Frus­tra­tions reach new heights over build­ing

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - jmackie@post­ JOHN MACKIE

On the heels of the con­tro­versy over 105 Keefer 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 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 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 in 1906. The New Foun­tain was built at 45 West Cor­dova 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.

Ed­die Em­mer­man of the Blar­ney Stone pub on Car­rall Street also thinks the project is too tall.

“It’s go­ing to cast a shadow, par­tic­u­larly in the win­ter­time, on Wa­ter Street,” said Em­mer­man.

Em­mer­man said build­ing so­cial hous­ing in Gastown is a “very po­lit­i­cally charged is­sue, in that peo­ple want to keep pub­lic hous­ing in that area.” But he thinks B.C. Hous­ing may be try­ing to shoe­horn too much into a her­itage site.

“I don’t re­ally see the point of mak­ing a na­tion­ally des­ig­nated his­toric area if we’re go­ing to tear down the build­ings, and then say we’re do­ing it be­cause we need (so­cial) hous­ing,” said Em­mer­man.

“There’s 2,000 square kilo­me­tres of Lower Main­land where you can put (so­cial) hous­ing that don’t have those kind of (her­itage) re­sources.”

The city held an open house on the pro­posal on Nov. 7 at the Wood­ward’s Atrium.

It will go be­fore the De­vel­op­ment Per­mit Board on Jan. 8. The board re­jected a pro­posal for a nine-storey build­ing at 105 Keefer on Nov. 6; the 33 West Cor­dova project could be just as con­tentious.

“I don’t want to pre­judge (33 West Cor­dova), be­cause that will come to me as a (de­vel­op­ment) board mem­ber,” said Gil Kel­ley, the city’s gen­eral man­ager for planning, ur­ban de­sign and sus­tain­abil­ity.

“But there is a bur­den on (the de­vel­op­ers) to show that ... it is meet­ing the con­text in a sub­stan­tial way. There are other boards and com­mit­tees that will weigh in be­fore we get to see that, and we will take their opin­ions into ac­count in our judg­ment at the De­vel­op­ment Per­mit Board. I think in her­itage dis­tricts in par­tic­u­lar like Gastown and Chi­na­town, con­text is very im­por­tant.”

An ar­chi­tec­tural ren­der­ing de­picts a pro­posed re­de­vel­op­ment at 33 West Cor­dova in Gastown, look­ing south from Blood Al­ley.

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