Rental housing proposed for unused parcel of Vancouver's Arbutus Corridor

Apr 23 2020, 4:36 pm

An undeveloped parcel on the northernmost span of the Arbutus Corridor in South False Creek, just west of Granville Island, could potentially become a mixed-use development site.

The City of Vancouver plans to create a new development area at the 35,230 sq ft site at 1595 West 2nd Avenue — the northeast corner of the intersection of West 2nd Avenue and Fir Street. The triangular-shaped lot is currently used as ground-level parking.

In 2016, the nine-km-long Arbutus Corridor was acquired by the municipal government from CP Rail for $55 million for the purpose of turning it into a greenway and transportation corridor.

1595 West 2nd Avenue Vancouver

Site of 1595 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

1595 West 2nd Avenue Vancouver

Site of 1595 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

Before the finalization of the purchase agreement, the parcels of the former railway corridor south of West 1st Avenue and north of 5th Avenue on the east side of Fir Street were deemed unsuitable for the greenway due to engineering and safety reasons.

These lands were then termed as the Option Lands under the agreement, which grants CP Rail the option to repurchase these parcels from the city for the nominal cost of $1 if they are used purposed for uses other than the greenway and transportation.

Arbutus Corridor CPR

Unused lands of the Arbutus Corridor that can be reacquired by the Canadian Pacific Railway. (City of Vancouver)

According to a City staff report, the amendments to the False Creek Area Development Plan would allow this parcel to be developed into a six-storey building with retail space on the ground level and rental homes in the upper levels. At least 20% of the rental housing floor area will be dedicated to below-market rents for households with incomes below $80,000 annually.

The building’s upper levels will be terraced and stepped back. There will also be building setbacks on the street frontages, allowing for a wider sidewalk to improve pedestrian access and allow for patios.

If City council approves the recommendations next week, City staff will be directed to make a formal application to amend the area development plan, which would go through a public hearing process for final approval.

CP Rail will be in a position to repurchase the Option Lands from the municipal government if city council approves the amendment to the area development plan.

1595 West 2nd Avenue Vancouver

Preliminary conceptual artistic rendering of the rental housing building at 1595 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

Developing this site with a building does not impede on the future potential streetcar line on the Arbutus Greenway and South False Creek railway right-of-way. The city states the streetcar will run on the street in this area — travelling along West 2nd Avenue to First Street, where it branches south and north.

The south branch follows the Arbutus Greenway and continues to Southwest Marine Drive near the Fraser River, while the north branch could potentially serve Concord Pacific’s Molson Coors brewery redevelopment, Squamish First Nation’s Senakw development, and Vanier Park.

To allow for the streetcar branch at the intersection, the corner of the development site will be cut, and Fir Street north of West 2nd Avenue will need to be widened from its existing non-standard width of 13 metres to a minimum of 20 metres through a statutory right-of-way.

1595 West 2nd Avenue Vancouver

Layout of the mixed-use building, public realm, and streetcar route in and around 1595 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

1595 West 2nd Avenue Vancouver streetcar

Future Vancouver streetcar network map and the location of 1595 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

Over the years, the municipal government has been securing right-of-way opportunities for future streetcar implementation along both the Arbutus and South False Creek corridors. There is no timeline for the project, and it is dependent on securing significant funding.

Meanwhile on the Arbutus Greenway, the first phase of permanent detailed greenway design is slated for the spans from West 16th Avenue to King Edward Avenue, and Southwest Marine Drive to Milton Street.

The next few years will also see a temporary disruption to the Arbutus Greenway’s continuous route in the area in and around West Broadway due to construction for the SkyTrain extension of the Millennium Line. There will be a temporary on-street detour during construction.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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