

      However, Ostry's partner, Russell Acton, took exception to that interpretation. He claimed that when the perspective lines were extended in the citizen's analysis, three vanishing points appeared on the left where he would have expected to see only one. On the right-hand side of the citizen's analysis, five vanishing points appear, whereas only one would be expected.

      "One can't help but wonder what margin of error is associated with the assumptions regarding the height of the camera and the location of the multiple vanishing points, which are presumably used to locate the citizen's 3-D model in the context photo," Acton told council.

      He pointed out that the renderings were not part of the rezoning documentation that was presented to the city.

      Acton also cited "anomolies" in the citizen's model, such as a Waves coffee shop projecting onto Main Street and Pings Café hovering directly above East 11th Avenue.

      "It tells us the making of architectural renderings is a bit more of an art than a science, and a fairly complex one at that," Acton said.

      The only community activist who spoke to council was Stephen Bohus, who tried to make the case that the renderings were important in assessing the impact of the Rize project on the community.

      At one point, Coun. Kerry Jang criticized the citizen's rendering for "building over a car" and for providing an image of a "floating building".

      Stephen Bohus focuses his presentation on computer imagery.

      Bohus held his ground and later maintained that a community liasion group wanted no buildings taller than six storeys, whereas Rise is proposing a 19-story structure.

      The public hearing is expected to resume tonight at 6 p.m. in the Vancouver council chamber.

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.




      Feb 28, 2012 at 2:10pm

      My friend, who is moving to Vancouver from Ontario, has been looking at condos in Mount Pleasant this week. His real estate agent has made a point of showing him each building's parkade—to assess the "value" of the people who live in these buildings.

      I've tried my best to look past the significant flaws in Rize's proposal. But what we're (re)building now is a neighbourhood (and city) for those who drive BMWs and Audis.

      Let's not pretend we're doing anything else here. And please let's not smugly pat ourselves on the back about it.


      Feb 28, 2012 at 2:34pm

      Developers/Government: Hey, citizens - what do you think of this plan here to gentrify your neighbourhood, eventually squeeze you out, and line our fat developer pockets?

      Citizens: Well... we have some concerns. For instance--

      Developers /Government: Density! Jobs! Density!

      Citizens: Uh, yeah... Are you even listening?

      Developers/Government: Plan approved! Thanks for your input, citizens. You're an important part of our pretend process!

      Michelle S of Mt Pleasant

      Feb 28, 2012 at 3:10pm

      I do hope Mr. Smith that for the sake of non biased journalism you will write an article reflecting the information that will be presented by the communtiy opposed to this Development.

      Duh, it ain't rocket science that the Architect, Developer and City are for this project seeing how we have a Mayor obviously intent on transforming this city into a mini New York and an 'Olympic' debt and a Developer standing to make millions, look around you at all of the massive amounts of development in areas outside of the Downtown core, ummm property half of the citizens in this city cannot afford to purchase.

      I also suggest that you read the Mt Pleasant Community plan which clearly states their is the 'possibility' of additional height but the Developer has to respect several other factors in the Plan, which this developement does not.

      Bottom line is if a Developer up and decides to choose to drop a massive High Rise in front of your home when you were led to believe by the City that this was not the concept of your community plan or at least not without your communities input, yet they go ahead and proceed with doing just that, I do not doubt you would be squealing like a stuck pig in outrage and not caring if the City and Planning is in favour!

      This is a precedent setting issue and should be reported with both sides being represented, not just one as it is not giving the public a comprehensive view of the full story.

      Charlie Smith

      Feb 28, 2012 at 3:21pm

      Michelle S.,

      Only one person spoke from the community last night.

      Charlie Smith

      CityHallWatch Randy

      Feb 28, 2012 at 3:31pm

      Millions of taxpayers' dollars were spent on the Mount Pleasant Community Plan. Thousands of hours of staff and volunteer time were spent on the plan. Somehow just before it was adopted by Council, I understand, tricky and vague words were slipped in, creating the chance for this Rize application to come through. It appears the application was being prepared even as the community plan was being finalized. The concern this situation raises is this: Four other communities (Marpole, Grandview, West End, DTES) are launching a planning process. If such a thing could happen with Mount Pleasant's community plan, could it happen with the other processes just being launched?

      dave j

      Feb 28, 2012 at 3:48pm

      if Ostry actually stepped out of his office and shopped in Mt Pleasant, he would have not cited Pings Café, as it has long been closed and replaced by Cafeteria


      Feb 28, 2012 at 3:49pm

      very suspicious fire at that lot

      Priced Out

      Feb 28, 2012 at 4:26pm

      Good research from the UK on what kind of people oppose new housing (from The Guardian, Sept 15/11:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/15/nimbys-housing-ladde...).

      “Shelter has carried out extensive research into who is most likely to object to new homes, and overwhelmingly it is those who have done well from the boom in house prices. Those who are in a worse housing position – younger people, those who don’t own, people on lower incomes – are more likely to see the need for new homes to be built in their communities, but are also less likely to have the voice to speak up for them. Nimbyism is a luxury of the housing-advantaged. Perhaps those using concern for the environment as a cover for protecting their housing wealth should ask their own children, the majority of who will struggle to achieve a comfortable and secure housing situation, whether they support building new homes?”
      Agree Disagree

      Displeased in Mt. Pleasant

      Feb 28, 2012 at 4:50pm

      Stick your highrise in Yaletown. We don't need height to achieve density. Low-rises that maintain the character and street level feel (i.e. natural light and openness) can easily increase effective density in the neighbourhood.

      Joseph Jones

      Feb 28, 2012 at 4:53pm

      This rezoning design is not about density. It is about unnecessary non-human-scale height that affords a "view" to a wealthy few. It is about facilitating a lot of new automobile traffic into streets and intersections and lanes where it should not be increased at all. You just know those wealthy people will want to drive drive drive!

      Finally, it is all about that inaccessible plaza two stories above street level. The key to all these megaprojects is privatization of space. Every time you look at a big condo, ask yourself where is the mini-park/exercise room/swimming pool etc that no one else gets to use.

      What comes back to the community is a token handout that produces very little additional for those who do not live in these new gated communities. When did Vancouver last build a totally new community centre? Replacements and upgrades do not count. Not Hillcrest. Not Trout Lake.

      Vancouver's public realm is being sold off. The DCLs may cover immediate capital infrastructure, who can tell? But you can bet that the long-term extra operating costs are being offloaded from the developer/purchaser onto the existing community for almost nothing out of this profiteering.

      Next stop? Watch the Vision-NPA axis start to •••leverage••• public land. Leverage has already given North America some crippling meltdowns and bailouts. Maybe in Vancouver it will give us class war!