Since the story on the cube house on Point Grey Road generated so much interest, let’s go for another architectural and open-space controversy.

Michael Geller starts it off in his Courier column:

Pac Centre

The third important event that happened last week has nothing to do with housing. It has to do with how we plan our downtown.

The story started with a call from CBC’s Early Edition inviting me to comment on a proposal to replace a glass rotunda and plaza with a new commercial development. …

The researcher wanted to talk about the plaza and rotunda at Howe and Georgia streets, part of Cadillac Fairview’s Pacific Centre, for which a proposal was going to the city’s Urban Design Panel (UDP) later in the week. …

I subsequently attended the UDP meeting where I was shocked to see plans and a model for a three-storey retail complex on the plaza. However, I was told the proposal was in accordance with a 2006 rezoning.

When I subsequently asked why a proposal for such a prominent site was proceeding without any community input, I was told by an official city spokesperson that this was standard procedure for a development permit application in accordance with zoning, and staff would be seeking public feedback through the neighbourhood notification process.

Surprised by this response I decided to review the 2006 rezoning decision myself.

While it confirmed council had approved a deal to allow the plaza to be redeveloped in return for a developer contribution towards the cost of the nearby SkyTrain station, council also decided “in the preparation of a development application, the public should be consulted about proposed land use and design concepts, through workshops and open houses.”

Compared to most world cities, Vancouver has few public open spaces and plazas, and sadly we seem to be losing many of the spaces we do have.

Before we lose another plaza at Howe and Georgia, I urge the mayor, council and the city’s planning department to instigate a proper public consultation process to find a better solution to retain all, or at least a portion of this important downtown open space.

Georgia and Howe


Ray Spaxman weighs in:

This is so awful!

It is bad architecture at this location, bad urban design for this location, bad loss of public usable space, bad scale in that location, terrible corner and frontage to Howe Street. It looks as if it was relocated from Robson Street (where it might fit well).

Perhaps some people want Georgia Street to look like Robson Street – crass commercialism overwhelming public good and opportunity. The design rationale in the application seems unaware that there is something called Urban Design.  We seem to have lost the ability to visualise the potential design and functional richness of a whole street.

And where is the city’s Downtown public open space plan?