Pavco’s controversial mixed-use tower at 777 Pacific Boulevard, the southeast corner of its BC Place Stadium property next to a future intersection with West Georgia, received its rezoning approval from Vancouver City Council late this afternoon, but it comes with strict stipulations.
This project is one of three taller towers permitted for the intersection, which is part of the Northeast False Creek Plan approved by City Council in February. These taller towers are intended to create a ‘landmark’ gateway for West Georgia Street’s new ceremonial landing at the edge of False Creek.
The provincial crown corporation’s slender, mixed-use project calls for a maximum floor area of 400,000 sq. ft. and a building height of 400 ft, including the added height permitted under the General Policy for Higher Buildings that intrudes into the view cones going over the site.
Under previous zoning, the maximum height for the site allows 300 ft, but it would entail a wider design to accommodate a similar floor area.
Residential spaces will be located within the tower floors, while the lower podium levels will contain commercial spaces.
Voting along party lines, with Vision Vancouver majority in favour and Non-Partisan Association (NPA) councillors opposed, City Council approved the project under the framework of an amendment that requires Pavco to design an architecturally unique building with market rental homes, if it is to pursue a height of 400 ft. This requirement does not exist for the shorter, wider 300-ft-tall option.
“I do think it is important to make the developer meet a higher test, and in this instance, there needs to be societal good,” said Vision Councillor Raymond Louie, who proposed the amendment and estimated it could produce about 400 rental units.
“It is a fair compromise given that it is a minimal incursion into the views,” he added.
A representative with Pavco said the crown corporation needs to do more analysis to determine what the building will look like and whether 100% rental units is financially viable. She said Pavco appreciates that the 300-ft-tall option still exists.
The final design for the project will be made public in the project’s upcoming development permit stage.
But some councillors asserted that there should not be any intrusion into the view cones, even if it provides rental housing supply.
“The City of Vancouver and its place, nestled in the mountains, often referred to as a jewel, is very important,” said the NPA’s George Affleck. “And the view corridors were meant to temper the design that we have, to create some openness and how our city looks amongst the mountains. We are tampering the beauty of our city for the long-term.”
The Green Party’s Adriane Carr had similar comments over the impact to the views of the mountains, and she also added that the $514-million, taxpayer-funded renovation to BC Place Stadium should not be counted towards the community amenity contributions of the tower.
“I don’t believe anyone would believe that is the trade off we’d be making,” said Carr. “We’d expect that a building of this size and scope, we’d be getting community amenity contributions.”
In 2008, City Council made an agreement with Pavco to allow for the development of the site in exchange for the stadium renovations, even though the crown corporation was not obligated to request permission from the municipal government as the developments are on provincial government property.
The development of this site with a residential tower and another site on the western end of the stadium with Parq Vancouver casino resort were intended to help fund the cost of the stadium renovations.
The Pavco representative noted that “the public benefit [of the tower] has been paid on the stadium,” and any inclusion of rental housing would also be considered as an extra public benefit. Additionally, City staff say they consider Pavco’s allowance of a statutory right-of-way through its lands for the new West Georgia Street ramp to connect the street with Pacific Boulevard as a public benefit of the project.
Vision’s Andrea Reimer added: “The amenity was given 10 years ago [through the stadium renovation]. The reality is whether we were here or not, whether we voted for it or not, we in good faith must discharge the commitments by the City made at the time.”
On the matter of the view cone intrusion, City planning staff say the recommended view cone intrusion with the 400-ft-tall height is far less than the intrusion made by the Shangri-La Hotel, Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver, One Wall Centre, and a number of other towers.
They also prefer a taller, slender tower over a shorter, wider tower as it protects the highly limited views of the iconic BC Place Stadium roof from False Creek.
“I appreciate the view cones from time to time, and I appreciate the advocacy over the years. This Council has certainly protected view cones and added view cones to parts of the city that were previously unprotected,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson, who also commented that trees and even traffic lights have a greater impact on the view cones from certain perspectives.
“I think in this situation, we’re faced with a choice of a microscopic incursion into the view corridors for a future public benefit of rental housing and settling an obligation on BC Place for the investment there.”
City Council has yet to review the rezoning application for Concord Pacific’s portion of the Northeast False Creek redevelopment, which includes the remaining two taller towers of the intersection.