Business & Economy
March 25, 2016

First Baptist Church dev app proposes 120 #parking spots >minimum. In #downtown #Vancouver.

969 Burrard St & 1019-1045 Nelson St

This is my second article on Good Friday about a development application that saves or restores a church. And I’m not even Christian. Also, I recommend this article be enjoyed accompanied by Geoff Berner’s song Higher Ground

From the City’s website (bolded font is my doing):

The City of Vancouver has received an application to rezone 969 Burrard Street & 1019-1045 Nelson Street from CD-1 (445) (Comprehensive Development) to a new CD-1 District. The proposal includes:

  • restoration of First Baptist Church;
  • new church ancillary spaces, including a 37-space child daycare, a gymnasium, a counselling centre, offices and a cafe;
  • a new eight-storey building containing 66 social housing units, owned by the church;
  • a new 56-storey tower containing 294 market strata residential units, with a cafe at ground floor;

Other key parameters of the proposal include:

  • a combined total new floor area of approximately 561,881 sq.ft.;
  • a floor space ratio (FSR) of approximately 10.83;
  • 497 underground vehicle parking spaces.

This rezoning application is being considered under the Rezoning Policy for the West End and the West End Community Plan.

The project is called First Baptist Church (FBC) for now. I live close to this property. I think 56-storeys at the highest point downtown in earthquakey Vancouver is a little high but I can live with it if it’s structurally well-built. This building does not obstruct view corridors and falls within the dome skyline.
Currently the entrance is quite unwelcoming with fencing and a big, flashing, lighted sign at Nelson & Burrard. It’s unclear where to enter and not wheelchair accessible. The plans for creating an open, accessible space with a cafe look inviting. The sidewalk on Nelson may be widened as the left turning lane west of Burrard is not well used.
The developer is the First Baptist Church. The builder is Westbank. The architect is Bing Thom. The Traffic Consultant is Peter Joyce of Bunt & Assoc. I spoke to him and others at the Open House – which PT Guest Editor Thomas Beyer covered.
What I object to strongly is the amount of car parking they plan to include. They want 120 parking spaces over the minimum required for a total of 497. (Do we still have minimum parking requirements in downtown Vancouver and why don’t we have a maximum number permitted?)
The overall parking ratio is 1.4 – in the centre of downtown Vancouver at the corner of Nelson & Burrard. That means 1.4 parking spaces for every 1 unit. It’s 0.4 for the rental building and a whopping 1.6 for the strata.
To give you some perspective, these days in Metrotown many high-rises will have a parking ratio of about 1 or less. Portland is building high-rises with 0.6 or less. Some high-rises are proud to be at 0. Granted, this high-rise plans to have a number of 2-3 bedroom suites. Still, allowing so much car parking downtown encourages too much driving and drives up costs. This much car parking doesn’t meet any of our City goals.
I have worked with numerous developers over the years interested in having all access carsharing in their buildings – even before there were incentives from the City to minimize parking requirements for doing so. It’s a popular amenity for buyers. FBC is not including any carsharing as they have no interest in reducing minimum parking requirements. This leaves their buyers with fewer convenient, transportation choices.
The plan is to have 6 levels of subterranean parking. The cost of adding 6 floors underground is staggering in concrete and steel. For developers, the reduced construction time with fewer levels can be a considerable savings for them as well. Housing rates are so expensive in Vancouver that even if the intention is to sell posh 2-3 bedroom suites, the higher cost of the units from additional parking doesn’t make sense to me. Many downtown families have 0 or 1 car and carshare when they need 2 on one day.
Also, units will be sold with parking spots – not unbundled (where the buyer gets to choose to buy a unit with or without a parking space).

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Transportation infrastructure is always about land use – in particular how access adds value to land.  Most of the last half of the 20th century was the story of how highway expansion opened vast tracts of cheap land for low-density and car-dependent urban form.  In Metro Vancouver, as far as the Province is concerned, that era has never ended – as this Business in Vancouver story illustrates:

Fraser Valley real estate sales are now growing faster than elsewhere in the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s (REBGV) jurisdiction …
Tsur Somerville, an associate professor for the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, said the Fraser Valley over the past decade has had a growth rate about half that of Vancouver, but that has changed as valley land beckons buyers seeking lower prices. …

For which they can thank this – the highway expansion paid for disproportionately by the taxpayers of Metro Vancouver, who will also revert increasingly to their vehicles as more resources go into roads and less into transit.

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Now the signal is to start expanding south as the Massey Bridge and a widened Highway 99 are developed, making vehicle access easier and transit less necessary.

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No surprise that the Massey Bridge is really just one piece of a larger strategy to shape the region around highways and, inevitably, to put immense pressure on the ALR.  But, be assured, there’s nothing written down to that effect.
Occasionally there are announcements.  And the ongoing implementation of instructions by people you have not heard of, answerable to no one in the region, but with all the money to proceed.    No referendum needed.
 

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Shortly after City Council voted to proceed with demolishing the Viaducts came this:

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B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the City of Vancouver needs to “cool down” on its plan to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts. …
“I checked with my officials and it has been a number of years since the city took any meaningful steps to reach out to PAVCO which owns and operates B.C. place,” said Stone.

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Stephen Quinn in The Globe quickly demolished that line:

(Minister Todd Stone) went on to say that he was not aware of any meaningful discussions between the city of Vancouver and PavCo and, to him, this was a concern.

He was wrong.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told me in an interview later that day that over the past two years there have been at least eight meetings between senior city staff and top officials at PavCo to work on a plan for the eventual removal of the viaducts.

“There’s a good paper trail on this,” he said. “…

A source at City Hall supplied me with the dates of those meetings. The mayor was right – there were eight of them between April, 2014, and September of this year.

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So what’s going on?  It’s hard to believe that the Minister was so poorly briefed.  Or is this simply a case of looking for any justification to overrule the City and maintain the Viaducts?
If so, why?
It certainly leads to speculation that the long-term intent of the Province is to effectively replicate the purpose of the proposed Chinatown freeway in order to link Highway 1 with downtown.   I’m thinking, in particular, of my speculation here – in which the Viaducts would be a piece of a larger corridor.

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Click to enlarge

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The Province could assemble any number of arguments: PavCo’s and stadium requirements, the new St. Paul’s Hospital needs for access, a desired tunnel under Grandview by the residents themselves, a ‘parkway’ with sound protection for residents along East 1st – all without ever using the term freeway.

And don’t forget: no transit upgrades to serve growth from the east, thanks to the defeat of the referendum.  Therefore the need to maintain and enhance road access.

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Then there are these comments on the Viaduct decision, picked up by Bob Mackin:

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So who’s Geoff Freer?  This guy:

Not only executive director of the Gateway Project and South Fraser Perimeter Road but also, now, executive project director for the Massey Bridge, and likely the widening of Highway 99.
In other words, the go-to guy to build the massive highway and bridge infrastructure that will bring new lanes of traffic right up to the borders of Vancouver.
And then what?
Perhaps that’s really what the Minister means: The Viaducts are not a ‘done deal’ because, possibly, another deal is in the works.

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For years I have used a slide in my presentations that illustrate the various highway and bridge projects that are reshaping the Metro Vancouver area – a combination of MOTI Gateway and TransLink projects that together constitute a kind of asphalt noose.  Yes, that’s a perspective from Vancouver, as most of these projects either end at the boundaries of the city or provide freeway-scale routes around it. . I thought I had pretty much included everything built or committed.  But now, once again, another project has to be added: the Sunshine Coast Connector.  Some would say it’s speculative too – but I doubt it would even be announced for study unless there was some significant momentum behind it.  That’s how Motordom works: get a project on the map and create a certain inevitability.  . So here’s the latest version. . Click to enlarge. . Given the billions spent or planned for highway projects that will, in the absence of transit expansion, generate millions of more trips (and hence congestion), it’s only a matter of time before the noose will tighten – and there will be serious proposals for road expansions, expressways, tunnels and bridges though Vancouver to join them all up. Read more »