Gas­town project con­tin­ues to court con­tro­versy

The Province - - NEWS - JOHN MACKIE jmackie@post­media.com

On the heels of the con­tro­versy over 105 Keefer St. in Chi­na­town, the city has an­other hot potato on its hands in a her­itage neigh­bour­hood.

Last year, a pro­posal to re­de­velop the his­toric Stanley and New Foun­tain ho­tels was re­jected by the Gas­town com­mu­nity.

The plan called for the Stanley and New Foun­tain to be de­mol­ished, ex­cept for their fa­cades, and three new struc­tures built in their place with a mix­ture of so­cial and mar­ket rental hous­ing. One of the build­ings would have been 11 storeys and 33.5 me­tres high, which ex­ceeded the Gas­town height limit of 22.8 me­tres.

A re­vised pro­posal for the site at 33 West Cor­dova St. has been sub­mit­ted to the city that re­duces the build­ing height to 32.6 me­tres, which is just un­der a me­tre less than the plan that was re­jected.

Gas­town res­i­dent Glenda Bar­tosh says the re­vised plan did make some changes to fit into Gas­town’s char­ac­ter, such as hav­ing more of a “saw­tooth pro­file” to the new build­ings and adding de­tails like cor­nices.

But she said she’s “re­ally dis­qui­eted” by the pro­posal.

“It is way, way out­side the ba­sic guide­lines for Gas­town as a na­tional his­toric area,” said Bar­tosh, who sits on the Gas­town his­toric area plan­ning com­mit­tee.

“It’s still too high and too mas­sive in scale. What are sup­posed to be so-called rooftop set­backs are to­tally vis­i­ble from the street. Worst of all, two re­ally im­por­tant her­itage build­ings that you can never re­place are to be torn down.”

The re­vised pro­posal would have 80 so­cial-hous­ing and 62 “se­cured mar­ket rental” units with re­tail and restau­rant use on the ground and base­ment floors. It’s smaller than the orig­i­nal de­sign, which was for 134 mar­ket units. A con­tro­ver­sial pro­posal for a 600-seat bar has also been nixed.

There would be two build­ings on the site as op­posed to three in the orig­i­nal pro­posal. A 10-storey build­ing would go up on the site of the Stanley, which is three storeys and was built at 21 West Cor­dova St. in 1906. The New Foun­tain was built at 45 West Cor­dova St. in 1899 and would be re­de­vel­oped from two to five storeys.

The site is owned by B.C. Hous­ing, the pro­vin­cial body in charge of so­cial hous­ing, which bought it for $2.95 mil­lion in Septem­ber 2015. The mar­ket rental and re­tail part of the project would be han­dled by West­bank, which used to own the site.

Who would pay what is un­known, as is how much the project would cost. Ra­jvir Rao of B.C. Hous­ing said the project is a “joint part­ner­ship” be­tween B.C. Hous­ing and West­bank, the pow­er­house de­vel­oper that did lo­cal land­marks like Wood­ward’s and the Shangri-La.

“Costs have not yet been fi­nal­ized as the project is still go­ing through mu­nic­i­pal process and ap­provals and el­e­ments are still sub­ject to change,” Rao said in an email.

The build­ings pro­posed to re­place the Stanley and New Foun­tain ho­tels still breach the height re­quire­ments for the Gas­town area.

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