Design & Development
January 13, 2021

The Thin Edge of the Hedge~Sidewalk Users Versus Homeowners, Victoria/Vancouver Edition

CTV News in Victoria  reporter Jordan Cunningham interviewed a puzzled homeowner couple who were upset that someone had called the City of Victoria’s bylaw officers regarding their very sizeable hedge. The hedge quite clearly encroaches on the sidewalk, and the homeowners could not understand why someone would not talk to them ahead of calling the City about getting their hedge trimmed back.  The homeowners talked about the fact they knew the latin name of the hedge, that birds lived in it, and how they “seasonally” trimmed their hedge.

Mr. Cunningham cleverly did the Homer Simpson “disappearing in the hedge” meme and spoke to people using the sidewalk who expressed no challenge with the hedge. You can view his CTV News video story here.

But the sidewalk really represents the “thin edge of the wedge” about public property and the right of all sidewalk users to have safe, comfortable and convenient access. If you were using a mobility device, or had a stroller and were also holding onto a child you would want the full width of the sidewalk. Sidewalks are to be accessible to everyone, not just the fittest passersby.

The homeowners were quite sure of their rightness, and even penned a letter which they somehow affixed on the hedge, and in the note they point out that the “BYLAW Officers have now threatened us with REMOVING the hedge”.

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From the Daily Hive:

… local developer Bonnis Properties and the local office of the architectural firm Perkins & Will are pushing forward their proposal to redevelop 800 Robson Street — the entire area between the former Payless Shoes building at the north end of the city block to the Orpheum Theatre’s Granville Street entrance building near the south end.


Existing condition of the 800 block of Granville Street in downtown Vancouver, showing the redevelopment footprint and the historical structures that will be preserved.


This proposal is currently in the pre-application stage; proponents are aiming to formalize their application to the City of Vancouver this year.

More here at Daily Hive.


Okay, Price Taggers – your turn.  Add your comments.


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Regular PT commenter Sam de Groot linked to his blog – Dreams and Schemes – when referencing The Icepick, which largely ignored the Hub Framework intended to guide development.  So instead, he has some thought-through ideas for the the Vancouver Central Waterfront (the area between Centerm and Canada Place) worth posting here.


Sam: The railyards on the waterfront are an anachronism that beg for redevelopment proposals, and there have been a few over the years like a casino, stadium, bland office towers and transit hub. I started these ideas when the casino was proposed in the 90s, and I have revisited them over time. … My proposal is (to bridge) the railyards to connect downtown to the water (with) a triangular area ….

On this triangle I propose a tight grid of narrow streets around small blocks that get even smaller toward Crab Park. The park is expanded but directed inward.

Looking at the image above, the grade descends from downtown to the water at the right.

On the bottom chord of the triangle, the grade must be high enough to clear the railyards, and along the left chord of the triangle, the downtown grade is preserved to the northern point as the vantage point should be a bit higher than the wharves on either side. The Centerm expansion is assumed and shown in blue, and completion of the Harbour Line and removing the Seabus terminal is also assumed.

Lots more detail on Sam’s blog here – like this:

I have pencilled this in with narrow streets because this is essentially a pedestrian only precinct. ….  The shorter the buildings, the narrower the streets.

And this: Read more »

Friend of Price Tags and resident of Grandview, Gerry Stafford (who lives meters from the Broadway SkyTrain station) sends along a notice from the Grandview Wood Area Council – and a comment:

Gerry Stafford: Interesting the automatic assumption that everyone is against the towers at the Safeway site or indeed all towers.  I for one am ashamed that density around one of the busiest transit hubs in Western Canada has not evolved similar to Cambie and Marine or Brentwood.  Yes, this is counter to my personal interest but one sometimes needs to look at the bigger issue.

More on proposal in Daily Hive

The creation of dense pods around transit results in fewer vehicles on the road, but more to the point – with the inclusion of rental and non market housing it allows the poor among us the opportunity to live in a circumstance where obtaining work is feasible.  Those lucky enough to live beside a major transit hub, myself included, can get to most of the Lower Mainland within an hour’s commute by transit.

We need 21st century solutions to the current issues of pending gridlock and climate change.  Densification around our transit hubs is one of those solutions.

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Curbs are being poured along Beach Avenue from Stanley Park to Hornby Street.

The City approved this permanent change from cones to concrete after a few months of consultation – albeit a ‘temporary’ permanent change, subject to the English Bay master plan currently under design by PFS Studio and Snøhetta.


These interventions also deal with some of the confusion and conflict resulting from this fast pandemic response in the spring when bikes were removed from the seawall.  Cyclists tended to ignore stop signals primarily designed for vehicle traffic – so now the crossings provide clarity, safety and a slowing down of two-wheelers.  (Hopefully eye-level signals for bikes will be installed where necessary.)

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Regular commenter Alex Botta responded extensively to the Return of the Icepick in a post below.  But his remarks deserve this separate treatment, with updated illustrations:

This thing keeps popping up like Dracula’s curse, first on hand then a body emerging from the ground. Cue the night moon, mist and pipe organ. A stake needs to be driven into its heart once and for all. I’m not convinced the Heritage Commission has enough sway to do that, though the majority certainly drove home the message that the Icepick will destroy any sense of heritage preservation with its gross intrusion.

This project cannot be compared to other singular buildings (e.g. The Exchange) because the context is completely different. The proposal is also too clumsy and inelegant by comparison to other stand-alone heritage conversions. The old CPR Station, which will be pierced by the Icepick, resides at the terminus of a preserved low-rise 19th Century streetscape. The closest high rises are separated from the Station by the 26 metre-wide Cordova Street. Moreover, it overlooks the low-rise waterfront (with the exception of the intrusive Granville Square tower). Context is everything.

There is also the conflict between public use (transit) and private use (the Icepick is a private office development as part of Cadillac Fairview / Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund). The Station is a privately-owned public use space, which seems superficially contradictory, but a dominant public use relationship that could be protected with strong long-term leases. The Icepick will be 100% private space. This is symptomatic of the confusion between public and private, and a diminishment of the role public space has in our economy. Public uses are stabilizing forces while the private economy chugs up and down the market’s peaks and valleys, occasionally getting knocked to its knees by tectonic occurrences, like pandemics that put the question to the need for so much enclosed office space. My view is that good science will win the day and allow indoor social gatherings again, but that still doesn’t justify the Icepick from a design and use perspective.

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At its meeting on December 7, 2020 the Vancouver Heritage Commission strongly rejected the Cadillac Fairview development next to Waterfront Station.*

The vote was 2 in favour, and 8 against. The two members in support did not speak during the meeting so we do not know their reasons.

The Commission sent strong signals that the most appropriate use of the space is a public “Station Square” and asked City staff to explore density transfers to relieve any future development pressure.

Michael Kluckner explained that there are good juxtapositions of old and new, but not all juxtapositions are good. He gave three examples of  downtown projects (Stock Exchange, Royal Bank, and Post Office) to indicate that their evaluation was not a simple “anti-change” perspective.



* Draft resolutions from the Heritage Commission meeting of December 7. 2020

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From Frank Ducote:


The so-called Ice Pick proposed for the parking lot at 555 West Cordova Street next to the CPR Station is back for public review and comment and – they hope – City approval.

In order to enlarge the discourse, the DOWNTOWN WATERFRONT WORKING GROUP has been working for five long years to propose and enlist support for an alternate vision for this key site on our waterfront. Here are some ideas for a strong public realm for a long-overdue plan for Vancouver’s Central Waterfront.

The main key to unlock this potential is for the two main property owners to collaborate or joint venture for their own and the City’s greater good.

This concept proposes the office building be reconfigured and placed away from Station Square, east of the Station itself.

This concept proposes the office building be reconfigured to provide a major gathering place. A taller joint venture building could be placed behind The Landing (centre left in the photo).

Second, it is important to not have a bus road through Station Square! That would be a horrible blow to the enjoyment of any public square, and is simply not required here if the much-needed Granville Street and Canada Place road extensions can do the job. A pedestrian and wheel-friendly link here from the Square to the waterfront is most appropriate.

Third, the new land uses over the rail tracks cannot be just for office uses; that would be a killer for life in the evening and on weekends. Hotels, shops, cafes and possible some ancillary residential uses to help animate this precious resource should be incorporated.

Next, public gathering and viewing spaces of various sizes should be provided along with development. These sketches show a few opportunities for such features to whet your appetite for this major redevelopment site.

Last, and this is most important, no individual development should receive approval until the 2009 (!) Framework is updated into a coherent and firm vision and adopted by Council.

Let’s not squander this once in a lifetime opportunity, Vancouver!


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December 2, 2020

Daily Scot checking out the massive tech complex by Westbank, going up at 5th and Quebec:

Scot’s excited by the built-in alley, giving its name to the whole project: MainAlley.

But as we’ve asked before: why no colour?  Why, like the sea-green glass that covers almost every highrise since the ’80s, do developers, architects and the city’s urban designers, stick so conservatively with such a limited pallet, with one or two small exceptions?  There must be an architectural rationale, but mostly we hear supposition and speculation.

Further, the brutalist brick block (originally a data processing centre) at the corner of 5th and Quebec is coming down (or covered), so there will a net loss of colour and texture.

This is a three-block project; its impact on this part of the Main Street tech district will be substantial.  And it won’t be the green roofs we see from the street.




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