49-storey condo and rental tower in downtown approved by Vancouver City Council

Oct 16 2021, 4:43 am

An existing 22-storey tower at the southeast corner of the intersection of West Georgia Street and Nicola Street in downtown Vancouver will come down for a project that replaces it with a new 49-storey tower.

In a 7-2 vote, Vancouver City Council approved Wesgroup Properties’ rezoning application for 1450 West Georgia Street in a public hearing earlier this week, with COPE councillor Jean Swanson and TEAM councillor Colleen Hardwick opposed.

Apart from a very minor 3,300 sq ft retail component, the new tower will be primarily residential, with 162 secured purpose-built market rental homes from levels two to 20, and 193 condominium towers in the upper levels.

The rental housing component is a one-for-one replacement of the existing rental homes at the site’s 1956-built Georgian Towers building. This replacement is not required by city policies, but it was made a stipulation by city staff during the rezoning negotiation process for this application.

As well, 100 existing tenants are eligible to receive relocation assistance and compensation, and have first right of refusal to a replacement unit at 20% below market rent. The remaining existing 62 units are either vacant or had tenancies under one year at the time of the application.

Existing condition:

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Existing condition of the Georgian Towers at 1450 West Georgia Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

Future condition:

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Artistic rendering of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

According to the city, Georgian Towers was originally built for apartment uses, but just two years after completion it was converted into a hotel. A rooftop lounge that opened in 1961 quickly became a popular attraction.

In 1976, the tower was converted back to residential uses, and has retained the apartment use since that time.

City staff note that the municipal government’s Vancouver Heritage Commission opposed the building’s demolition in its review of the application, and suggested it should be added as a Class A heritage building in the city’s heritage register.

This redevelopment’s demolition work will be one of the most significant in recent memory, second only to the demolition of the Empire Landmark Hotel in terms of height.

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Model of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver, in relation to existing and other future towers. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Model of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver, in relation to existing and other future towers. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Artistic rendering of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

In explaining her decision against the application, Hardwick said she questioned considering the existing 65-year-old building to be at the end of its lifespan.

“What we’re saying is we want the CAC cash to pay for amenities, and the ends justifies the means,” said Hardwick.

The project will generate $17.5 million in public benefits for the municipal government, including $8.9 million in cash community amenity contributions (CACs), $8 million in development cost levies, and $567,000 in public art.

This will go towards covering the public amenities outlined in the city’s West End Community Plan, which is currently facing a substantial shortfall in covering its costs.

“This is across the board with this business model we’ve assumed… we’re inflating land values in excess of the pace of change, and this is exacerbating the affordability problem. It’s putting fuel onto the fire of affordability by continuing to inflate land values at an exceptional rate,” continued Hardwick.

Swanson commented that the city “does not need more strata” and that other than the tenant replacement units, most of the units will “likely be expensive rental.”

Green Party councillor Adriane Carr suggested that while she appreciates the project’s green design and that there is no net loss of rental homes, she would have liked to have seen a net gain in rentals given that the city is falling well short of its rental housing targets for the West End.

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Location of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver, in relation to existing and other future towers in the area. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Location of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver, in relation to existing and other future towers in the area. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

Designed by Yamamoto Architecture, the tower features a unique and innovative detached balcony system that significantly reduces the typical thermal loss seen in any concrete building. As well, the pattern of balconies allows for low-angle solar gain during the winter months, and provides shade for the undesirable high-angle solar gain during the summer.

As another green design consideration, linear windows between horizontal bands of metal panels allows for a reduced window-to-wall ratio of less than 50%.

The systems of balconies, windows, and metal panels combined also provide the tower with its Douglas Fir-inspired appearance, with the overall shape of the building intended to evoke the branches and roots of a tree.

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Artistic rendering of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver, in relation to existing and other future towers in the area. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Artistic rendering of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver, in relation to existing and other future towers in the area. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Artistic rendering of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

Other sustainable features include rooftop plantings that contribute to rainwater absorption, using rainwater to irrigate plantings, and a bio-retention pond along the building’s Alberni Street frontage to treat captured water quality.

Both rental and strata residents will have access to the large common amenity space on level 21, which is the same height as the original rooftop lounge of the Georgian Towers. The “Welcome to Friendly Vancouver” sign that was a part of the former hotel will be recreated on the amenity level, and a plaque will recognize the site’s past, along with photos and art incorporated into the new tower.

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Artistic rendering of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Queen Elizabeth Park’s View Cone 3 and other future towers, in relation to the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street, Vancouver. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Queen Elizabeth Park’s View Cone 3 and other future towers, in relation to the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street, Vancouver. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

The tower will reach a height of 497 ft, which amounts to an intrusion of 61 ft into View Cone 3 emanating from Queen Elizabeth Park. This intrusion into the height restrictiom ceiling is permitted under the city’s Higher Buildings Policy, provided that the building design offers a high degree of architectural excellence and contributes to the skyline.

It should also be noted that the under-construction The Butterfly tower at 1019 Nelson Street and the approved future towers located adjacently at 1444 Alberni Street will significantly hide the new tower at 1450 West Georgia Street from the Queen Elizabeth Park view cone.

The building’s total floor area will be 286,363 sq ft, creating a floor area ratio density of a floor area that is 14.14 times larger than the size of the 20,253 sq ft lot. Nine underground levels will contain 299 vehicle parking stalls, and 708 bike parking spaces.

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Artistic rendering of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

1450 West Georgia Street Vancouver Georgian Towers

Artistic rendering of the Georgian Towers redevelopment at 1450 West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. (Yamamoto Architecture/Wesgroup Properties)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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