Architecture
November 29, 2019

Burnaby Builds A City – 4

The conversion of Brentwood into a municipal town centre is really about the conversion of car-dependent development from post-war suburbia into the transit-oriented centres of today.  It’s the fulfilment of the regional vision that began in the 1970s.

This is the Grand Bargain in action, concentrating development on the brownfields: the asphalt parking lots, the obsolete industrial sites, the empty lots, all within walking distance of a SkyTrain station.  (Debate: Can the same thing happen along the Frequent Transit Network or even a light-rail line?  Or is grade-separated rapid transit – concrete, trains! – a necessity?)

 

The success of these station areas is unquestioned.  There is a lot more of them happening, a lot more to come, as evident at the next SkyTrain stop to the west – Gilmore:

Today:

Tomorrow:

 

The bargain so far has been a push to extremes: highrise sacrifice zones to protect the iconic single-family neighbourhoods (regardless of the number of units within those houses).

And it leaves untouched the vast stretches of Motordom in between the station areas:

Lougheed Highway at Gilmore, looking west

 

The City of Vancouver has taken the first steps to rezone the blocks just beyond the arterials and transit corridors for medium-density rental, and there are a few, but very few, examples where a whole single-family district has been rezoned, bulldozed and rebuilt (Moodyville) to offer the middle-missing choices for which there is general agreement of their necessity.

This region’s ability to plan, approve and build complexes on the scale of Brentwood makes us an urban leader, certainly in North America.  By comparison, here is Miami Worldcenter, said to be the second largest real-estate development in the US, next to Hudson Yards:

More commercial, denser (and eventually underwater) – but not that different from what we do in our distant suburbs.  Okay, way more jobs, highly desired in places like Coquitlam, but in form and size, it’s just another megaproject.

Just another version of Brentwood.

 

 

Read more »

From William Whyte to Jan Gehl, there have been many attempts to find the formula for great public spaces.  And we do have a good idea of what goes into them. And yet really great spaces remain illusory, or we’d have so many more.

Here’s the one soon to be opening at ‘Amazing Brentwood’:

This is only a segment of the main plaza, still under construction.  It can’t fail insofar as there is a SkyTrain station on the south and lots of appealing attractions in every other direction.  And it feels like it has the right proportions given the way the height and curve of the buildings frame the space.

As Ian Wasson observed, the developer and designers have used really fine materials to realize their vision.

There’s a fountain off-centre that occupies a good percentage of the plaza.  You can see it from almost anywhere, but you have to walk around it – like a cog in the elaborate machinery of humanity in motion.

As night it’s a place that plays with light – ostentatiousnessl well done.  Here are some shots taken from Skyscraper Page by vanman:

Read more »

You’ve seen this before:

It’s a 1975 sketch of “Cities in a Sea of Green” – the phrase that captured the intent of the original Livable Region Plan.  In Burnaby, they took it literally (see more in ‘Cities of the Future‘).

Brentwood is SkyTrain scale, amped up.  The combo of towers tightly clustered around a rapid-transit station, connected to a shopping centre and community services, also strikes me as Asian scale – characteristic of station areas in Singapore and Hong Kong, where the planning and design go back to the housing booms of post-war modernism.  These are the urban environments in which so many of us grew up before coming to Vancouver, and to whom the projects are now marketed.

This is West Pacific.

The towers, in particular, take us to new heights – not to everyone’s taste, but very much part of the Grand Bargain.  (For an analysis and prediction of the impact of Brentwood, here’s what I said back in 2014: “Brentwood growth could help maintain quality of life: Price”

As detailed on David Pereira’s blog, the architecture of Brentwood Town Centre also goes back to 1960s with its initial highrises and mall (and, oh yeah, used car lots).  Today, ‘Amazing Brentwood’ takes the cliche of the moment – stacked and angled glass boxes – to climb the slope to the north of the station and animate the many thousands of square meters.

Read more »

Burnaby at Brentwood has gone full urban.

This is the Lougheed Highway at Willingdon – one the signature crossroads of our region.  On the right, a massive mixed-use development called (awful name) Amazing Brentwood.

Ian Wasson at Burnaby City Hall gave me a heads-up:  Brentwood was ready for a walk-through.  And easy to get to – seamlessly connected to one of the most beautiful SkyTrain stations in the region.

At the same time Brentwood Mall was under redevelopment, the City rebuilt Lougheed into more of a complete street.  There are at least four modes of movement integrated but separate, with great materials, thoughtful landscaping and exciting urbanism in three dimensions.

We’ll explore Brentwood this week.  But here’s the judgment:

Read more »

This aerial over Burnaby was taken last Thursday, flying out of YVR.

From Collingwood Village to Royal Oak, from Gilmore to SFU, this is how Burnaby stung its apartment districts along Skytrain.

It’s a half century of shaping development according to the Grand Bargain.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, planners and councils struck a compact with their citizens – the blue-collar workers who had achieved the Canadian Dream: a single-family house in a subdivision.  The deal: City Hall won’t rezone a blade of grass in your single-family zones.  But we will pile the density up in highrises, lots of them, clustered around where we expect rapid transit to come.

This is what that looks like. A Cordillera of Highsrises and a prairie of low-scale suburbia. Little in between.  Massive change for one, almost none for the other, and spot rezonings thereafter.

More here in The Grand Bargain, Illustrated.

Read more »

Following the election of a majority TEAM council in 1972, the residential highrise era came to a (temporary) end in the City of Vancouver.  In part it was a market and economic response to an explosive decade of overdevelopment, but mostly it was a blowback from citizens who feared the West End-ization of their neighbourhoods, particularly Kitsilano.
And so there were almost no highrises built in the city from the mid-70s to the late-80s, when the condominium boom began.  But that wasn’t true elsewhere in the region.
Indeed, the Metrotown urban centre was just picking up steam, particularly with the prospect of rapid-transit (finally) being built on the old BCER right-of-way.  But it was the openness of the Burnaby council to construction in their designated apartment districts that saw the construction of new towers, initially near Central Park.
Each decade since, new highrises have been built, with a notable increase of supertall towers in the last half decade.  Here’s a comparison on Patterson Avenue, where the Aldynne is rising above its neighbours.

Height is not the only distinction.  The problem with towers was typically how they treated the ground plane – in the past with parking lots and porte cocheres, like this:

Now the treatment is more Vancouver Style, with townhouses providing the building edge:

Compare this with the medium-rise apartment block down the street:

The uphappy front lawn is the last vestige of suburbia from the 1960-70s – and, given Burnaby council’s tolerance for the demolition of old rental apartment blocks, probably not long for this world.
 
 

Read more »

I asked below whether Brentwood Town Centre was the largest single project ever seen in Burnaby. Should have checked my e-mail to see that this just came in, via Vancity Buzz:

 

A master-planned community called Concord Brentwood is the latest development from Concord Pacific Developments Inc., renowned for its skyline-defining communities on Vancouver’s False Creek and Toronto’s lakefront.

Concord Brentwood will create a bustling community according to Concord Pacific senior vice president Matt Meehan. “Our next project in Burnaby, Concord Brentwood, will see 26 acres in the Brentwood neighbourhood transform into a beautiful and diverse mixed-use park-side community that completes the exciting revitalization of the Brentwood Town Centre neighbourhood.” …

Designed by award-winning architect James K.M. Cheng of Vancouver, Concord Brentwood will consist of 10 towers, most between 40 and 45 storeys tall. Tower 1 of Phase 1 will consist of 426 units on 45 storeys.

I don’t know if this a rendering of the massing for the proposal or the final product.  But if the latter, the architecture looks pretty blah.  I still have no explanation for why in this region there is such a reluctance to use colour, why the palette seems so constrained – off-white or gray, beige and green glass.

Read more »

Change and development along the rapid-transit lines as part of “Skywalking through Burnaby” on Sunday:

A big hole at the Brentwood Town Centre redevelopment.  Is this the the biggest single complex in the municipality’s history?

.

At the Commercial-Broadway station, the new east platform for westbound trains is visible:

.

Already the station handles more passengers in a day than YVR airport.  With the opening of the Evergreen line later, the crush would be unmanageable without a platform expansion.

Read more »
SKYWALKING THROUGH BURNABY: A Tour of Town Centres on Rail

Sunday, May 1, 2016

1:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Bob Prittie Metrotown Branch, Burnaby Public Library

 .

Join Gordon Price for a Skytrain “walk” through the City of Burnaby’s town centres. This city walking tour will begin at the Bob Prittie Metrotown Branch of the Burnaby Public Library with a talk by Gordon and David Pereira about the development of the City of Burnaby and its town centres. Gordon will explain some of the planning theory and trends that have shaped the City of Burnaby and some of the forces likely to shape its future. He will then lead participants onto the Skytrain for a visit to Burnaby’s town centres. The talk will last about a half hour. The walk will begin at around 2 and conclude between 4 and 5 pm.

People from Burnaby or anywhere in the region interested in how a vision from the mid-20th-century (“Cities in a Sea of Green”) has shaped a city for the 21st century. Some understanding of urban planning and design ideas is helpful. Anecdotes from the past are also welcome.

This is a walking tour. Participants will ride the Skytrain, visit Burnaby’s town centres and then return, if they wish, to the Bob Brittie Metrotown library. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes and be prepared for rain if necessary. The walk is free but participants are expected to cover the cost of their Skytrain ticket.

 

This event is brought to you by the City Program.

For more information, visit Continuing Studies online.

REGISTER for this event.

Read more »
809 West 23rd Avenue

The last PT Guest Editor wrote about comparing Burnaby’s density to Vancouver’s in Who Does Density Better?
A 1920s-era church at 23rd Ave & Willow could be saved if it’s turned into 6 townhouses with the flexibility of 4 lock-off suites. It’s 600m from King Edward Station and the neighbours are outraged it will no longer be a Single Family Home (SFH). There seems to be more outrage about this lot than there is about skyscrapers going up in Burnaby.
Let’s start with what we know then learn a bit more:

  • Metro Vancouver has mountains to the north, a border to the south, and an ocean to the west. Therefore it can only expand to the east, which it has been doing. We need to limit urban sprawl for all kinds of environmental, health, and economic reasons.
  • It is estimated that by 2030 the region’s population will be about 1 million more people than it is today. They will need places to live.
  • The City of Vancouver has, for about 2-4 mayors now, been encouraging density and running on platforms of density.
  • Friendly-density or “gentle densification” describes alternatives to high-rises such as 3-7 story multi-unit dwellings, townhouses, quadruplexes/fourplexes with a coach house, etc. and this density debate article is more amusing/sad 4 years later, depending on your point of view.
  • Transit-oriented development (TOD) “is a mixed-use residential and commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership.”
  • The Marpole Community Plan, approved in 2014, allows for RM8 (Townhouse, Rowhouse) and RM9 (Townhouse/Rowhouse/Low-rise).
  • The Cambie Corridor Planning Program Phase 3 was approved by City Council in April, 2015. It covers Ontario to Oak Streets, 16th Ave south to the river. Since then the City has held launch events, walking tours, and workshops on Phase 3. It is currently in progress.
  • There was an open house in September, 2015. From the City’s website: “Staff have completed their initial review of the rezoning application and have requested revisions to the application including changes to improve the heritage conservation approach, explore further on-site tree retention and improve the relationship of the proposal to the surrounding residential neighbourhood. Once revisions are received staff will notify the public and invite further community feedback.
  • I asked staff what “improve the relationship of the proposal to the…neighbourhood” meant. Basically, due to feedback, revisions have been requested. They want to give people more time to give feedback. They would like to hear from people why this church is worth saving.
  • There is still time to provide online feedback on this development application (with no clear deadline in sight).

Hair splitting leads to split ends:

  • This property is within the Cambie Corridor near Douglas Park but about 1 block outside the area where changes are likely to be permitted.
  • Once Phase 3 is complete, it could be applicable without rezoning but this application was submitted months before the completion of Phase 3.
  • The residents who don’t want it say it’s spot zoning.
  • The City and developer say it’s not spot zoning it’s an application to rezone from RS-5 (Single Family) District to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development) District under the City’s Heritage Policies and Guidelines, including the Heritage Action Plan.

This Vancouver Courier article from October, 2015 explains what’s going on in depth.
What do you think?
SFH – (Single Family Home) is also the abbreviation for at least 2 other meanings. Those who don’t want more density in Vancouver – are they Stronger, Faster, Healthier or So F’ing High?
When people are outraged at building townhouses on a large lot in Vancouver, is it a sign that the reality of density, the people who want different housing options, and the future Vancouverites who don’t usually get a say are winning?

Read more »