601 West Hastings Public Square to be redeveloped. Photo gallery of public-park-like space lost by “stealth” rezoning

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(Updated) The public may have a different opinion compared to Vancouver’s development regime (developers, planning department staff, advisory bodies, and the majority on City Council).

The glass dome and the public space at 601 West Hastings has moved ahead on the path to being redeveloped, with the “blessings” from the City’s Urban Design Panel on July 15. For the record, we’ve documented this space before it vanishes in the slideshow above. There is a very interesting play of light in this oasis in downtown Vancouver, and there’s beautiful detailing in this elegant structure. The plaza is located just across the street from Harbour Centre.

Vancouver City Council approved a rezoning for a 25-storey tower, with a FSR of 24.34 on this site in September of 2014. The application was by  B+H Architects, on behalf of a numbered company (675158 British Columbia Ltd., which is apparently “Morguard,” a “fully integrated real estate company” that owns, manages and invests in assets…. It is interesting to note that at the Public Hearing on September 16 that year, there was not one single letter in support, but one letter and a petition with 108 signatures opposed to the rezoning. So much for that. Reasons the sole speaker at the public hearing gave for opposing were (1) inadequate public input (he said the placement of the rezoning notification sign was “stealthy” to avoid notice), (2) no urgent need for office space, and (3) loss of public park-like space.

The plaza will be replaced by a smaller open space (an opened-up portion of the bottom two floors, with a new tower above it). The new smaller plaza won’t be the same. Ironically, the current glass dome and plaza are a result of an earlier rezoning of the tower to the south of the site at 602 Cordova Street. Extra height on that tower was granted via a density transfer agreement (details in CD-1 164). Back in 1984, the owner had agreed “that any development will not exceed the new limits” and a covenant had been placed on the properties. So much for that.

The design for the new 25-storey tower was supported by the Urban Design Panel with an 8-1 vote on July 15, 2015. As the tower is 353 feet (126.75m) in height, it will start to interfere with views looking down from the Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre. Here’s the landscape drawing for the new planned public space:

601 West Hastings new plaza

Will the new space “read as public space” or will it become more “semi-private”? A concern in the area of public realm is how accessible the plaza appears to be, for use by all. One of the entrances to the new tower lobby would be through the new space. There will be a 25-storey tower right above the new plaza. Will there be any doubt to the casual person passing by that the space is semi-private?

As a result of the new rezoning, the City negotiated a public benefit of a $4 million Community Amenity Contribution that will be put toward childcare facilities.

Further information on this project can be found in the Straight:

Proposed downtown Vancouver development aims to reshape public space (by Carlito Pablo on March 18th, 2014)


Public Hearing September 16, 2014 (includes documents, letters to Council, and link to video of this segment — best viewed with Internet Explorer):

Earlier CD-1 bylaw (CD-1 164):

Rezoning application site links for 601 W Hastings:

Urban Design Panel review (8-1 vote), July 15, 2015:

601 West Hastings

One thought on “601 West Hastings Public Square to be redeveloped. Photo gallery of public-park-like space lost by “stealth” rezoning

  1. The current open space is so under utilized. I walk by there all the time at lunch hour, and there’s rarely people using the space. It won’t be missed. That dome is ugly too.

    The building looks good, it’ll be a nice addition to that corner. Good for Morguard.

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