A transformative ‘Gateway’ project at the north end of City Centre along King George Blvd at Bolivar Rd received 1st & 2nd Readings at Council on Monday, and will now proceed to Public Hearing on January 13. The project, which has been in the planning stages for nearly 5 years, initially appeared before Council back in April 2018, but was referred back to Staff to work with the applicant on refining the proposal, and to determine a ‘significant amenity contribution’ in exchange for increased density on the site. Since then, the project, designed by Vancouver’s MCM Architects has undergone significant design refinements to create an ‘iconic’ gateway development consisting of 1,040 units within:
37-Storey Residential Tower above a 7-Storey podium
31-Storey Residential Tower above a 6-Storey podium
26-Storey Residential Tower above a 6-Storey podium
Two 6-Storey Low-Rise Residential Buildings
A 5,673 sq.ft. Childcare Facility
A small Cafe
Under the current application however, only the 26-Storey Residential Tower, Childcare Facility, Cafe, and a large ‘Orchard Plaza’ will be built as a first phase at the corner of King George Blvd and Bolivar Rd. The remainder of the development will be subject to future detailed Development Permit applications. The first phase tower will consist of 239 units, with the Childcare Facility and Cafe at its base. The large interior ‘Orchard Plaza’ design by Vancouver’s PWL Partnership Landscape Architects is intended to “celebrate connections to local agriculture” and will incorporate fruit trees within moveable planters, in addition to seating, an open lawn space, playground space, and an interactive stormwater capturing feature.
Overall, the proposal is proposing a blended density of 4.2 FAR on the site, which exceeds the currently permitted 2.5 FAR in that area of the City Centre Plan, intended for 4-6-Storey development. As a condition of allowing the increased density, the developer is offering a significant community amenity contribution above and beyond what is required, as well as providing a significant number of ‘family-sized units’ of 2-bedrooms or larger.
In addition to the development itself, significant upgrades will be made to surrounding streets including an expansive new landscaped sidewalk and separated bike path along King George Blvd, and new dedication and construction of Barker Street to the north.
A controversial proposal for a ‘gateway’ development on King George Blvd at Bolivar Rd at the north end of City Centre received conditional Council support on Monday in concept for its proposed density, but at the same time, was referred back to City staff for further refinement work with the applicant. The developer, an off-shore investor group known as ‘New Great Land Developing’, is proposing to amend both the Official Community Plan (OCP) and City Centre Plan to allow for:
One 24-storey residential tower above a 7-storey podium
One 24-storey residential tower above a 6-storey podium
One 22-storey residential tower above a 6-storey podium
Two stand-alone 6-storey residential buildings
The site’s current OCP designation of ‘Multiple Residential’ is proposed to be amended to ‘Central Business District’, while site’s City Centre Plan designation of ‘Residential Low to Mid Rise (2.5 FAR)’ is proposed to be amended to ‘Residential Mid to High Rise (3.5 – 5.5 FAR)’
In the Planning Report to Council, City staff gave 3 recommendation options to Council on how to proceed. They included:
Refer the application back to staff to work with the applicant to develop the subject site in accordance with the “Low to Mid Rise Residential up to 2.5 FAR” designation in the City Centre Plan.
Refer the application back to staff to work with the applicant to develop the subject site with a form of development that achieves a 6-storey form along King George Boulevard, a mid-rise (maximum 10-storey) form in the middle of the site, and a 4-5 storey form adjacent to the existing single family residential lots to the northeast of the subject site.
Refer the application back to staff to continue to process the application at the density proposed (4.5 FAR), with the consideration of the provision of a significant amenity contribution above and beyond the required City Centre Amenity Charges and City Centre specific Development Cost Charges, which can be allocated towards amenity needs in the City Centre Plan area.
Council gives conditional support for increased density
Despite Staff’s recommendation that Council choose option A, which would comply with the site’s OCP and City Centre Plan designations of ‘Low to Mid Rise Residential up to 2.5 FAR’ – Council voted in-favour of Option C, supporting the applicant’s proposal for amendments to the OCP and City Centre Plan for an increase in density to 4.5 FAR, on the condition of provision of a significant amenity contribution.
A presentation by the applicant’s representative and project architect – Musson Cattell Mackey (MCM) Partnership – argued for the higher density based on the site’s location at the northern ‘Gateway’ to City Centre, proximity to rapid transit, and the fact that 5.5 FAR is already permitted directly to south of the site across King George Blvd. Council agreed that such density would also be appropriate for this site given this context, and would help form a gateway straddling both sides of King George Blvd.
Despite the unique design of the towers as proposed, another condition of Council was that the project undergo further design revision to achieve an even more iconic look, suitable for a ‘gateway’ location, if the increase in density is to be allowed. When the project returns to Council at a later date, its possible that we could see a new design all together, or a just a refinement of what is currently proposed.