Architecture
February 18, 2020

The Icepick is back. Meeting Feb 18.

From the Downtown Waterfront Working Group:

In 2015, Toronto-based developer Cadillac Fairview attempted to get approval for a 26 storey office building at 555 Cordova, shoe-horned up against the east side of Waterfront Station in Vancouver. Cadillac Fairview owns Waterfront Station and the proposed building site has been the eastern access and parking lot for the Station since it opened in 1914.

The proposed site is not a separate building lot and far too small to accommodate a giant office building. The building, dubbed the Icepick, was turned down at City Hall in 2015, following wide-spread objections from neighbours and the public.

Now Cadillac Fairview is back with Icepick 2, a slightly revised version of the original. Responding to design objections, the developer rotated and pushed the building a little further west and north, slightly reduced its footprint, and made it possible to see and walk through the ground floor.

With these changes, the developer seems intent on getting approval at a Development Permit Board Meeting scheduled for May 25, 2020.

The proposed building is not consistent with the existing 2009 Council-endorsed Central Waterfront Hub Framework. In October 2017, Council approved a program to update the Framework and resolve implementation issues. This work has only just begun.

Does it make sense to put approvals before planning? Should a private developer be able to sabotage a public planning and design process?

The proposal does not conform to planning guidelines for the area. The most recent proposed building is more than twice the suggested height of 11 stories, and six times the recommended floor space. It overwhelms heritage buildings on either side and provides an uninviting gateway to Historic Gastown.

Most disturbing, Cadillac Fairview has not agreed to an extension of Granville Street to the waterfront. The developer owns the parkade at the foot of Granville. Removing part of the parkade’s top level was a central concept of the original Hub Framework. It would open the street to the waterfront, and provide an opportunity to build a public walkway connecting Stanley Park, the waterfront, Gastown, Chinatown and False Creek.

As the most important transportation hub in the region, this site is critical to the future of the city.

Surely Vancouver, which prides itself on progressive planning, can find a better solution.

Approving Cadillac Fairview’s latest proposal will preclude the current planning process and seriously undermine future options for the City’s waterfront.

Icepick 2 must to be stopped.

 

Community Open House & Feedback Session

Tuesday, Feb 18

3 –7 pm

Fairmont Waterfront Hotel
900 Canada Place, Mackenzie Ballroom

 

 

 

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On Tuesday night CBC radio hosted a special broadcast of their feature program, The Current with Matt Galloway. Never a program to shy away from controversy, the broadcast centered on “The Future of Vancouver’s Chinatown”. The event brought out a capacity audience of CBC afficiendos, passionate Chinatown supporters, and a cross section of people that would not look out of place at a community centre or any Vancouver civic gathering.

Matt Galloway had as panelists  Carol Lee, who is with the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation and the inspiration behind the wildly popular Chinatown BBQ, Jordan Eng from the Chinatown Business Improvement Association (BIA) and the Duke of Data and SFU Professor of City Planning Andy Yan.

All three panelists have deep roots in the Chinatown community and refreshingly they all saw the importance of this place not just for the city, but for its pivotal importance provincially and nationally. As Carol Lee poignantly noted the story of Chinatown goes back to the nation building  railroad across Canada where thousands of Asian labourers stitched the country’s rail tracks together. The “physical legacy of struggle and sacrifice” is also manifested in Chinatown which was built on a drainage swamp around 1885, the same time that the railway was completed. Andy Yan described Chinatown as “my muse and my tormentor“, in that this culturally rich place was always a neighbourhood of sanctuary and brought together many ethnic groups over time, and is important to maintain in a city built for everyone. How do you save what is integral to a community? How do you continue to provide the liveliness, the cultural activities, and social housing?

Carol Lee talked about the community handling the issues of homelessness, addiction and lack of inclusion, and the panel discussed the fact that the planning and solutions that work in Vancouver’s Chinatown can provide a pattern language for other downtown innercity neighbourhoods coping with similar issues. The BIA’s approach has been to focus upon cleanliness, graffiti and safety, with half the business association’s budget spent on security.

Several speakers active and engaged in Chinatown spoke about the importance of this place culturally and and as a destination. Despite the fact that there are other malls and places to go to that reflect Chinese culture, they are perceived as a substitute for the real thing. Architect Stanley Kwok who built the Crystal Mall in Burnaby and who has lived a half century in Vancouver questioned whether Chinatown needed to form a corporation to manage all the buildings, and whether the location was to be a museum or a living place. All speakers pointed to the importance of commerce in the area’s health, citing the importance of physical, economic and cultural revitalization.

The location of the new hospital precinct as well as the towers planned for the Northeast False Creek will provide plenty of customers for Chinatown businesses. In terms of housing, units that could accommodate older Chinese seniors and integrate with the community form and fabric was discussed.

This was a surprisingly rich and passionate discussion about Chinatown’s place as the “gateway to achieving Canadian dreams” and the importance of collaboration was stressed.

There was a puzzling reference and long dialogue  from a Vancouver City Councillor that Chinatown needed to work better with City Hall and that most of City Council were not on board in working towards Chinatown’s future.

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Wednesday, Feb 19 – Places That Matter: Community Celebration

Hear the stories of Places That Matter sites from the people and organizations who brought their history forward.  This free celebration includes refreshments and displays related to Places That Matter sites and local history, a short program of inspirational storytelling, as well as live music from bluegrass band, Viper Central. For more information about the Places That Matter project visit vancouverheritagefoundation.org/places-that-matter.

Heritage Hall, 3102 Main St. 6 – 8:30pm, FREE

 

Friday, Feb 21 – Mid-Project Tour: St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church Seismic Upgrade and Heritage Restoration

Join us for a special opportunity to tour inside the landmark church as it undergoes seismic upgrading and heritage restoration during a two-year closure. This is a professional education event and all participants must supply specific safety equipment.

St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, 4 – 6 pm, $85

 

Sunday, Feb 23 – Something Old/Something New: Adaptive Reuse and Industrial Heritage Walking Tour

Today much of the early legacy of development in Mount Pleasant can be found with former industrial sites adapted to new uses. Join historian John Atkin to explore the challenges and benefits of adaptive reuse with examples found in this historic neighbourhood.

Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood. 10 am – 12 pm, $16

 

To purchase tickets or for more information visit www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org or call 604 264-9642.

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A History of St. Paul’s Anglican Church

St Paul’s Church’s historian/archivist Leslie Buck will share stories and photos of that West End landmark, and we look forward to hearing your own memories of worshipping, attending events, and otherwise enjoying the community spirit at this vital centre of West End community life.

There will also be an opportunity for you to share other West End related stories of your own after Leslie’s presentation and the ensuing discussion.

 

Thursday, January 30

4 to 6 pm

JJ Bean on Bidwell at Davie

 

 

Tales From The West End will take place on the last Thursday of every other month through 2020. Dates to note are Thursdays March 26, May 28, July 30, September 24, and November 26.

Thanks to Dale McKeown for picking up the torch, the baton and the feathered boa from Janet LeDuc.

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I have been writing about Nita (Pat) Davis and her son John Davis junior, who after the death of John Davis Senior continued to work on the remarkable landscape of  houses in the 100 block of West 10th Avenue. John Senior and Pat bought a worn out Edwardian or Victorian to fix up in 1973 on what was then a run down street with discontinuous sidewalk.

That  first house, 166 West 10th , became the first structure in Vancouver to obtain heritage status. As Rafferty Baker wrote in an article for the CBC“the plaque next to the front door has a small number one marked in the corner”.

John Senior died in the early 1980’s and Pat and her son John Junior continued his vision of learning about and renovating these houses, researching paint colours, and bringing the houses back to an active life with several rental units in each one. It was the rental units and John’s custodial services at other apartment buildings that allowed the family to continue rehabilitating these houses, at a time when the RM-4 land use zoning in place easily allowed for the construction of three storey walk up apartments. They were the outliers of the 1980’s and 1990’s, and it was not until this century that they were perceived as early adapters to the reuse and revitalization of existing buildings. Over four decades the Davis Family restored eight houses, all heritage designated to ensure that they would continue existing as a lifetime legacy in this city.

Pat Davis and her son John are quiet people, and surprisingly their legacy has never been acknowledged at the City of Vancouver, despite the fact that nationally Heritage  Canada has given the Davis Family an award for the preservation of the historic streetscape. They were innovators as well, with the first coach house which became a model for the coach houses now allowed in the neighbourhood, and their work became the foundation of the RT-6 zoning in place in the area. This zoning allows for the main house with heritage merit to be maintained and developed into apartments, with a coach house on the back of the laneway. John Davis Junior was also involved in the public process  of the heritage style lighting that went on Tenth Avenue, the maintenance of the road surfacing, and public realm. Their involvement with the first Mount Pleasant Traffic Plan resulted in the City turfing out  the engineer prepared scheme and going with that suggested by the community. That has been successfully implemented for over 15 years with only minor adjustments.

The way the Davis Family maintained the public realm around their block became the basis for the Mount Pleasant Linear Walkway, a streetscape plan to install sidewalk that was missing throughout Mount Pleasant, along with corner street bulges, landscaping, lighting and interpretation. In the 1990’s the area was extremely rundown with absentee landlords that would not approve streetscape improvements through the normal Local Improvements Program. Working with City Engineer Susan Clift, we devised a plan to provide continuous walking surfaces throughout the area, with landscaped areas and shortened crossing distances. By assessing the entire neighbourhood for the improvements, costs for the average lot were $15.00 a year added onto the tax bill.  The plan was approved by the community, and an area that had poor walkability was finally completely connected with sidewalks and street crossings.

With the passing of Pat Davis, it seems fitting for the City of Vancouver to recognize the work of the Davis Family in maintaining this heritage block of rental housing with the lush streetscape and public realm they carefully curated for the neighbourhood.

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This week I wrote about the City of Vancouver turning down recognition of the Davis Family who transformed the 100 block of West Tenth Avenue, and who worked tirelessly to bring in the Mount Pleasant zoning that supported maintaining the area’s Edwardian and Victorian houses. Way before the City of Vancouver launched laneway houses, the Davis Family was already making rental units available in the houses they saved from demolition, and oh yes, they built a few laneway houses too.

Every time I think of the Davis Family and their three generations that have promoted neighbourliness and community building I come up with a new initiative they pioneered. One was eliminating the harsh “crotch dropping” of mature street trees to allow for the unfettered access to hydro lines in the trees. The Davis family refused to allow BC Hydro to butcher their street trees, taking the keys to the offending  tree cutting vehicles and not giving them back. The compromise  was taken forward to  City of Vancouver council,  and that was raising the hydro lines in mature trees so that the trees were not brutally altered. That is now civic policy  for mature tree canopies.

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I have written before about  the Davis Family and their remarkable work on the 100 block of West Tenth Avenue. You know the block~instead of indulging in cash-cropping existing Edwardian and Victorian houses into three storey walkups during the 1970’s and 1980’s this extraordinary family restored them. At that time renovating very old houses and using them for  rental accommodation was not the thing to do.

But the Davis Family led by John Senior (who passed away in the 1980’s)  and his wife Nita (Pat)  with sons John and Geoff persevered, and over five decades the extraordinary streetscape of the 100 block of West Tenth emerged.

Pat Davis passed away last summer and it seemed like the right thing to do to ask the City of Vancouver to do a proclamation in February of 2020 to have a day during “Heritage Week” designated as “Davis Family Day”.  There were several reasons for my request~not only did the Davis Family renovate this block and provide rental housing, they stewarded it, and it made sense to get their community building and volunteerism in the civic record for future generations. They were also instrumental in the development of the zoning for this entire area of Mount Pleasant.

The Davis family maintained the street and helped their neighbourhood. Pat or her son John would be out sweeping the sidewalk and picking garbage off the road in the early morning. There was a bicycle with a basketful of flowers next to a city tree, and two adirondack chairs if someone wanted to sit next to the grassed boulevard. They welcomed neighbours and community.

The Davis Family were involved in all of Mount Pleasant’s planning processes in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The RT-6 zoning in the area was a result of their own work, where existing Victorian houses could be renovated into several units with a coach house in the back.  Laneway houses were also originally a Davis Family innovation.

It seemed a slam dunk for the City to recognize the extraordinary contribution of this family to conserving Mount Pleasant’s history and contributing so greatly to community neighbourliness.  I thought a proclamation to have the Davis Family stewardship in the civic record would be a good thing. But I was wrong.

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A big shout-out to author Jesse Donaldson:

“Land of Destiny: A History of Vancouver Real Estate” is a fun, fascinating book … that more than delivers on its title. His publisher Anvil Press will host a Vancouver launch Dec. 19 at 6 p.m at Resurrection Spirits, free to the public.

Here’s an excerpt from The Tyee: 

Larry Cudney hated architects. In fact, he hated the entire architectural profession. For a time, years earlier, while still a young intern with a local firm, he had harboured dreams of becoming one himself, until a falling-out with the company prevented him from obtaining the certification he needed. …

Working as a draftsman from his cramped office on Main Street and 33rd Avenue, he designed single-family homes (the only buildings a draftsman could legally design), and his work was known for being simple and practical …

… sometime in the mid/late-1960s, Cudney sat down and drafted the plans that would become his legacy. It came to be known as the “Vancouver Special,” and for the next 20 years, it would be the most widely-discussed — and hated — type of housing in town. …

“Those brash new houses with slightly pitched roofs and aluminum balconies (known in the trade as Vancouver Specials), which are now squeezed into lots where once a single house stood in a magnificent garden are here not just to stay, but to increase,” complained the Sun, in 1978.  …Between 1965 and 1985, an estimated 10,000 Vancouver Specials were built, and by 1980, according to a Young Canada Works survey, eleven per cent of Hastings-Sunrise, and five per cent of Marpole were made up of Vancouver Specials. And as more and more were built, the backlash only grew. …

“Right now, to buy a house in the city’s east side, you have to have $20,000 in assets and a $20,000 income,” wrote the Sun’s Mary McAlpine in 1978. “Most young people with children don’t have that sort of money. The people who do are developers who tear down the house and put up Vancouver Specials …

But in the years that followed, attitudes — including city council, and the Sun’s McMartin — began to change. For many lower-income and immigrant families, council later recognized, the Vancouver Special was their only chance for home ownership. In 1987, City Councillor Gordon Price even praised the architectural style as “a tradition of our cultural diversity,” and “worthy of heritage preservation.* …

In 2005, a renovated Vancouver Special was awarded the Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Innovation in Architecture. …

Privately, Larry Cudney was said to have been proud of the disgust his brainchild had engendered. “Creating a completely tasteless form of housing,” stepdaughter Elizabeth Murphy later opined, “was his revenge on the architect profession with which he was in conflict.”

 

*It’s true!  I remember saying that.  Still do.  But with respect to heritage preservation, I meant only that we should designate an intact original and perhaps try to save a complete block like the one above.  Let the rest evolve or eventually be replaced by higher density ‘missing-middle’ alternatives.  

Vancouver has always been in need of some kind of Vancouver Special.  The two-storey carpenter-built single-family houses along streetcar lines in the 1890s and 1900s were the originals.  Even West End one-bedroom apartments in West End highrises in the 1960s were a form of simple, affordable, mass-produced housing.  So in a different way was the illegal basement suite.  Now it’s the modular house for the otherwise homeless.  But with the high land costs, design controls, heritage preservation, and inflexible zoning, we aren’t likely to see another version anytime soon.

 

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When we think of our city as a whole, it is important that it sustains a strong sense of identity for the diversity of people who live here.

The recent City of Vancouver Arts and Culture Plan proposes actions for the incorporation of new approaches to both intangible and tangible heritage. For the purposes of ongoing cultural vitality, redress and equity, it also proposes integration of intangible heritage into the City’s existing heritage program which up to now has mainly focused on the preservation of buildings.

Our final talk for 2019 will look at the opportunity for how a new City-wide plan might carve out a larger role for heritage and integrate current heritage thinking into a wide range of the City’s social aims.

 

Michael Gordon – Former Senior Downtown Planner, City of Vancouver, Vancouver Heritage Commissioner

A year ago, City Council appointed Michael to the Vancouver Heritage Commission. Until 2018, he was Senior Downtown Planner for the City of Vancouver primarily focused on planning in the downtown peninsula and the West End.

 

Elijah Sabadlan – Heritage Consultant & Conservation Specialist

Elijah views heritage architecture as palimpsest in the continuing evolution of urban environments. As a Heritage Consultant with Donald Luxton & Associates, he provides heritage design and technical advice to the project team, from planning to construction.

 

Carmel Tanaka – Founder, Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour

Carmel Tanaka was born to an Israeli mother and a Japanese Canadian father.  Carmel’s pro-diversity stance and open door policy stem from valuing both sides of her heritage, which she describes as “Jewpanese”. This base provides Carmel with the ability to sensitively manage and effectively mediate challenging projects involving multi-generational intersectional groups with mixed political, religious and social opinions.

 

Kamala Todd – Indigenous Arts and Culture Planner, City of Vancouver

Kamala Todd is a Metis-Cree mother, community planner, filmmaker, curator, and educator born and raised in the beautiful lands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Skwxwú7mesh-speaking people, aka Vancouver.  She is the author of “This Many-storied Land”, in In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation (2016),  and Truth-Telling: Indigenous perspectives on working with Municipal Governments (2017) for Vancouver Park Board.

 

 

Thursday, November 28

7-9 pm

SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (SFU Woodwards): 149 West Hastings Street

Free, donations appreciated.  Reservations here.

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