This letter has been sent to Mayor and Council by the Downtown Waterfront Working Group:
July 20, 2015
Dear Mayor and Council of the City of Vancouver
Re: 555 West Cordova Street and the Future of our Downtown Waterfront
The Central Waterfront Hub Framework, endorsed by Vancouver City Council on June 11, 2009, provides an exciting vision for the downtown waterfront. The Hub Framework shows how the downtown could be re-connected to the waterfront while also providing job space and public gathering places. At the core of this vision and of the transportation element in the Greenest City Action Plan is the enhancement of the regional multi-modal transportation hub centred around the Waterfront Station.
The implementation of the waterfront vision is dependent on the interest of the two major landowners – Cadillac Fairview and Carrera Management – who have now both expressed an interest in moving forward with the Framework. Port Metro Vancouver, TransLink, provincial and federal interests also play a key role in realization of a new waterfront.
Vancouver City Council recently gave rezoning approval to the first development proposal within the Hub Framework area. This office building at 320 Granville Street, owned by Carrera Management, is generally consistent with the Hub Framework and therefore raised no concerns regarding the implementation of waterfront plans.
In January, 2015 a second proposal was submitted as a development application within the Hub Framework area. Cadillac Fairview is proposing a large office building on the small parking lot between the Waterfront Station and The Landing. Unlike the first application, this second application jeopardizes the future planning of the waterfront. It did not receive support from the Urban Design Panel and over 100 letters were received by the Development Permit Board. There is much public interest in the future of this site and in the waterfront. On June 4, SFU City Conversations held a panel discussion on the future of the downtown waterfront. It was their biggest crowd ever for this event. The event was video recorded and can be found here. (The videos contain images of the Hub Framework and the proposed office building.)
The critical question is whether the proposed development at 555 West Cordova can proceed without compromising the future of the waterfront. Our citizen’s group, the Downtown Waterfront Working Group, was formed in recognition of the importance of this proposal at 555 West Cordova on the future of the downtown waterfront. We believe much better solutions are possible. A thorough public evaluation of costs and benefits of various options is essential. And because the City does not have a site plan or a strategy for implementing the Hub Framework, the time is right to develop in a co-operative way the mechanisms for achieving a wide array of public and private benefits.
Many factors need to be considered before any building on 555 West Cordova can be processed:
1) The future allocation of density and land uses within the Hub Framework area has not yet been formulated. While the Hub Framework contains an initial Illustrative Concept Plan, the City has not advanced the necessary more detailed Area Site Plan clarifying how the various buildings, cycle/walkways, open spaces, streets, and other public realm/ infrastructure elements should be integrated taking into account today’s factors, many of which have evolved/changed since 2009.
The Hub Framework stated that a minimum of 1.1 million square feet of office should be built north of Cordova. The first proposal north of Cordova, at 555 West Cordova, is proposing to use 37% of the 1.1 million square feet of office space on a site occupying less than 2% of the land area within the Hub Framework. We expect that additional office space beyond 1.1 million square feet is possible, as well as retail/restaurant/entertainment and possibly even housing. A site plan is needed to determine the height , density, and location of these activities. In the absence of a site plan, there is no reason why the “Illustrative Concept Plan” should not be taken seriously as a guide for the proposed development at 555 West Cordova Street.
2) The sheer size of the proposed building at 555 West Cordova makes it very difficult to respect the heritage, Read more »