A 16-storey condo tower is proposed at Main Street and Union Street, on the site of the Brickhouse and the Creekside Student Residence. The “Don’t Let new condos flatten the Brickhouse” petition to Mayor and Council outlines many more issues related to the development proposal. There’s a Jimi Hendrix shrine at 796 Main that can be viewed from the Union Street side of the site. More details on the proposal can be found in the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Courier. Is policy set by the City a driving force behind the gentrification of Chinatown? The City increased allowable height in Chinatown back in 2011 and paved the way for very high density projects.
The architect’s website shows a rendering of a 16-storey at the site (under the “current projects” section for Main & Union). This mixed-use development is described as a “rezoning located in the historic Chinatown District in Vancouver.” The rendering shows one level of commercial, 1 level of SRAs and 14 levels of condos. The Communications Department at the City of Vancouver claim that “a height of up to 150 feet could be considered for a redevelopment.” Is this indeed the case? The diagram below shows the rendering and description from the architect’s website, and the site in the City’s VanMap application. The site lies under View Cone 22 (VanMap menu option: District & areas, View Cones).
How high can a building be under the view cone? Approximately 139 feet. We’ve included a few manual calculations below:
This math can easily be verified (height information here, 1380m distance was taken from VanMap). Why does the City’s Communications staff tell members of the media that 150 feet is allowed for this site?
What is the maximum density allowed on this site? There is no stated upper limit. That’s a huge problem under the zoning changes that were adopted under HAHR. Developers will attempt to cram in as much density on a site that can (built to the maximum allowable height). While this proposal is not quite a zero lot line extrusion, the Floor Space Ratio will be still considerably higher than the buildings in the vicinity. How did the City’s professional planning staff ever create zoning for Chinatown that has no specified maximum density? (there’s no stated limit to FSR in Section 4.7 in the HA-1A District Schedule) We’d don’t have a clear answer; the issue was raised by speakers during the public hearing for HAHR and ignored.
The open-ended density policy is just one factor that makes sites like the Brickhouse very lucrative for condo developers. How much of Chinatown’s heritage will continue to be lost under current City policies?