City Council to decide on proposal for Broadway Corridor's second tallest tower

Jul 6 2020, 3:59 pm

Just over a year after the revised rezoning application was submitted, Vancouver City Council is set to consider on Thursday the rental housing tower proposal for the former Denny’s restaurant site at the southeast corner of the intersection of West Broadway and Birch Street.

The restaurant building at 2538 Birch Street (formerly known as 1296 West Broadway) was demolished several years ago in anticipation of the previously approved redevelopment that called for a 159-ft-tall, 16-storey mixed-use building with 153 secured market rental homes under Rental 100, plus about 30,000 sq ft of commercial space within the first two levels.

This initial rezoning application was approved by city council in January 2018.

But in May 2019, Jameson Development Group and design firm IBI Group returned to the municipal government with a revised rezoning application calling for greater density through added height.

This resubmission was made after there was greater certainty over the Millennium Line Broadway Extension project to Arbutus Street, with the property located just one block west of the future subway station at Granville Street.

2538 Birch Street Vancouver

May 2019 artistic rendering for 2538 Birch Street (formerly 1296 West Broadway) in Vancouver. (IBI Group / Jameson Development Group)

2538 Birch Street Vancouver

Moel for 2538 Birch Street (formerly 1296 West Broadway) in Vancouver. (IBI Group / Jameson Development Group)

Although there is currently a temporary moratorium on most types of rezonings during the Broadway Corridor’s planning process, the application is being considered by city council at this time as it was already mid-stream in the review process.

If the revised plan for a 278-ft-tall, 28-storey tower is approved, it would become the second tallest building on the Central Broadway Corridor — just behind the 297-ft-tall Jim Pattison Pavilion of Vancouver General Hospital, and far ahead of The Independent At Main‘s tower height of 210 ft.

2538 Birch Street Vancouver

May 2019 artistic rendering for 2538 Birch Street (formerly 1296 West Broadway) in Vancouver. (IBI Group / Jameson Development Group)

2538 Birch Street Vancouver

May 2019 artistic rendering for 2538 Birch Street (formerly 1296 West Broadway) in Vancouver. (IBI Group / Jameson Development Group)

It would contain 258 secured rental homes, including 200 market units and 58 below-market, moderate-income units under the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program (MIRHPP). The unit mix is 32 studios, 131 one-bedroom units, 76 two-bedroom units, and 19 three-bedroom units. Residents will have access to several amenity spaces, including an outdoor roof terrace on the fourth level and an indoor and outdoor amenity space on the 28th level rooftop.

The lower three floors will be used as commercial space, including 11,300 sq ft of retail and 16,200 sq ft of office.

2538 Birch Street Vancouver

May 2019 artistic rendering for 2538 Birch Street (formerly 1296 West Broadway) in Vancouver. (IBI Group / Jameson Development Group)

Overall, the total floor area on the 18,762 sq ft lot is about 200,000 sq ft, giving the project a floor space ratio (FSR) density of 10.5 times the size of the property. This is up from the previous plan for a 17-storey tower with a total floor area of 133,000 sq ft for a 7.1 FSR.

Under MIRHPP, if approved, the developer will receive $4.78 million in waivers for development cost levies, but they will still be required to provide a public art contribution worth $392,000.

2538 Birch Street Vancouver

May 2019 artistic rendering of 2538 Birch Street (formerly 1296 West Broadway) in Vancouver’s Central Broadway skyline. (IBI Group / Jameson Development Group)

The revised proposal is the subject of some controversy over its height, with critics arguing it is too tall, clashes with the area’s character, and should be considered only after the Broadway Plan is created. However, based on the city’s account as of today, the proposal has received 186 written letters and comments of support from the public, and another 38 are against.

Due to COVID-19’s impact on public engagement, the Broadway Plan’s finalization and consideration by city council has been pushed from late this year to the middle of 2021.

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