Colourful mass timber social housing to replace Imperial Theatre on Main Street

Nov 16 2021, 1:19 am

The southwest corner of the intersection of Main Street and Cordova Street in the Downtown Eastside is set to see a drastic mixed-use transformation.

Happy Harvest has submitted a development permit application to the City of Vancouver to redevelop 305 Main Street. This would replace several buildings, some more than a century old, as well as the historic Imperial Theatre, which would be replaced by a new smaller on-site venue. The name of the project is simply “MAC,” as a nod to the names of the property’s two cross streets.

The site is immediately across the street from the former Vancouver Police headquarters building, now the Centre for Social and Economic Innovation.

Site of 305 Main Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where the Imperial Theatre is located. (Google Maps)

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Existing condition of 305 Main Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where the Imperial Theatre is located. (Google Maps)

Designed by MA+HG Architects, the proposal calls for a 128-foot-tall, 11-storey mass timber building, with the first two floors for non-residential uses built out of concrete, providing a foundation for the wood-primary residential levels above.

Similar to other mass timber buildings, the hybrid design also uses concrete for its staircase and elevator cores, and steel support for the cross-laminated timber (CLT) construction. Earlier this year, the provincial government provided Happy Harvest with a $475,000 grant to advance its designs for MAC under BC’s Mass Timber Demonstration Program.

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Hybrid mass timber design of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Layout of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

Using mass timber, the residential units are uniquely configured as modules. There would be a total of 117 homes, including 47 secured market rental homes and 70 social housing units.

Between both housing tenures, there would be a combined total unit mix of 63 micro units, nine one-bedroom units, 36 two-bedroom units, and eight three-bedroom units.

The project will set aside 20 of the social housing’s micro units to replace the existing 20 single-room occupancy units in an existing building on the site. As well, 23 other social housing micro units will be rented at shelter rates.

For resident amenity spaces, the building’s L-shape provides an internal amenity landscaped courtyard facing the laneway on the rooftop of the second level. There would also be an expansive indoor and outdoor amenity space on the L-shaped rooftop.

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Artistic rendering of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Artistic rendering of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Artistic rendering of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

Below the residential uses, two storeys fronting Cordova Street would be dedicated to a 13,500 sq ft learning space, while two levels fronting Main Street would see commercial retail and restaurant uses.

Within the second level at the building’s corner with the intersection, a 2,600 sq ft space would be dedicated as “a significant, music-capable cultural space,” named New Harvest. This is a public amenity replacement of the Imperial Theatre, and the name honours the venue’s original name of Golden Harvest.

The existing theatre was first built in 1974 during Chinatown’s heyday by Hong Kong-based film production company Golden Harvest. The 750-seat theatre screened Hong Kong cinema until its closure in 1981. The building remained unused until 2007, when it reopened after undergoing a $2.5 million renovation into District 319 and then as the Imperial Theatre, with most of its seats removed and replaced for functional event space.

To acknowledge the theatre’s former location, a large “Golden Harvest” sign in Chinese characters will be installed on the Cordova Street facade.

Sliding floor-to-ceiling glass windows for the new cultural venue at the building’s corner potentially allow music to spill out into street events below. This space could even act as a performance stage for the on-street viewing space below.

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Existing condition of 305 Main Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where the Imperial Theatre is located. (Google Maps)

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Artistic rendering of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Artistic rendering of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Artistic rendering of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

The building’s architecture is inspired by the historic grove of maple trees that once existed in the area, with the colourful panels referencing the soft lines of a tree canopy and a random window pattern that brings out the “organic” growth of a forest.

Furthermore, mass timber materials could be exposed in the ceilings of all homes to showcase “the maple grove concept through its intrinsic warm and beauty of the exposed CLT structure.”

Along Main Street’s retail frontage, existing 25-f00t-wide lot lines have been incorporated into the storefront design.

The proposed total floor area is 111,000 sq ft, for a floor area ratio density of a floor area that is seven times larger than the size of the lot.

A single underground level would contain six vehicle parking stalls and 213 bike parking spaces.

On the mid-block property immediately to the south at 327 Main Street, the Vancouver Native Housing Society is proposing to build an eight-storey mass timber social housing building containing 78 studios for Indigenous people.

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Artistic rendering of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Artistic rendering of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Artistic rendering of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

305 Main Street Vancouver MAC Happy Harvest Imperial Theatre

Artistic rendering of MAC at 305 Main Street, Vancouver. (MA+HG Architects/Happy Harvest)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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