In the annals of construction I have never seen a developer play with floor heights so unscrupulously in order to steal 4 storeys of height from an “unsuspecting public.”
THE STORY: The original Rize development proposal at Kingsway and Broadway came in at 26 storeys and an FSR of 6.37, clearly a feint or dodge, since the legal maximum height of just 6 storeys and an outright FSR of 1.0 made it laughable. Well, the community laughed, and then screamed. Over a year later, after a second design at 19 storeys and an FSR of 5.48 was roundly criticized, a third redesign is touted as a new compromise, a sign of listening to the community. Planning and sitting City Councillors during last fall’s election told us that the new 19-story tower proposal at “just” 5.38 FSR was a true compromise. After all, it was a “full” 7 storeys, or apparently 27%, lower. Nevertheless, Council pushed the approval decision off until AFTER the election.
On a closer look, the new building is stretched so severely that its 19 storeys are in fact HIGHER than the original design’s 23rd floor ceiling. It is in fact more than 4 storeys taller than “advertised.” Of course much of the rest of the site is taller to make up for the loss. Welcome to the new “3-9-story podium,” a cold glass fortress in the centre of historical and heritage-filled Mount Pleasant.
Attached is an overlay that shows the original Rize proposal at 26 storeys directly back-to-back with the newest “19-storey” design. The original building design is to the left and is in its original orientation. The new Rize elevation is flipped horizontally to face the other way.
Creating this graphic accurately was immensely difficult as I found the City’s PDF drawing files on the City website were LOCKED! OPEN DATA ANYONE???
I had to use a crude screen capture to copy these images into Photoshop and then rescale one manually to “match it up” with the other. The effort was incredibly tedious and not as precise as it should be, but I think my final drawing is accurate within a foot or two.
METHOD: After two less successful attempts to create this match, I finally used the original design’s block-wide elevation with the 26-storey tower and overlayed the newest one exactly on top of it, matching the ground and vertical datums and build-to lines of the site edges. Once matched, I then flipped the newest Rize design horizontally to face the other way, cropping away the rest of the elevation that stretched the entire block. The ground datums are mirror images in this visualization.
THE RESULT: The top of the new design is above the height of the 23rd floor ceiling on the original application. This makes the new “19-story” Rize design the equivalent of the old one at over 23 storeys tall. It’s Vancouver NEW MATH! The building is “7 storeys lower,” but lost less than 3-storeys-worth of real height, as the floor heights were increased in the revised proposal.
The District Zoning of course still shows the maximum height of this C3A site as 70 feet (6 storeys), with an outright FSR of 1.0 with discretion up to to 3.0. So it is still more than 3 times too high and almost twice as dense as legally allowed.
And people wonder why land values in Vancouver are being bid up through the roof, and why housing affordability is impossible to achieve with land selling for a rezoning-inflated $300 to $1000 per square foot. Our Council and Planning are in fact assisting with fueling this bubble.
Of course this skyscraper also violates dozens of principles in the new 2011 Mount Pleasant Community Plan (see an appendix of MPCP excerpts below), but City staff do not seem even to notice. They refuse even to discuss the “fit” of this development or its true relationship to the Council-approved Plan. This Community Plan was just completed last year after several years of intense effort; it is hardly “out of date,” let alone not fresh in everyone’s minds.
A new and likely final Open House on this design is scheduled for next Tuesday evening (Jan 17, 2012 – 5:30pm) at Heritage Hall. It will possibly go to Council next month.
It is time to speak truth to power, recognizing that community-centred, neighbourhood-based planning–the globally-recognized gold standard of sustainable development–is a total farce in Vancouver.
—- A deeply suspicious Randy Chatterjee
Here are the relevant passages regarding the Broadway-Kingsway site from the Mount Pleasant Community Plan (2011) with page numbers cited. These reflect what should happen in this neighbourhood and on this site (bold added):
- Recognize that its slopes are natural form-makers on which a low profile for residential and commercial properties helps keep the sense of hill intact. (p.9)
- For the purposes of achieving more appropriate site development (meaning more open space, less paving, better connections to the street)and important public benefits (including contributions to heritage retention, new cultural amenities, affordable housing, childcare, flexible gathering spaces, improved pedestrian environment, provision of cycling routes, streetcar amenities, green space), pursue additional height and density in select locations. (p.10)
- Any additional height and density would be contingent on further urban design analysis, including shadowing, view impacts, ‘look and feel’ of the area, ‘permeability’ of the site (the ability of people to see and walk through the site), and other public benefit considerations as noted above. Distribute the height/bulk in relation to the character of adjacent streets (e.g., more height along Broadway, reduced height along 10th Avenue and Prince Edward, larger scale on Kingsway vs. smaller scale along Main Street). (p.10)
- Improve pedestrian link between areas located north and south of Broadway with wider sidewalks and improved pedestrian crossings (e.g. residents have suggested longer crossing times at lights); celebrate the historical importance and physical uniqueness of Watson Street.(p.24)
- Use contributions from redevelopment sites south of Broadway (e.g., Broadway, Kingsway, 10th Avenue and Watson Street site; Kingsgate Mall) for heritage retention, cultural amenities, and public realm improvements north of Broadway in Mount Pleasant.(p.24)
- Support the design of an ‘iconic’ (landmark) building when granting permission for higher buildings. (p.25)
- Address the constraints on larger park development and the strong desire of this community for more green space by increasing vertical gardens, linear parks (laneway edges, adaptive street use), pocket parks, and courtyards, other patios and rooftop terraces with public access, and as an outcome of redevelopment on any large site. (p.10)
- Maintain priority support for walking, cycling and use of public transit as the preferred modes of travel, and mitigate the impacts of traffic and parking on the livability of Mount Pleasant. (p.11)
- Provide more housing and more affordable housing in Mount Pleasant for low to middle income households, especially for families, seniors, new immigrants, and aboriginal people.
- Seek opportunities to build a greater range of housing types in Mount Pleasant, from SRO’s to row housing, to apartments, to house youth, large and extended families, and seniors (to age in place). (p.14)
- Investigate opportunities to increase the variety in design of new housing (e.g., discourage ‘cookie-cutter design’) and innovation in building design (p.16)
- Where additional density and height are being considered, examine opportunities and constraints in providing more affordable rental and strata family-sized units (i.e., 3 and 4 bedroom units), more row housing, and creative tenure arrangements including ‘restricted resale housing’. (p.33)
The open house image demonstrating the incorrect information from Rize can be found on the City website and the Rize website: The height was NEVER reduced by 27%.