Vancouver City Council approves 649 rental homes at SkyTrain Marine Drive Station

Dec 2 2021, 1:32 am

A very substantial transit-oriented rental housing redevelopment has been green-lighted by Vancouver City Council for a site immediately west of SkyTrain’s Marine Drive Station and bus loop.

With little controversy and debate, in a recent public meeting, city council unanimously approved the rezoning application to redevelop the existing Ashley Mar Housing Co-operative at 8460 Ash Street and 8495 Cambie Street. Mayor Kennedy Stewart, Green Party councillor Pete Fry, and TEAM councillor Colleen Hardwick were notably absent from the decision.

The project has been years in the making, after the co-op pursued a partnership with private developers for a redevelopment that both renews and expands their housing complex. A need to replace the ageing 1983-built co-op structures was identified.

In 2015, Intracorp Homes was selected by the co-op as the development partner, and Perkins & Will was subsequently engaged as the architectural design firm.

8460 Ash Street 8495 Cambie Street Ashley Mar Co-op

Site of the Ashley Mar Co-op at 8460 Ash Street and 8495 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Perkins & Will/Intracorp Homes)

On the left: Site of the Ashley-Mar Housing Co-op development at 8495 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

The approved redevelopment of the 1.5-acre co-op lot calls for three towers — 16 storeys, 27 storeys, and 31 storeys, reaching an ultimate height of 338 ft, as well as podiums of up to six storeys.

The shortest of the three towers will be owned and operated by the co-op, containing one-for-one replacement units of the existing 54 two-storey, woodframed co-op units, along with an additional 71 units. Altogether, there will be 125 homes under the co-op, and with their affordable rates they will be classified as social housing.

The 27-storey and 31-storey towers will contain a total of 524 secured market rental homes, owned and operated by the private developer. A minor retail unit will be incorporated into the ground level of the tallest tower, which fronts Cambie Street and the transit hub.

Significant common resident amenities are planned, including on top of the podiums and tower rooftops of all three buildings.

Ashley Mar Housing Co-operative at 8460 Ash Street 8495 Cambie Street Vancouver

January 2021 artistic rendering of the Ashley Mar Co-op at 8460 Ash Street and 8495 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Perkins & Will/Intracorp Homes)

“I’m happy to support this project… it’s unlocking this site, but I think it’s being unlocked with a specific purpose and a goal which is to deliver the housing that we desperately need,” said independent councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung during the meeting, emphasizing that it allows existing co-op residents to return and doubles the number of co-op units.

“It does take innovative approaches [to achieve below-market rental housing] because we haven’t seen the senior level of government investment funding, and so that requires a bit of innovation here. It’s not an easy project to take on, but there’s a lot of heart that we heard from both the developer and the co-op. To hear that from both sides and the alignment is also unusual.”

Both Kirby-Yung and independent councillor Lisa Dominato also highlighted 60% of the homes will be sized for larger families — units with a minimum of two bedrooms — and suitable for the needs of the growing senior population.

In February 2020, city council first directed city staff to consider taller building heights around Marine Drive Station to optimize the area’s transit-oriented location for affordable housing and job space opportunities, as well as its close proximity to a dense cluster of retail, dining, and services at PCI Developments’ Marine Gateway complex. This area planning process was triggered by an enquiry from Intracorp Homes’ proposal for the co-op redevelopment.

Shortly after, in March 2020, the proponents submitted a formal rezoning application calling for 14-storey, 24-storey, and 27-storey towers up to 267 ft with a combined total of 582 homes, including 125 co-op social housing units and 457 secured market rental homes.

The proponents returned to the city in January 2021 with a revised rezoning application that increased the building heights to provide more market rental homes. This revised iteration of the project was approved by city council.

The total floor area is 521,611 sq ft, creating a floor area ratio density of a floor area that is 8.26 times larger than the size of the 1.5-acre lot. Three underground levels will only provide 195 vehicle parking spaces, plus 1,300 secure bike parking spaces.

“We also need to acknowledge that with public transit there, this makes a lot of sense to be adding this density at this very location, giving people to be an opportunity to be in the city of Vancouver,” said Dominato.

8460 Ash Street 8495 Cambie Street Ashley Mar Co-op

January 2021 artistic rendering of the Ashley Mar Co-op at 8460 Ash Street and 8495 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Perkins & Will/Intracorp Homes)

8460 Ash Street 8495 Cambie Street Ashley Mar Co-op

January 2021 artistic rendering of the Ashley Mar Co-op at 8460 Ash Street and 8495 Cambie Street, Vancouver. (Perkins & Will/Intracorp Homes)

8460 Ash Street 8495 Cambie Street Ashley Mar Co-op

Revised January 2021 proposal for the Ashley Mar Co-op redevelopment: yellow (market rental homes), orange (co-op housing), and pink (retail/restaurant). (Perkins & Will/Intracorp Homes)

NPA councillor Melissa De Genova commented that she hopes this redevelopment will encourage other developers and non-profit housing entities to pursue similar affordable housing projects elsewhere in the city.

Following city council’s approval, Intracorp Homes announced it had reached an agreement with Toronto-based Oxford Properties to initiate a joint venture on the new Ashley Mar complex.

Oxford Properties, owned by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, is known more for its investments in commercial and industrial real estate. But in recent years, institutional investors have shown a growing interest in making major investments in market rental housing in Metro Vancouver. Overall, Oxford has also been diversifying its global portfolio to include more residential properties, with 10,000 apartments across North America now under its ownership and management and a development pipeline of about 15,000 new units worldwide.

“We’re very pleased to partner with Intracorp, and make our first residential investment in Vancouver through a project that promises significant economic and social benefit for the local community,” said Tyler Seaman, head of hotels and multi-residential in North America for Oxford Properties.

“As Oxford continues to scale our residential business across North America, we have high conviction in the Vancouver market, driven by its sustained favourable demographic trends and expansion of global tech firms.”

In exchange for the rezoning approval, the joint venture will provide the city with $4.1 million in development cost levies, and $804,000 in public art. As the project is 100% rental housing, community amenity contributions (CACs) are not required.

Construction is now expected to begin in Spring 2022, with the first occupancy anticipated by late 2024.

“We’re excited to bring the largest co-op rental development ever to Marine and Cambie and provide much needed rental housing opportunities to this transit-oriented neighbourhood,” said Evan Allegretto, president of Intracorp Homes’ BC division.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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