Architecture
April 19, 2021

Buildings that Changed Vancouver: 2280 Cornwall

Michael Kluckner riffs off the post from Michael Gordon below to recount the story of the building that marked the end of the highrise era in Kitsilano*.

2280 Cornwall

It was the end of ’71 when developer Ben Wosk started work on the apartment building at 2280 Cornwall, following the path set by the St. Roch at 2323 and Century House at 2370 West 2nd in 1966 (left), and Las Salinas at 2310 West 2nd and Seaside Plaza at 2324 West 1st in 1968. The earlier “highrises” are on big pieces of property, like the West End ones of the ’60s, with a lot of open space and low FSR, as were Carriage House and similar buildings erected at that time in South Granville and Kerrisdale. Very different from everything today.

People including some NPA aldermen naively believed that the height limit was three storeys at the beach, although it was actually 120 feet or 12 storeys. Bruce Yorke of the Vancouver Tenants Council led the protests – something people have a problem understanding today, that highrise apartments were equated with higher rents than the lowrise ones, and with displacement and gentrification.

(The blowback was so immediate that Tom Campbell, the NPA mayor at the time, intervened with Wosk to get a stop on the highrise proposal.)  Wosk agreed to build only three storeys “on condition the area is rezoned so that no other highrises can be built,” according to the Sun, February 16, 1972.

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One confident post-pandemic prediction: the curbside patio – or streeterie – is here to stay.  Like these on Yew Street yesterday:

Irony alert: some businesses would have opposed the loss of the required curb parking tooth and nail if not for the pandemic.  Instead, this summer we should see some creativity and upscaling of streeterie design, so important have they become in the economics of eating.  (Likewise, more debate at City Hall on how much should eventually be charged for this valuable public space to offset the parking revenue loss.)

As for the inside of restaurants, lots of lessons have been learned that will be incorporated into permanent design changes.  But there’s still a debate as to whether deliberate crowding will be avoided or desired.  From Fortune:

Warren Weixler, cofounder of creative design firm Swatchroom, based in Washington, D.C., agrees. “I think the idea of packing a bar shoulder-to-shoulder and trying to sling as many drinks as possible is a thing of the past.” …

…. some say, not so fast. Knudsen of Concrete Hospitality … predicts (temporary partitions) will be gone by the end of this year. His team is even continuing to add communal tables into their restaurant designs.

“We’re social creatures,” he says. “The pandemic has proven that we need that interaction. And you can’t replace that.” If some packed bars and restaurants in places that have lifted all COVID restrictions are any indication, Knudsen may be right.

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In case there was any doubt, this is going to be a hard-fought (and long) civic election.  At least one set of gloves has come off.

Ken Sim (undoubtedly the mayoral candidate for the ABC party) has taken aim at John Coupar (mayoral candidate for the NPA) if not head on, at least to the source of his identity.

Here’s the latest from Sim:

Today I am announcing my first policy commitment:

If I am elected Mayor of Vancouver, I commit to abolishing the elected Park Board and rolling it back under the authority of City Council, where it belongs.

If I am successful in securing a nomination from an electors organization, I will also be looking to recruit candidates to run for Park Board alongside me, who will be committed to being the last elected Park Board Commissioners.

It’s a bold move.  There has always been a belief by many that, on one hand, the Park Board is an anachronism – redundant and (to City Hall) annoying.  On the other, many believe it reflects a profound priority of this city and its culture: a deeply rooted love of nature and the importance of parks, community centres and the social supports they offer.

Historically the existence of a separate political body for parks has meant we were green before it was capitalized.  No Council, regardless of its ideological positions, can easily erode that commitment – so long, it’s argued, as an elected Park Board is there.

Pragmatically, it just hasn’t been worth the constitutional struggle to abolish it, likely requiring an amendment to the Vancouver Charter – hence provincial approval.

But it is no coincidence that Sim’s first major policy statement (effectively responding to the criticism that he hasn’t any) takes dead aim at the primary identity of John Coupar, long-time Park Commissioner, a board chair, proudest of his support for the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park, and even his opposition to bikeways in parks.

By the time you read this, Coupar will likely be responding.  And it won’t be as mild as the persona that Coupar cultivates.

 

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Michael Geller just recommended a blog by Brandon Donnelly – “Rated by the Guardian Cities UK as one of the best city blogs in the world, it generally covers everything from architecture and planning to real estate and technology.”

I’m surprised I hadn’t seen more references to him before (a Canadian blogger on cities!).  “Brandon Graham Donnelly is a city builder and blogger based in Toronto … studied architecture and fine art history at the University of Toronto … a Managing Director at Slate Asset Management and founder of the Globizen Group. … loves snowboarding, photography, electronic music, and local Ontario wines.”

First post I saw:

Just how valuable is public transit?

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Michael Gordon* explores a misconception about Kitsilano in the Seventies – that, in a reaction to what was felt to be ‘out-of-control overdevelopment’ (see West End), Kits was downzoned.  Not quite.

 

Many years ago, Vancouver’s Director of Community Planning advised me that the 1975 downzoning in Kitsilano to prevent highrise residential development was not a downzoning. Upon further researching this, I discovered to some extent he had a point.

In July 1964 Kitsilano, Fairview, Kerrisdale, Mt.Pleasant and other neighbourhoods had their apartment RM-3 zoning amended to encourage ‘tower in the park’ residential development up to 120 feet.** Previously, the maximum height was three to four storeys.  Subsequently in Kitsilano, only seven highrise residential buildings were built along with a variety of four-storey wood-frame apartment buildings.

The RM-3 zoning had encouraged large site assemblies because it was the only way to achieve the maximum density and height of 36.6 metres (or about 11 to 13 storeys). Density bonuses were given for large sites, low site coverage and enclosed or underground parking. (This zoning still applies in areas of Fairview and Kerrisdale.)  Small- and medium-sized sites were built to a lower density and three- to four-storey wood-frame construction.

Things started to heat up in Kitsilano in the 1970s when:

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Cubic, the company that provides TransLink with Compass technology, collects data on how mobility is changing in cities around the world, including Vancouver.

As cities are starting to re-open, road congestion is growing while transit continues to lag, signaling that congestion may become more severe than pre-pandemic levels.

Here’s the one for April:

Lots of room for interpretation here. (What’s up with Singapore?)  Clearly there’s a big difference in Motordom cities like Miami and transit-dependent ones like London.  Vancouver, as expected, falls in the mid-range of change – except when it comes to walking.  Guesses?

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When technology and economy come together, that’s usually called a revolution.

You can get one of these electric scooters for a few hundred bucks at Canadian Tire:

 

Joe Sulmona says you may soon be able to get one of these if you need  more carrying capacity.

Bigger battery too.  From Euractiv:

Advances in technology mean that battery-powered heavy trucks can go up against their fossil-fuel counterparts on price and – with better charging infrastructure – on range, according to the study, conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), an independent research institute.

“A tipping point is in sight for electric trucks,” said Björn Nykvist, lead author and senior researcher at SEI. “Battery technology is very close to a threshold that makes electric trucks feasible and economically competitive. All that is missing is one companion component: fast charging.”

If you’d like to know more the evolution of one-person electric transportation and its impact on urban transit as a whole,  here’s a more definitive piece from Boundmotor:

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