Pacific Centre Rotunda replacement proposed, new retail building – Public input until Aug 28

pacific centre rotunda

(Update – This is an updated version of our original August 9 post. We have added links and excerpts to subsequent media coverage.) A proposal to replace the rotunda entrance to the Pacific Centre and the open space at the northeast corner of West Georgia and Howe Street with a 63′ tall (19.3m) retail building has been submitted to the City of Vancouver.

This is a significant issue, in the sense of the importance of public spaces and their value to society. Vancouver’s public spaces are being eroded. Public input is due by August 28.

The proposed building would contain an additional 31,603 square feet (2,936 m2) of retail space. The design submitted by Perkins + Will Architects contains high floors for the “3-storey” building that has a height of 63.36 feet (or a typical 6-storey height for residential; note that the City does not penalize large floor heights in FSR calculations). Property owner Cadillac Fairview would entirely remove the rotunda structure and provide another entrance to the mall directly off West Georgia Street.

This development application is considered to be “conditional” and approval or rejection will be up to the discretion of the Director of Planning. Comments related to the proposed redevelopment are due by August 28, 2016. Further information on the scheme is on the City’s development applications website. The Director of Planning post is currently filled by Jane Pickering, but Gil Kelley will fill this post starting on September 15, 2016.

Cadillac Fairview recently made another controversial proposal with the development beside Waterfront Station at 555 Cordova (an origami tower dubbed the ‘icepick building’ by detractors, currently on hold). Now the firm is looking at taking away space that functions as a public plaza and an iconic rotunda entrance to the Pacific Centre to build 3-storeys of retail. Is there any balance to public and private interests in planning in Vancouver? Does the space-making role of the plaza and rotunda have sufficient merit to City planners and policy makers? Why has this been largely off the media radar? Why are groups that supposedly advocate for public spaces (e.g., Vancouver Public Space Network, and Spacing Vancouver) not actively trying to raise awareness and protect the public space affected by this proposal? Stay tuned. See further below for recent media coverage.

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News of proposed plaza redevelopment lost among tax announcements
(Michael Geller / Vancouver Courier, 3-Aug-2016).
Excerpts: Columnist Michael Geller was shocked to discover a three-storey retail complex might replace the plaza and rotunda at Howe and Georgia streets…. The researcher wanted to talk about the plaza and rotunda at Howe and Georgia streets, part of Cadillac Fairview’s Pacific Centre, for which a proposal was going to the city’s Urban Design Panel (UDP) later in the week…. I subsequently attended the UDP meeting where I was shocked to see plans and a model for a three-storey retail complex on the plaza. However, I was told the proposal was in accordance with a 2006 rezoning. When I subsequently asked why a proposal for such a prominent site was proceeding without any community input, I was told by an official city spokesperson that this was standard procedure for a development permit application in accordance with zoning, and staff would be seeking public feedback through the neighbourhood notification process. Surprised by this response I decided to review the 2006 rezoning decision myself. While it confirmed council had approved a deal to allow the plaza to be redeveloped in return for a developer contribution towards the cost of the nearby SkyTrain station, council also decided “in the preparation of a development application, the public should be consulted about proposed land use and design concepts, through workshops and open houses.” Compared to most world cities, Vancouver has few public open spaces and plazas, and sadly we seem to be losing many of the spaces we do have. Before we lose another plaza at Howe and Georgia, I urge the mayor, council and the city’s planning department to instigate a proper public consultation process to find a better solution to retain all, or at least a portion of this important downtown open space. I hope Courier readers will join me in this endeavour.

Proposal sees Pacific Centre rotunda swapped out for new storefronts
Vancouver Sun-Aug 10, 2016
Shoppers leave and enter Pacific Centre shopping mall in Vancouver. The familiar glass rotunda and public square at the mall may soon be …
Excerpt: Former city planner Ray Spaxman isn’t a fan of the proposal. He said he was disappointed that the design doesn’t include a reinvigorated space for people to gather, or a more prominent entryway to the mall. “The design, from my point of view, looks like an ordinary row of shops — quite nicely designed as it might be — on Robson Street,” he said. Spaxman was the city’s director of planning when the rotunda was built in the 1980s. It was meant to serve as an entrance to the mall and a refuge from the weather on a particularly windswept corner. “It was never beautiful in total, in the sense that the whole space could have been made much more energetic, but nevertheless I think it’s been a success,” he said. “If anything was going to be done, why wouldn’t they just improve it and make it more accessible and more beautiful for people?” The plans will be available for viewing in person at the Development and Building Services Centre at 515 West 10th Ave. between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Plans to redevelop glass rotunda at Pacific Centre Mall spark concern 8, 2016
FILE PHOTO: Cadillac Fairview, the owner of Pacific Centre Mall, wants to replace the glass rotunda on the northeast corner of West Georgia …

Retail building proposed to replace Pacific Centre rotunda in … (blog)-Jul 26, 2016
Included in the agenda Wednesday (July 27) of the city’s urban design panel is an application to replace the glass atrium of the Pacific Centre …
Excerpt: As of this posting [Note – that was July 26, just one day before the Urban Design Panel meeting. Is it a public disservice to fail to publish information in a timely way?], city hall has not put online details about the development application filed by the Perkins+Will architectural firm. A call to a representative of Perkins+Will wasn’t returned immediately. In March this year, a downtown Vancouver plaza on Alberni Street was demolished to give way to a two-storey retail building for luxury products. A citizens’ petition failed to save this space then called at the time as the Grosvenor Building plaza. Pink cherry blossom trees were removed from the site. [Note – This article points out how City Hall is allowing public spaces to be eroded. For this one, the architect is Henriquez Partners Architects, Gregory Henriquez, who is the culprit.]

Three-storey retail space could replace popular downtown … 27, 2016. Includes audio, interview with Ray Spaxman.
Cadillac-Fairview, which owns the building, is proposing the Pacific Centre rotunda — the big, glass atrium and terrace on the corner of …
Excerpt: Critics mourn the loss of the rotunda, a rare public space for downtown shoppers and workers looking for a spot to rest or eat lunch. Former city planning director Ray Spaxman helped create the rotunda in the 1980s. “It’s not a very pleasant idea to replace something that has become an important public amenity with just more and more retail space,” he said. Spaxman said Vancouver needs more spaces like the rotunda to keep the city core vibrant. “It’s the little places that people can sit and enjoy a quiet moment…to get away from work… enjoy the view,” he said. Vancouver needs more spaces where people can sit and enjoy a quiet moment, said former director of planning Ray Spaxman, who helped create the Pacific Centre rotunda, now at risk. “Many of these squares are very important places psychologically in the city, and we don’t have enough of them.”

Feedback on downtown Vancouver mall redevelopment accepted … (blog)-Aug 17, 2016
… to remove the rotunda and public square of a downtown shopping mall. … section of the Pacific Centre mall with a three-storey retail building.

Cadillac Fairview aims to redevelop part of Pacific Centre
Business in Vancouver-Jul 26, 2016
Pacific Centre owner Cadillac Fairview is proposing to redevelop a plot … a terrace and a glass rotunda, and build a three-storey retail building.

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