815-825 Commercial Open House

April 20, 2018

Yesterday afternoon I attended the Open House presentation for a proposed 6-storey rental building at Commercial & Adanac.

 

I’ve seen a lot worse designs.  There are to be 3 studios, 17 one-bed, 14 2-bed, and 4 3-bedroom suites which seems a reasonable balance.  They are planning 3 commercial units along Commercial, with 23 parking stalls plus 55 bike stands.  They also seem to have taken some care with the green envelope:

 

As I have mentioned in other forums, I have come to almost accept that 6-storeys is the new 4-storeys, and, given what will be its location behind the 12-storey monstrosity of the proposed Boffo Tower, I will not campaign against its height.

However, the very first thing I heard one of the developers’ reps say to someone else as I walked into the presentation room was “No, these aren’t designed to be “affordable” units. The one beds will probably start at around $2,200 [a month].”  And therein lies the crux of my opposition to this specific proposal.

In general, I am opposed to building any more unaffordable housing units until we have provided enough housing that can be afforded by the majority of the working families in Vancouver (as determined by the media family income in this City). More particularly, I am morally and politically offended that this unaffordable development will be going forward under the Rental100 policy that gives massive incentives to profit-driven developers.

Build it as market housing if you must (at least until we get a Council that sets better priorities) but don’t use taxpayers money to fill out the profiteers’ bottom line.

 

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The New Nicks Is A’Coming

April 18, 2018

When Nick’s Spaghetti House closed after 62 years in business at 631 Commercial, there was already talk of another restaurant moving into the space.  Now, that talk has become concrete action.

The old restaurant is being refurbished and will open as Pepino’s Spaghetti House, owned and operated by the chefs and management team who have been so successful with their Savio Volpe osteria at Fraser & Kingsway.  Much of the ambience of Nick’s is being kept, according to a story in Scout Magazine, including the old murals.

Image: Scout Magazine

There is hope the new restaurant will open in June.

The convenience store that used to be next door to Nick’s has also been taken over by the same group. After a complete refit it will reopen as Caffe La Tana, a traditional food store and cafe.

That northern part of Commercial Drive is home to a wide range of less expensive houses and small relatively affordable apartment blocks. It seems to me that Pepino’s and La Tana are probably looking for a more exclusive clientele which they hope to find once that stretch of the neighbourhood is thoroughly gentrified. In the meanwhile, their marketing will aim, I am sure, for the destination crowd.

 


Verses Festival of Words

April 17, 2018

The annual Verses Festival of Words kicks off this week with poetry, storytelling, and music events at various locations on and around the Drive — WISE Hall, Havana, Stormcrow, RIO Theatre, for example.

I was planning to write small synopses of each local event but, to be frank, I found their website just horrible to navigate — why can’t there be a simple list events somewhere? — but hopefully you will have better luck.

 


Britannia Renewal — The Master Plan

April 14, 2018

Today, the Britannia Renewal Master Plan — or at least the consultants’ draft of it — was released at a Presentation and Open House display in Gym D at Britannia.  Today gave us a welcome break from days of rain, and there was a fairly good crowd of locals assembled for the presentation.

At the previous Open House, we were offered three concepts, and comments/suggestions were requested.  One of the concepts, the so-called Parker Street alignment (which I also voted for) was the clear favourite:

 

The consultants took these suggestions and preferences and have submitted a singular design for the Master Plan, based on the Parker concept:

 

In this plan, the heavy lifting for both major amenities and housing runs along the Parker Street edge of the site, and takes advantage of the slope — equivalent they said to six storeys — running east-west across the site.

The controversy for many is whether housing should be on the site at all, and if so, where should it be.  The consultants made it clear that housing on the site was a requirement received from the City, and that it should be above community amenities. This has created some design constraints, which they have tried to solve by placing the large community facilities in a block along Parker, with housing above. To get the  number of units required, they are relying on  the discretionary height in the IM zone along Venables which can go to 100 feet.

(Note that other areas of the site will be designed to match the maximum discretionary height of 6 storeys in the surrounding RM zones, and 4 storeys along Commercial).

 

The consultants were asked about the engineering required to put housing above facilities such as ice rinks, pools, and gyms that need wide clear spans without central supports.  They agreed that the engineering would be significantly more expensive. However, they believe that with the cost of land in the City, the additional engineering will still be less expensive that buying a similar size parcel of land nearby.

I am in a minority among friends and colleagues in supporting significant housing on the site.  I had three caveats: all the housing had to be public not market; no green space was to be sacrificed; and the housing units should not be too high.  The first two requirements have been met, and the third — the height — has still to be determined.  However, I assume they will go for the full 100 foot as discussed.  I would not care for that, but the need is so great that I would probably gnash my teeth while nodding in agreement.

Elizabeth Murphy  pointed out that, if the housing was not to go above the facilities, then 10 storeys would not be needed (the facilities — rink, pool, etc — will be at least two or three storeys in height by themselves).  Her preference is that the City buy enough land along the IM corridor of Venables to accomplish the same level of housing in smaller units.  That is a very reasonable position.  However, the cost of land would make that extremely expensive and, just as important to me, I would like to retain that industrial land for industries and employers to develop jobs.

We are to expect no more news until the Fall or Winter of 2018 when the rezoning discussion is set to begin. At that time, the massing and numbers of housing will be established.  I only hope that the serious debate about housing does not distract from all the other benefits we can receive from a thorough renewal of our most important public space.


Reminder: Bike Build-a-thon

April 12, 2018


GWAC: Transportation and Britannia Renewal

April 10, 2018

There was a another very interesting meeting at GWAC yesterday evening.

GWAC Director Craig Ollenberger gave a report on various transportation issues facing Grandview-Woodland.  These included:

  • the closure of 1st Avenue for two months this summer between Nanaimo and Clark; it was noted that pedestrians and bikes will still be allowed;
  • an extension of the MOBI bike rental service east to Victoria. It has not yet been announced where bike rental stations will be positioned in the neighbourhood;
  • a discussion about the possibility of mobility/congestion pricing for road use in Metro. Craig pointed out that as more vehicles use less gas, the government needs to replace the revenue from gas taxes;
  • there has been talk about improving pedestrian crossings, but few details yet;
  • a traffic study is being undertaken at the Triangle; this led to a spirited debate about the need for a much wider traffic study throughout the eastern half of the ‘hood, and the particular issues facing 7th and 8th avenues where accidents are occurring on a regular basis due to speeding through traffic. It was noted that a study should take place in view of the increased density planned for GW.  It was agreed that GWAC will assist residents to approach the City about these problems, using its previous experience in calming Napier and Victoria;

GWAC Secretary Susan Briggs reported on correspondence with Strathcona Residents Assoc (SRA) and others regarding noise  from the railways crossing our neighbourhoods. This has to do with the expansion of the Port of Vancouver. SRA seeks to have the project subject to the Provincial Environmental; Assessment process which is more stringent than the Federal process.  So far, the Provincial government’s position is that this is Federal jurisdiction and they have no power to intervene. GWAC will continue to monitor this issue.

Susan also reported on the growing number of GW lots being swept up in real estate/development assemblies, and complaints that GWAC has received from residents across the district.

This led to a vigorous discussion about the City’s Rate of Change policy and its failure to protect the vast pool of affordable rental suites in GW’s so-called “single family housing”.

There was also a discussion about the proposed housing project at 1st and Clark. It was agreed that the project should at the very least reflect the scale of surrounding buildings.

The second half of the meeting was a presentation by Executive Director Cynthia Low of the Britannia Community Services Centre.  She announced the public unveiling of the outside consultants’ Britannia Renewal Master Plan at an Open House this coming Saturday.   Two of the major issues still not determined are the type and number — if any — of housing on the Britannia site (something on which the City is insistent), and whether there should be one or two ice rinks.

The previous Open House had presented three concepts for renewing the site. The consultants have taken the public comments on each concept and will present a single idea this weekend, including massing and phasing plans.

Cynthia also announced that the Britannia Board will present its own response to the Master Plan, noting that the Board is just one of the partners in the project — along with the City, the School Board, the Library Board, and the Parks Board — each of whim has their own agendas and priorities. The Board wants to make sure that whatever changes come to Britannia, the site’s historic and highly successful inclusive and welcoming atmosphere is not damaged by new additions.

This was a very useful meeting, full of interesting and usable information. It showed how well GWAC can be a forum for neighbourhood discussion, and a dispersal point for information.  It was particularly good to see new members coming to their first meeting and participating actively.

 


The Future of Britannia: Open House

April 10, 2018

The next in a long series of Open Houses regarding the future of the Britannia Community site takes places this Saturday, 14th April, between noon and 4pm in Gym D.

This is an important meeting as it will coincide with the public release of the draft Master Plan for this most vital part of our community, which currently includes two schools, a library, several gyms, a swimming pool, an ice rink, a seniors’ centre, offices, and green space.

If you attended the last Open House about a month or so ago, you may recall that three different concepts were presented for the future of the site. The consultants have apparently taken the public comments from that display and will be presenting a single concept design.

Withe the publication of the Master Plan we are moving quickly to the end of this phase of the re-development. Several major issues — what kind, if any, of housing should be on the site, whether there should be one or two ice rinks, for example — still have to be ironed out, but these will be settled soon, and the project will move on next to rezoning and final consultations with the City, the School Board, Parks Board, and Library Board.

It is hard to express just how important Britannia is to the Grandview Woodland neighbourhood and I urge you to take a few minutes on Saturday afternoon to review these plans and make sure your views are known.