Vancouver city council to consider taller tower heights next to Marine Drive Station

Feb 10 2020, 9:51 am

Additional density through increased height is being sought for a proposed redevelopment immediately west of SkyTrain’s Marine Drive Station with not only new replacement co-op homes but also significant social housing and market rental housing components.

City of Vancouver staff will seek city council’s permission this week on accepting a rezoning application for the Ashley Mar Housing Cooperative at 8495 Cambie Street, located just south of Marine Drive. The redevelopment is a partnership between the co-op and local developer Intracorp.

The application requires special consideration before city staff can start the formal review process, as the proposed heights of the three towers — 14, 24, and 27 storeys, reaching up to 267 ft — do not conform with the city’s Marpole Community Plan, which generally allows the site to have up to 12 storeys on top of a four-storey podium. A “modest” height increase may be considered when social housing is included, but city staff state the proposed heights are “beyond what would be considered a ‘modest’ increase.”

8460 Ash Street 8495 Cambie Street Vancouver

Location of the Ashley-Mar Housing Co-op and rental housing development at 8495 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

However, city staff would like to consider the application’s proposed form as the site is located not only next to the Canada Line station but also the growing cluster of towers — made possible by the Cambie Corridor Plan — in the general area of the intersection of Marine Drive and Cambie Street, with the tallest tower at 35 storeys in Marine Gateway. Recent transit-oriented developments at the intersection’s corners have seen new towers reaching between 14 and 32 storeys.

The site — currently occupied by the co-op’s 1983-built, two-storey, wood-framed structures — is also on the easternmost boundary of the Marpole Community Plan, right next to the Cambie Corridor Plan.

The proposal entails a one-to-one replacement of the 54 existing social housing co-op units, about 70 new additional social housing units, and approximately 450 new secured market rental units.

“Staff recognize that the application represents an opportunity to explore achieving multiple City housing priorities, including the renewal and expansion of social housing in close proximity to transit, shopping, and services,” reads a city staff report.

“In addition, the provision of secured rental housing provides improved affordability compared to strata housing, and would help with meeting City targets in providing additional secured rental housing.”

8460 Ash Street 8495 Cambie Street Vancouver

Location of the Ashley-Mar Housing Co-op and rental housing development at 8495 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

According to city staff, the applicants have maintained that the scope of the project is “not economically viable without additional height increases, and/or significant government funding.”

In a July 2019 interview with Daily Hive, Evan Allegretto, senior vice-president of development at Intracorp, said the co-op selected his company as its partner after determining that a redevelopment would be the best route to renew the homes. The design firm is the Vancouver office of Perkins & Will Architects, which is also behind Marine Gateway.

“[The co-op] reached out to the development community and picked Intracorp because of its prior experience with non-profits,” he said. “We will deliver them a new building in exchange for some land to redevelop two towers, which are the rental buildings. And essentially the rental buildings fund the capital to pay for the co-op redevelopment at no cost to the co-op.”

8460 Ash Street 8495 Cambie Street Vancouver

Location of the Ashley-Mar Housing Co-op and rental housing development at 8495 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

Given the determination to create affordable homes, Allegretto said the mixed-tenure project requires an adequate scale to tap into construction financing sources, particularly from pension funds and financial institutions “looking for guaranteed yields” over a 40- to 60-year timeline.

“The yield over the cost needs to be enough for them to invest, because they can invest anywhere in the world,” he said.

“Municipalities generally need to provide enough density and incentives so that we are competitive on a global context. To make that work on this site, we are asking for a moderate increase in density so that we can get the yield at a high enough rate to attract investment to get the project going.”

As property owners on other sites in the immediate area are also likely to express future interest with seeking greater height than what is currently permitted by the Marpole Plan, city staff are also recommending a limited precedent, if city council decides to allow city staff to evaluate the Ashley Mar application. Future rezoning enquiries expressing a desire for greater height and density than what is permitted will be limited to sites within the Marpole Plan identified for social housing renewal and expansion.