With the Millennium Line Broadway Extension fully confirmed and moving forward, it was an inevitably that property owners along the Central Broadway Corridor would begin to seek more ambitious redevelopments for sites near the multi-billion dollar transit investment.
The first proposal being put forward to test the appetite for greater density is a redesign of the previously approved project to redevelop the former Denny’s restaurant property at 2538 Birch Street (formerly 1296 West Broadway) — the 18,762-sq-ft site on the southwest corner of the intersection of West Broadway and Birch Street.
This site is approximately one city block east of the Broadway Extension’s future ‘Granville Station’ subway entrance.
Jameson Development Group is seeking a vertical expansion of the project, which received rezoning approval from Vancouver City Council in January of this year. The latest proposal, designed by IBI Group, calls for an increase in height from 159 ft with 17 storeys to 274 ft with 28 storeys.
With the added verticality, it would be the second tallest building on the Central Broadway Corridor — just behind Vancouver General Hospital’s 295-ft-tall Jim Pattison Pavilion and ahead of The Independent At Main‘s tower height of 210 ft.
Height comparison between the approved 17-storey plan and the proposed 28-storey plan
Approved 17-storey rental tower design
Proposed 28-storey rental tower design
The previous 17-storey proposal had 158 market rental homes, including 63 family-sized homes with two or more bedrooms.
In contrast, the new design with 28 storeys would substantially increase the total number of secured rental homes to 262 units. This includes 209 market rental homes, plus the introduction of an additional 53 homes under the City’s Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program (MIRHPP), which sets rents at significantly reduced levels.
The MIRHPP policy requires at least 20% of the rental housing floor area be set aside for moderate income households, defined as those earning between $30,000 and $80,000 per year.
The unit mix for the latest proposal entails 60 studio units, 110 one-bedroom units, 71 two-bedroom units, and 21 three-bedroom units.
Residents will have access to outdoor and indoor amenity spaces, including an urban agricultural space on the fourth floor rooftop, and additional outdoor and indoor amenity spaces on the tower’s rooftop, with a children’s playground, BBQ area, kitchen, and lounge.
A significant retail and restaurant space component within the lower floors is mostly retained, with 27,600 sq. ft. of commercial space planned for the first three levels — a slight decrease of about 3,000 sq. ft. from the previous plan. First Nations public art is also envisioned for the corner elevation of the building at the intersection of West Broadway and Birch Street.
Due to recent rental housing policy changes, the proposal will meet its parking requirements with just 183 vehicle parking spaces within the underground levels.
Overall, the tower will have a total floor area of about 200,000 sq. ft., giving it a floor space ratio density of 10.7 times the size of its lot.
As for the building’s architectural design, apart from the added height, it does not deviate significantly from the 17-storey version.
“As the tower gets taller, it steps back on the east and west sides, creating roof gardens and terraces as well as a tapering massing from. The form will minimize shadows cast from the tallest portion of the building,” reads the architect’s massing rationale.
“Transitional podium height at the easterly corner has been provided to create an improved podium height transition.”
Given the site’s close proximity to a future subway station, north-south bus routes on Granville Street and Oak Street, downtown Vancouver, and its mere presence within the second largest employment area in the region, there is no doubt that this site is highly appropriate for additional height and density.
And with the building’s sole usage as rental, with much of the proposed new density dedicated to the creation of below-market rental homes, this project’s approval should be a no-brainer, assuming it can overcome the opposition that is expected from residents living in the rental-dominated neighbourhood.
The municipal government also recently launched a process for creating a Broadway Corridor Plan (BCP) — a master plan for new density, housing options, employment spaces, and public spaces and amenities, similar to process that led to the creation of the Cambie Corridor Plan.
At this time, the redesigned tower proposal is in its pre-application stage; a formal rezoning application is anticipated shortly. It is unaffected by the City’s three-year moratorium on new market ownership housing developments within the BCP study area.