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Vancouver council set to decide fate of controversial 28-storey rental building in Fairview

Last Updated Jul 10, 2020 at 12:12 am PDT

(Courtesy City of Vancouver)

Those opposed say the building is too tall, and argue the neighbourhood is not equipped to handle the density

Those in support stress the addition of rental units in the area, with 20 per cent at well-below market rates

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A marathon public hearing is underway to decide the fate of a controversial 28-storey apartment building on a site that was once a Denny’s in Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood.

Those opposed say the building is too tall, and argue the neighbourhood is not equipped to handle the density.

Those in support stress the addition of rental units in the area, 20 per cent which will be offered at well-below market rates, and point out the proximity to the planned Broadway subway.

One hundred people have signed up to address Vancouver City Council at a set of hearings that began Thursday evening, and which will resume Friday morning.

Jameson Development Corp. first proposed a 16-storey rental building, with retail and mixed-use space on the ground floor, for the now-vacant lot near Broadway and Birch in 2018.

That plan would have brought 153 rental units to the area, all at market rates.

Later that year, Jameson resubmitted the plan as part of the moderate income rental housing pilot program, which allows builders to add units as long as they are designated for people earning between $30,000 and $80,000 per year.

Now, the proposal would bring 258 rental units to the area, with 58 of those available at below-market rentals. A one-bedroom in this building will cost $1,200 per month, as opposed to the market rate of around $2,100.

Council received hundreds of pieces of correspondence in advance of the meeting, with a total of 515 in support, and 362 opposed. However, one of the submissions against the proposal was a petition with 685 signatures.

‘Monstrosity’ will place neighbours in shadows, strain infrastructure 

A majority of those opposing the project say they were in favour of the original plan, and that adding much-needed affordable rentals doesn’t justify the added density.

“The community cannot accommodate the occupants of 28 floors. There is already limited parking, green space, community centres, and schools, just to start. The appearance of this monolith is unsightly and will set an unwelcome precedent,” reads one comment.

The proposed tower would be 282 feet tall, while the next-tallest building in the neighbourhood is 156 feet tall.

“There it would be, double the height, the tallest building, sitting awkwardly all by itself on Broadway. Perched high on Fairview Slopes, it will affect light and air corridors, shade the sidewalks and businesses on the north side of Broadway and reach down the slopes and over to Kitsilano most significantly in our darkest months,” reads another comment opposed to the building.  “This is not a vanity concern — light and sunshine are needed for healthy communities. Knowingly placing not one — but many communities — under the shadow of a building mass is a serious concern.”

“I am appalled to think that council could even consider rezoning the area to allow a 28 story (sic) monstrosity of a building to be built,” reads another.

Other opponents say the safety and character of the neighbourhood would be compromised,

“Safety will reduce because the increased density creates an environment of greater anonymity among its habitants and therefore will diminish the more connected and neighborly community we currently have in this neighborhood,” writes one commenter.

Project will bring ‘desperately needed’ rental housing 

Supporters of the project stress the need for rental housing, particularly affordable units.

“As a resident of the neighbourhood, I support this project because it will bring desperately needed market and moderate-income housing into an area of Vancouver that is already designated for high growth — and a neighbourhood that is already set up with amenities, services and transit to handle the additional density,” one person notes.

A  number of people pointed out that Vancouver General Hospital and other medical institutions are nearby, and argue these units could allow healthcare workers to forego long commutes.

“This provides a mix of rental housing that supports multiple income earners in the area. People working at VGH, service industry people etc. will be provided with new accommodation at an affordable price. It will also benefit people working throughout Vancouver due to its location near the future Broadway line. Our City needs to support rental housing projects like this,” says another.

“The proposed change will add 105 more rental homes, more than half of which will be reserved for moderate-income earners. We need projects like this now to support diverse and resilient communities where people can live close to where they work,” another writes.

George Heyman, MLA for Vancouver-Fairview says he supports the project.

“I believe this program will begin to provide much-needed affordable rental housing in Fairview and it is clear from my many interactions with constituents that this is a priority,” he writes.

“My support is also based on my understanding that, without the approval of the additional 12 stories, this project would not be built under the provisions of MIRHPP. I believe the urgency of the housing crisis requires this kind of response, which will add much-needed purpose-built rental stock to the constituency – and, more importantly, will provide 58 units at below-market rents.”

Broadway and Birch Development