30-storey tower proposed for Vancouver's Commercial-Broadway Station

There is fresh controversy over plans to develop a prime piece of real estate and Broadway and Commercial in Vancouver. Aaron McArthur has the details.

More than three years after the City of Vancouver approved a contentious development plan for the area around the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station, developers have proposed a new project that could reshape the neighbourhood.

The proposal, submitted by Architecture firm Perkins & Will on behalf of developer Westbank, would see three residential towers built, including 520 condo units and 160 rental units built on the site that currently holds a Safeway.

The towers would be 24, 27, and 30 storeys tall.

Perkins & Will

Perkins & Will

Perkins & Will

The proposal also includes mixed-use retail and office spaces, a daycare, a new 50,000 square-foot Safeway grocery store on the ground level and a 20,000 square-foot plaza running adjacent to the the SkyTrain Expo line.

It would also sit at the nexus of two SkyTrain lines, and one of the busiest stations in the network, which TransLink says handles some 150,000 daily bus and train trips.

The project is being submitted under the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan, which was approved in 2016 after significant neighbourhood controversy, and currently includes approval for a maximum of 24 storeys.

Arriving at that plan was challenging in its own right, after neighbourhood groups rejected the city’s initial plan, arguing it would radically change the neighbourhood’s character. The city formed a citizens’ assembly, whose feedback was eventually integrated into the 2016 plan.

City of Vancouver

City of Vancouver

Perkins & Will

The proposal has many in the neighbourhood anticipating a rematch of that earlier fight.

Dorothy Barkley, a board member with the Grandview Woodland Area Council said it’s early yet in the process, but that residents already have major concerns about the project.

“Scale, height, massing, lack of size of the proposed plaza, public access to spaces,” said Barkley in an email.

“We simply need to see much more. We are also concerned about the effect of this on the surrounding neighbourhood, and how it will work when beside the busiest transit hub in the region which is already operating at capacity.”

Perkins & Will

Perkins & Will

Perkins & Will

The project wouldn’t be alone in the neighbourhood in facing opposition.

Residents have pushed back against both a new five-storey rental project on Grant Street and a large detox and social housing complex at 1st Avenue and Clark Drive.

The City of Vancouver also scrapped a proposed 12-storey tower at Commercial Drive and Venebles Street in the wake of a sustained “no towers” campaign.

But in the time since the original battle over the Safeway site, the public mood towards development may have shifted.

The city’s sustained housing crisis has prompted housing advocates like Riley Wood with Abundant Housing Vancouver to become more vocal.

Perkins & Will

Perkins & Will

Perkins & Will

Wood suggested the Commercial-Broadway project might not be big enough, considering its transit-hub location.

“Those towers are pretty skinny, there’s not actually as many condos and apartments as you would expect there, so yeah, it could be a little bigger,” he told Global News.

Wood acknowledges the project will be controversial and said he expects support or opposition to the development to split between more established single-family homeowners and younger renters or first-time homebuyers.

“A lot of people live in the neighbourhood and don’t really want it to change, which I can understand. But at the same time, it’s Commercial and Broadway, two SkyTrain lines, and something’s gotta give,” he said.

He added he was pleased to see the project contains a mix of rental, below market and condo units, as well as some units suitable for families.

Development of the project remains in the very early stage, with no date set for a public hearing on the proposal.

However, the public can submit feedback on the proposal here.

-With files from Aaron McArthur

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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