Below is the text of a letter Vancouver resident David Carman sent to council, mayor and city planners on June 9, 2017 with his observations after attending the “Grandview-Woodland Plaza Exploration” open house the previous evening at the Croatian Cultural Centre about potential development of the Safeway site at 1780 East Broadway, at Commercial Drive.
By way of background, after a grueling and contentious process, Vancouver City Council adopted the Grandview Woodland Community Plan in July 2016. It appears that the developer is proposing significant changes to what Council approved for this site and City planners are complying, trying to get public consensus for the new concept.
The only public notice we are aware of prior to the June 8 “plaza exploration” event was a colourfully-worded May 30 blog post by Jak King, entitled “Urgent: Potential Commercial & Broadway Sellout!” He followed up after the meeting with “The Plaza at Commercial & Broadway.”
On the City website, the event is explained like this: “We have been approached by a development team (developer, architect, and property owner) about a potential redevelopment of the Safeway site located at 1780 East Broadway, at Commercial Drive.
The Grandview-Woodland Community Plan sets a requirement to provide a new at-grade public plaza on the site (see section 6.7.1, page 112-113 of the updated version). Presentation materials from the open house information displays are available by download (7.7 MB): http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/grandview-woodland-plaza-discussion-information-displays.pdf.
Click here for the City’s official web page on the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.
Below is the letter, published here with the author’s approval.
My name is David Carman and I attended the Grandview-Woodland Plaza Exploration on June 7th. In addition to learning about the new plaza proposal I wanted to get information about the rationale behind the significant change being proposed. Other than a desire to “Heal the Divide”, no other information was provided in this regard on the display boards.
During the controlled question period it was revealed that the impetus for the proposed switch in location was unsurprisingly driven by the fact that the main tenant (Safeway) and main developer (Westbank) were not on board with having the public plaza built on their site. They apparently wish to see the plaza moved from their private property and placed elsewhere – in this case onto city owned land.
Considering the amount of time, preparation and planning I can imagine would have gone into the original plaza proposal I was very surprised to learn of this suggested change. Surely to have proceeded with a plaza plan of such magnitude – a plaza considered by some to be the anchor point of the entire Grandview-Woodland Plan – in-depth consultation and buy-in from the tenant and developer would have been required. I discussed this matter after the presentation with a member of the city planning staff, Yardley McNeill. Ms. McNeill was either unaware of or not forthcoming about any previous consultation planning staff may or may not have had with the tenant/developer and said the proposed change came “totally out of the blue”.
The aforementioned response can only leave me three possible conclusions:
1. City planners formulated the original plaza plan with the blessing of the tenant/developer who have since back-pedaled on their commitment.
2. City planners formulated the original plaza plan with no consultation or commitment from the on-site tenant/developer.
3. City planners consulted with the tenant/developer, were aware of their concerns and knew that ultimately the original plaza proposal could possibly fail – yet put the plaza plan forth regardless to help to sell the GW plan.
The first scenario would suggest incompetence on the part of the tenant/developer, the latter two on the part of city planning staff.
Much of the feedback from the general public regarding the GW plan was ignored, but as this new plaza proposal demonstrates, city planning staff appear to be much more accommodating to corporate and development interests. In fact, based on the results I’ve seen from previous “public consultations” this suggested plaza relocation is not simply a proposal, but more likely a done deal.