The latest major social housing proposal for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is located for a site just east of Oppenheimer Park.
A newly submitted development application by Lookout Housing and Health Society calls for the redevelopment of 524-528 Powell Street, currently occupied by two-storey buildings with the Powell Street Getaway Resource Centre and a Vancouver Coastal Health facility.
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The proposal designed by NSDA Architects calls for a new seven-storey building, with a unit mix of 66 micro units, four studio units, four accessible studio units, 21 accessible one-bedroom units, nine two-bedroom units, and 10 three-bedroom units.
The residential units are within floors three to seven, within a U-shaped floor plan that creates a central courtyard amenity space on the rooftop of the second level. There are also outdoor roof decks on the east side of the second level, and on the north side of the seventh level offering optimal mountain views.
No private balconies are included as these spaces “generally become exterior storage areas which become unsightly to the neighbourhood.”
On the ground level, a “community benefit centre” will provide space for programs, classrooms, and services, as well as communal laundry, showers, and a commercial kitchen to produce on-site meals.
This main floor includes large interior areas for eating, gathering, and watching television, and it opens up to an outdoor amenity space facing the laneway — secured by a “high-security wall” covered with Indigenous art and design.
“We envision there will be opportunity for Indigenous community members to create custom designs that can be incorporated into elements such as the entry gate on the ground floor alley social space, door handles for the architecture or above entries into the building to promote a sense of inclusion and a celebration of Indigenous culture,” reads the architect’s design rationale.
The ground level could also potentially include up to three retail units, which will not have any weather-protection canopies along their Powell Street frontage to deter encampments. Instead, full-height windows will be provided for the storefronts to enhance “eyes on the street” to promote public safety.
“A canopy particularly one of such considerable length would be certain to encourage ‘tenting’. This would occur particularly in the evening overnight hours and in inclement weather,” continues the design rationale.
“This would have a negative impact on our residents, office staff, building security, pedestrian traffic, and our neighbours.”
Office space for community services is proposed for the second level.
A single underground level will provide 20 vehicle parking stalls. The building’s total floor area is 80,100 sq ft, giving it a floor space ratio of 4.4 times the size of its 18,300-sq-ft lot.
The non-profit housing society is contributing $8.2 million towards the project’s construction cost. It is seeking funding from levels of government for the remainder.