City Council to decide on Coal Harbour elementary school with social housing (RENDERINGS)

Jun 16 2021, 4:49 pm

There appears to be mounting local resident opposition to a proposal by the City of Vancouver and Vancouver School Board to build an elementary school and social housing complex immediately next to Coal Harbour Community Centre, right on the downtown waterfront.

At the same time, the elementary school and social housing uses for the surface parking lot site at 850 Broughton Street were first envisioned in the municipal government’s 1998-approved phase two master plan for Coal Harbour, when the area was in the process of transitioning from a rail yard to a residential neighbourhood.

In recent years, however, this Coal Harbour elementary school site has become a critical part of BC Hydro’s plan to upgrade the downtown peninsula’s electrical infrastructure.

The school board reached an agreement with BC Hydro in 2018, allowing the electric utility to demolish Lord Roberts Annex elementary school in the West End to build a new underground substation at Nelson Park.

480 broughton street vancouver coal harbour elementary school social housing

Site of the Coal Harbour elementary school, childcare, and social housing complex. (Henriquez Partners Architects/Vancouver School Board/City of Vancouver)

480 Broughton Street, Vancouver Coal Harbour Community Centre

Site of 480 Broughton Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

In order for construction to begin on the substation, the school at Coal Harbour would have to be built first to serve as a temporary replacement school for Lord Roberts Annex students.

BC Hydro is funding the construction costs of both the new Coal Harbour school, which will become much-needed expansion capacity for the city centre, and the new replacement Lord Roberts Annex at the rebuilt park over the substation.

The aim is to begin construction on the new Coal Harbour school in November 2021 for a June 2024 opening, at which point construction on the substation at Nelson Park will begin. The substation is needed to replace the existing aging Dal Grauer Substation on Burrard Street near Nelson Street, and provide downtown with increased electrical capacity over the long term given the pace and scope of new developments.

480 broughton street vancouver coal harbour elementary school social housing

2021 artistic rendering of the Coal Harbour elementary school, childcare, and social housing complex at 480 Broughton Street, Vancouver. (Henriquez Partners Architects/Vancouver School Board/City of Vancouver)

Given the tight timeline for construction, this project is on an expedited review process that combined both the rezoning and development permit application. The development permit component, typically a secondary process after the rezoning, was approved by city staff during the development permit board meeting on March 22, 2021.

City council was scheduled to deliberate the rezoning application component during Tuesday’s public hearing, but they were unable to get to this agenda item by the end of the meeting. The proposal is now scheduled for the public hearing on June 29, 2021.

As of the time of writing on Tuesday evening, city council has received 197 notes from the public in opposition to the project, including a petition with 138 signatures. There are just two notes in support.

480 broughton street vancouver coal harbour elementary school social housing

2021 artistic rendering of the Coal Harbour elementary school, childcare, and social housing complex at 480 Broughton Street, Vancouver. (Henriquez Partners Architects/Vancouver School Board/City of Vancouver)

480 broughton street vancouver coal harbour elementary school social housing

2021 artistic rendering of the Coal Harbour elementary school, childcare, and social housing complex at 480 Broughton Street, Vancouver. (Henriquez Partners Architects/Vancouver School Board/City of Vancouver)

Those opposed cited concerns relating to safety concerns from increased traffic for student and childcare pick-up and drop-off — given that the northern foot of Broughton Street is a cul-de-sac next to the seawall — as well as potential limits to the use of Coal Harbour Park on the rooftop of the community centre for school purposes, and visual impacts from the building form and height.

Some stated they did not want social housing for people with drug addictions, but they would be supportive of social housing for only families and seniors.

480 broughton street vancouver coal harbour elementary school social housing

2021 artistic rendering of the Coal Harbour elementary school, childcare, and social housing complex at 480 Broughton Street, Vancouver. (Henriquez Partners Architects/Vancouver School Board/City of Vancouver)

480 broughton street vancouver coal harbour elementary school social housing

2021 artistic rendering of the Coal Harbour elementary school, childcare, and social housing complex at 480 Broughton Street, Vancouver. (Henriquez Partners Architects/Vancouver School Board/City of Vancouver)

Others suggested the consultation and review process is merely a formality.

“This public hearing is a sham, just a show to ostensibly hear our views and vehement objections, but the City’s public servants have been and will be bulldozing us regardless and proceed with the project as planned (the decision has been long pre-made),” wrote local resident Benny Lee.

“We are just going through the process, the City is giving people the false sense of impression that the City is fair and democratic to the Coal Harbour residents who will be the most adversely affected people.”

480 broughton street vancouver coal harbour elementary school social housing

2021 layout of the Coal Harbour elementary school, childcare, and social housing complex. (Henriquez Partners Architects/Vancouver School Board/City of Vancouver)

480 broughton street vancouver coal harbour elementary school social housing

2021 layout of the Coal Harbour elementary school, childcare, and social housing complex. (Henriquez Partners Architects/Vancouver School Board/City of Vancouver)

Designed by Henriquez Partners Architects, the complex will reach 127 ft in height with 11 storeys.

The first three floors contain a 43,000 sq ft school with a capacity for up to 340 elementary students. The school’s main entrance opens up to Broughton Street and the seawall, and a secondary entrance on the second level connects directly to the community centre’s rooftop public park, which will serve as the school’s play area while remaining accessible to the public.

A 9,600 sq ft childcare facility with a capacity for up to 65 kids is on the fourth floor, which includes exclusive outdoor play space on the school’s podium rooftop.

The remaining upper floors above the childcare level will contain 60 units of social housing — 50% more units than initially proposed, requiring a slight building height increase. At least 30% of the units will be dedicated for households with incomes under housing income limits.

The unit mix is six studios, 17 one-bedroom units, 23 two-bedroom units, and 11 three-bedroom units. It is estimated these homes will be able to accommodate 159 residents.

Residents will have access to an expansive common amenity level on the rooftop with both indoor and outdoor space, including panoramic views of Stanley Park, the harbour, and mountains.

480 broughton street vancouver coal harbour elementary school social housing

2021 layout of the ground level of the Coal Harbour elementary school. (Henriquez Partners Architects/Vancouver School Board/City of Vancouver)

480 broughton street vancouver coal harbour elementary school social housing

2021 layout of the rooftop amenity level for social housing residents of the Coal Harbour elementary school, childcare, and social housing complex. (Henriquez Partners Architects/Vancouver School Board/City of Vancouver)

The project is expected to carry a total construction cost of $81 million — a high figure, which city staff previously explained was due to “aggressive energy efficiency standards” and the addition of a childcare facility. This will be a Passive House and LEED Gold certified green building.

The school component will cost $31.66 million (funded by BC Hydro), the childcare facility will cost $12.65 million, and the social housing will cost $36.5 million.

The architects have described their building design as a ship-like form, a slender building parallel to Broughton Street to maintain views to the water from neighbouring buildings and to provide visibility to the seawall and marina. The building’s public realm design is intended help improve the frontage for the seawall.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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