Retail floor height: new vs. old. Is the first floor of new buildings a little too high?


Are the first floors of some recently-completed buildings just a little too high? The above photo shows a new 6-storey building at 3503-3523 East Hastings and a 3-storey building next door at 3935 East Hastings that’s zoned as C-2C1. These buildings are just a few blocks west of Boundary Road. The first floor height is around 15 ft at the east side of the frontage, while the floor height increases to around 16.5 ft on the other end from the difference in slope. Retail uses are being accommodated on the first floor of both of these buildings.

In addition to the commercial uses at grade, the new development at 3503 East Hastings has 87 market rental units, a FSR of 3.95 and a total height of 19.74 m (64.76 ft). A slightly lower first floor could of course have marginally reduced the overall height. There are also impacts on the experience at street level. It might be worth noting that the commercial uses at grade of a new buildings can lead to ‘retail gentrification’ where only large floorplate and generally chain stores can afford to rent. Perhaps a finer grain division for commercial units (25 to 33ft wide) could lead to a greater mix of shops and services at grade.


Links: CD-1 (610) with backup notes for 388 Skeena Street:
https://cd1-bylaws.vancouver.ca/ByCD-1Number/cd1s/iCD-1(610)_BackupNotesSummary.pdf

https://council.vancouver.ca/20140916/phea20140916ag.htm (Public Hearing)

Click to access phea4-PolicyReport.pdf

One thought on “Retail floor height: new vs. old. Is the first floor of new buildings a little too high?

  1. The 3503 was supposed to be a “green” landmark building with PASSIVE heat (sealed triple glass windows, tall, floor to ceiling on south side); massive 50 degree furnace, (one) in basement to heat interior (to 25) special walls etc. )
    The retail hung around empty for several years after upstairs tenants moved in. Dentist office was empty with a sign for years, noodle house last fall, liquor store moved from across the street late last year.
    Replaced small retail and Frank’s body shop of decades ago.

    Shorter apartment there for 40 years.

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