(Updated Nov 3 with open house dates Nov 15 and 17, see below) Announced with a wave of media coverage, a massive redevelopment proposed for Oakridge Centre is now an official rezoning application (look for 650 West 41st Avenue — Oakridge Centre). The project would redevelop the site of the existing Oakridge Plaza at Cambie and 41st Avenue, and add 2,818 units of housing along with additional office and retail space. The plan includes towers with heights of 42 and 45 storeys (412′ / 125.6m max); a total of 13 buildings are shown in the plan (buildings listed as 6, 8, 12, 18, 19, 19, 25, 30, 34, 36, 36, 42, 45 storeys). Several of the buildings are higher than the absolute maximum height of 24 storeys identified in the Oakridge Centre Policy Statement back in 2007 (section 6.1.1), and the average tower heights are in far in excess of the what was previously approved. Several mainstream media outlets have covered this story including CTV News: Oakridge Centre redevelopment plans revealed and Global TV: Plans revealed for dramatic redevelopment of Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre.
Public open houses:
Oakridge Centre Auditorium — 650 West 41st Avenue (41st and Cambie)
Thursday, November 15, 5-8 pm
Saturday, November 17, 10 am – 4 pm
NOTE: To stay informed of the Oakridge rezoning process, you can sign up on the Oakridge rezoning email list at vancouver.ca/oakridge
There are also plenty of concerns that the recently approved Cambie Corridor Plan would be impacted by further upzoning and densification pressures as a result of this development. Is the proposal designed by Henriquez Partners Architects for Westbank Projects Corp. and Ivanhoe Cambridge just the beginning of a wave of developments to turn Cambie and 41st into a new Metrotown? Why is a very recent policy statement being ignored? Is public input being ignored? Are shopping plazas prime locations for intensification? It’s also worthwhile noting that a few shopping plazas redevelopments are already in motion including the Arbutus Shopping Plaza and Arbutus Ridge in Vancouver and another massive project in Burnaby at Brentwood.
Actually, some of our elected officials (e.g., Clr Raymond Louie on GlobalTV) appear to be actively selling the development to the public — suggesting that their minds are made up already. (Can anyone guess how he’s going to vote at the rezoning public hearing?) Public officials and the public in general should watch this development carefully, as the proponents include major campaign contributors for Vision Vancouver (For example, see fundraiser dinner list, campaign contributions, and a closed-door industry fundraiser — see excerpt below). Meanwhile, the proponents have many large projects already approved by block votes by Vision Vancouver, and other applications currently under way (see sample list below). One major deal involves the sale of Vancouver’s public land to one of the proponents, Westbank.
We want to be a world-class city. But do we have a world-class civic system? This development can and should be scrutinized as a test case for what is going on in Vancouver’s development world and its relationship with City Hall. The public has the right to ask questions. And to get answers. This high level of development activity involves enormous sums of money and requires long-standing and close relationships and regular dealings between these companies’ employees and individual public servants working in numerous departments at City Hall, as well as with certain elected officials.
Is City Hall truly putting the public interest first, as required by the City’s official Code of Conduct? Is this system working right? Are our public servants and elected officials able to balance the interests of all the players in the game of development — the most important player being the community (see City’s organizational chart)? We hope that in the coverage of this story in the coming months, City Hall and the media will do their due diligence on the public behalf, ask good questions, do the research, and show us the whole story.
IN VANCOUVER, THE REGULATED FUND THE REGULATOR. NOT GOOD.
See Campaign Contributions and 2011 Election Accountability. There are many players in society. How can elected officials make fair and unbiased decisions in City Council on deals worth millions to billions of dollars when the very individuals who paid for their election campaigns are sitting there in the room directly in front of them? They cannot. This system has to change.
See just a few examples of the regulated funding the regulator below.
Vancouver Sun, 26-Oct-2011 (During civic election campaign)
“Top parties look to entice Asian investors,” excerpt: Robertson unveiled his plan at a noon fundraiser organized by developer Ian Gillespie at his Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel. The event was attended by many of the city’s influential developers, builders and architects, including Concord Pacific’s Terry Hui and architect Greg Henriquez. After the announcement, the media were removed from the room so Robertson could meet with his donors.
Vancouver Sun, 16-Nov-2011 (Just before election day 2011)
“When being a politician gets you thrown out of one of the best joints in town,” excerpt: I can’t remember the last time a politician was thrown out of a swanky five-star hotel. That’s usually reserved in Vancouver for protesters and the like. But that, apparently, is what happened to three Non-Partisan Association candidates when they tried to enter the hotel lobby Monday as Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was holding a press conference upstairs comparing the costs of the two parties’ campaign promises. The hotel [Fairmont Pacific Rim] is owned by Ian Gillespie, whose Westbank Projects Corp. is one of the biggest developers in the city. He is also a major supporter of Vision Vancouver and Mayor Gregor Robertson.
MAJOR PROJECTS BY THE PROPONENTS – IS CITY HALL WATCHING OVER THE CARROT PATCH FOR CITIZENS OF VANCOUVER?
1401 Comox Street – Westbank Projects Corp. and Peterson Investment Group, represented by Henriquez Partners Architects – project to include a 22 storey residential rental building with an increase in density from existing permitted FSR of 1.5 to FSR of 7.4 (project currently “on hold”.) A major target of a citizens’ petition signed by 13,000 people calling for a halt to spot rezoning and for a comprehensive plan. Most speakers at the public hearing were opposed. Vision Vancouver voted as a block to approve the rezoning in June, 2012. As with at least two other projects below, this one was under the Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) program adopted in 2009 with no public consultation, though Westbank’s Gillespie and architect Gregory Henriquez were at the invitation-only Mayor’s Roundtable in April 2009 that resulted in the creation of STIR. The program fast-tracked rezoning/development applications and gave applicants rich incentives to build expensive market-priced rental buildings.
1215 Bidwell Street – Millennium Development Corp. represented by Henriquez Partners Architects – project to include a 20-storey condominium and rental residential tower with an increase in density from a permitted FSR of 2.2 to approved FSR of 6.27. Rezoning approved in December 2009 by a block vote by Vision Vancouver, against strong opposition.
1561 West 6th Avenue – Westbank Projects Corp. and Peterson Investment Group, represented by Henriquez Partners Architects – a 15-storey condominium tower with an increase in density from permitted FSR of 3.0 to approved FSR of 4.96. Local residents strongly opposed. Former city employee (a professional engineer) pointed out how the application violated existing community planning guidelines. Flaws in visual depiction of view impacts were found. Rezoning approved in October 2010 by a block vote by Vision Vancouver, against strong opposition. Details are here.
“Telus Garden” (555 Robson Street, 775 Richards Street, and 520 West Georgia Street) – Westbank Projects Corp. and Peterson Investment Group, represented by Henriquez Partners Architects – project to include a 21-storey office tower on West Georgia Street and a 45-storey residential tower and retail podium on Robson Street with a total of 985,600 sq. ft. of floor area and a increase in density on the site from existing permitted FSR of 7.0 (office) and 5.0 (residential) to 12.24 FSR (office) and 17.59 (residential). Estimated $260 million dollars worth of additional residential floor space in just this one project. Rezoning approved.
8495 Granville Street (Marpole Safeway) – Westbank Projects, represented by Henriquez Partners Architects – to construct four major buildings on the site: a 16-storey rental tower, a 14 storey market condominium tower, and a 9-storey slab building consisting of townhouses at street level and condominium units above, with a total floor area of 405,250 sq. ft. and an increase in density 2.5 FSR (floor space ratio) to 2.81 FSR. Locals presented a petition in opposition. UBC researcher slammed the community consultation process as “flawed.” Rezoning approved against opposition on May 17, 2011. A later bylaw revision done quietly by Vision Vancouver probably further enriches Westbank. The project was made possible under the controversial Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) program, which was supposed to create “affordable” rentals, although other information suggests part of the development was marketed as high-end luxury condos to buyers in China.
60 West Cordova – Westbank Projects, represented by Henriquez Partners Architects – to construct a 10-storey building with ground floor retail and 108 condominium apartment units. Maximum height increased from permitted 75 foot height to requested conditional 100 foot height.
2220 Kingsway - Westbank Projects, represented by Henriquez Partners Architects – to construct three towers on a former Canadian Tire site, with a walled complex. Public hearing not yet scheduled. Citizens have complained about inadequate signage and public notification about the application. Details here and here on CityHallWatch and here on Eye on Norquay.
Granville Loops – Major project involving city-owned land. Westbank Projects Corp. Some information here about site being on public land, requiring a land deal with the applicant.
To be continued.