A new redevelopment proposed for Vancouver’s Chinatown district strives to provide a contemporary take on the area’s historic architectural style.
The proposed site is located at 239 Keefer Street, a narrow 6,100 sq. ft. lot that is currently occupied by two small businesses within single-storey structures.
A development application submitted by Mallen Gowing Berzins Architecture envisions Keefer Gardens – an eight-storey building with 2,800 sq. ft. of ground-floor retail, 12,000 sq. ft. of office space in the first three floors, and 25 market residential units in the top floors.
The residential unit mix consists of 19 one-bedroom units and six two-bedroom units.
As the lot is extremely tight, access to the underground parkade from the laneway will be by vehicle elevator, which makes it the third underground parkade in the city that is accessed by mechanical lift.
The project was reviewed by the City of Vancouver’s Urban Design Panel last year, and major changes to the exterior facade have since been made following the panel’s feedback.
According to the new design rationale, the latest iteration is a “contemporary new development that is responsive to the community’s established cultural and historic identity.”
While the original proposal carried a faux heritage look, the new design strives to be a “respectful co-existence instead of an imitation of literal adaptation.” Its elements are “inspired by the richness of details commonly found on Chinatown heritage buildings.”
For instance, the recessed balconies have ornamental and shading screens that create a “rhythm” to the facade, and altogether it provides the building with a lantern-like concept.
“These elements combine to promote our concept of lantern imagery at night, allowing an interior glowing light to softly radiate out while also serving as a movable privacy for tenants,” continues the rationale.
“Reaching into the experience of built space both intellectual and aesthetic in character, our design hopes to bring forward how an architectural idea of a screen or exterior skin could translate into a facade to bring about feeling… This screen repetition embodies new urban patterns on the main facade, adding a rich fabric and character to Chinatown and its historical roots based in 19th century Victorian Architecture.”
As for the building’s communal spaces, such amenities are planned on multiple levels. An amenity terrace on the second floor, facing the laneway, provides outdoor space for office workers.
Further up on the fourth floor, a walled communal bamboo garden accessed by a modern fritted glass “moon door” creates a space for quiet contemplation.
And on the rooftop of the seventh floor, there will be a large garden and terrace with a configuration that references the historic design approach to Sun Yat Sen Garden.
Overall, the proposed building has a total floor area of 40,700 sq. ft., which gives it a floor space ratio (FSR) of 5.35 times the size of its lot.
Previous 2017 design using faux heritage elements: