Entertainment districts are by their very nature noisy. But the same thing that makes these areas so vibrant can also be their biggest issue for residents.
This has become all too apparent in recent years in downtown Vancouver, where the rapid growth of the residential population has come with a corresponding rise in noise complaints.
Nowhere is this more true particularly from residential developments located within, or on the periphery of, the Granville and Yaletown entertainment districts.
That is why the residential developments within Vancouver’s new purpose-built events and entertainment district at Northeast False Creek will require higher noise mitigation standards to reduce the impact from the local nightlife and events being held in the area.
The City of Vancouver’s draft area plan calls for an events and entertainment district supported by numerous restaurants, bars, and plaza spaces. A new casino resort with major hotels and entertainment venues will open next to BC Place at the end of the year.
There will be up to 15,000 new residents in the area, and they will be served by amenities such as an 11-acre park extension and a new community centre with a public ice rink that doubles as the new practice arena for the Vancouver Canucks.
According to the plan released this week, the noise-mitigating building code for the new events and entertainment district will mandate triple glazed windows, enclosed balconies, air conditioning to cool interior spaces instead of relying on open windows, and increased wall noise insulation.
Innovative building design techniques to reduce noise penetration will also be encouraged.
As well, the policy entails obligating developers to allocate the lower floors of a building for retail and restaurant uses as a way of preventing the creation of undesirably noisy residential units while also enhancing the area’s purpose as an entertainment district. Ground-level residential will be avoided.
There will also be a requirement to provide purchasers and residents with notice that their residence is located in an events and entertainment district, so that they understand that excessive noise is associated with the area as regulated by bylaws.
Permanent on-site event infrastructure such as purpose-built fencing, stage equipment, power connections instead of portable generators, and lighting could also be built into the area to not only reduce noise but also costs for organizers.
Kevin McNaney, the director of the City’s Northeast False Creek Project Office, told Daily Hive that Northeast False Creek was defined as an “Event Zone” in the municipal government’s Noise Control Bylaw.
“Council made this decision about 10 years ago to acknowledge the important special event function of the area given the stadia and all of the festivals,” he said. “The By-Law sets an interior noise requirement of no higher than 55dBC, which is bas, in the centre of residential units for an extended period of time.”
He says the new rental towers being built by Aquilini Development immediately adjacent to Rogers Arena are built with higher standards of acoustic performance, and this has been verified through noise measurements.
Charles Gauthier, the President and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA), commended the Northeast False Creek draft area plan’s building codes for mitigating noise, but he says attitudes and expectations towards downtown living also need to change.
“It’s not suburban living with birds chirping and being quiet at night, I think it just means there has to be some reasonable expectations from people moving and living in the downtown area,” he said.
“You can’t expect to come in or buy a new place that you’re now going to change how businesses operate,” he said, adding that “buyer beware” would be the approach that prospective residents should make when considering living next to an entertainment district. He says many businesses in the Granville Entertainment District, for instance, already do a lot of noise mitigation for the new residences built along Howe and Seymour streets.
In 2015, the municipal government received more than 2,100 noise complaints, with nearly a third of the complaints coming from Yaletown, the West End, Granville Mall, and other areas of downtown. Areas like Davie Village, Gastown, and most of the Central Business District are already referred to in the noise bylaw as “Activity Zones or “Event Zones”.
The DVBIA’s recent Re-Imagine Downtown Vancouver public consultation project on the future of downtown Vancouver found that people didn’t want the city centre to be a boring place.
“They want it to have arts and culture, live venues, performances, and more public plazas, and opportunities for people to get together and enjoy what we have to offer in the downtown areas.”