Mount Pleasant, like many other neighbourhoods in the city, is on the cusp of a major shift. With downtown Vancouver pretty much built out, the focus for future growth will rest on the shoulders of traditionally small to mid-rise neighbourhoods.
At the forefront of this battle is Rize’s development, “The Independent,” a landmark tower in Mount Pleasant that has (and still is) going through extensive scrutiny from Vancouverites that refuse to look at the bigger picture in an effort to protect their own utopian viewpoints of what the city, the neighbourhood should become.
We sat down with Chris Vollan, VP of development at Rize, to shed some light on this long awaited project.
What is the status of your long awaited The Independent project in Mount Pleasant?
Chris: It is long awaited, and it is 99% there! After seven years of community and City input and the constructive design development stemming from that process, we are very excited (and yes, relieved!) to be finally offering The Independent homes and businesses to Vancouverites this fall. The project, with all the humility I can summon, is awesome, with major credit owed to our design team, but also credit due to many members of the community who provided helpful input through the process.
The Independent received unanimous approval from the Urban Design Panel and Development Permit Board earlier this summer and final approval is now a matter of tidying up legal agreements and minor architectural and landscape details requested by city planning and engineering staff. This is all normal process.
We plan to pay the $6.25 million Community Amenity Contribution (CAC) in September as the last step in the rezoning enactment which is then followed by granting of the Development Permit (and distribution of the $6.25 million to the Mount Pleasant arts groups designated for it). Including other charges, the project will contribute over $12.5 million in benefits to the community.
We have seen some controversy in the media about the project going ahead. What’s at issue here?
CV: There’s a petition from an ad-hoc community group that is directed at the City of Vancouver, and will be dealt with by the city. We have a beautifully designed project that has been scrutinized by everyone and every process and has gone through more approval hoops and delays than was warranted.
It is a better project for it, but it is time to move forward. Our focus at this point are the more than 800 Vancouverites, a large number of whom are from Mount Pleasant and East Vancouver, who have expressed a desire to live in Mount Pleasant, at The Independent. We are homebuilders, and our focus after seven years of process, will be on our future homeowners.
Any misconceptions you would like to clarify?
CV: Sure, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so:
- The rezoning was approved in principle in April 2012 at which time Council gave directions to modify the building largely based on community input they received at the public hearing.
- The Development Permit (DP) submission is essentially identical to the rezoning submission, other than where modified to satisfy the Council/Community directions.
- The FSR (density) is EXACTLY as approved at rezoning (5.55 FSR).
- The maximum height of the tower is EXACTLY as approved at rezoning.
- Four out of the five building blocks were LOWERED in height, Broadway by over 30’ at Council’s direction to reduce shadow impact.
- Each of the building blocks was given its own unique architectural character – again stemming from strong and constructive community input.
- The commercial FSR area is maximized on the first two floors, where it is permitted to be located under the rezoning.
- The Mount Pleasant Food Co-op was not part of the submission for rezoning, however we worked with the group for almost two years until they advised us that they would be unable to continue, in any form. We strongly hope they will regroup at some point.
There seems to be resistance to quite a few development projects in Vancouver. Why do you think there has been some push back around this project?
CV: In our particular case, there was a three-year community effort (which Rize sat on the sidelines for) to develop the Mount Pleasant Community Plan. The plan, amongst many other items, outlined a growth strategy, essentially keeping 90% of Mount Pleasant low and mid-rise and allowing height and density in a few specific locations. The plan called for The Independent site to be an “iconic’ (landmark) focused on four of the major transportation routes in the region, including the next potential skytrain line along Broadway. As most of us know, the centre of Vancouver has shifted and the community plan is trying to accommodate these major changes. The plan was clear in this, and represented a huge amount of community work and commitment.
So, some of the push-back comes from people’s natural concern over change and how it will impact them, some is overtly political, and some is philosophical opposition to the Community Plan and how it was evolved.
We did hear resistance at the public hearing, and some of it continues, but what we hear most about in Vancouver and in Mount Pleasant is “When are you going to build this already???”
Who do you think will be buying at The Independent?
Based on the interest and inquires we have received to date, we have a broad selection of Vancouverites wanting to buy a home here. This is one of the optimal Transit Oriented Development (TOD) locations in Metro Vancouver, located on one of the region’s most important business corridors in what happens to be one of our most walkable, and dynamic neighbourhoods.
So far, the majority of those expressing interest are first time buyers, young professionals who need space to grow into and downsizers wanting space, big views and the ability to stay in Mount Pleasant. Most of these people are currently living in Vancouver west side, east side and downtown.
Can you tell us The Independent’s highlights, and a little about the homes?
The Independent has 258 homes in four different building blocks, ranging from one bedrooms to three bedrooms, view homes, and courtyard townhomes. Almost half of the first release of homes wil be priced under $399,900 and more than 30 homes are more than 1,000 sq ft in size.
The 20,000 Sq ft courtyard is an unusually large amenity, and we’ve designed it literally as a back yard- a place to hang out with your friends and neighbours, fix your bike, walk the dog, watch the kids play.
We have very efficient plans, custom millwork storage, flexible design features, stunning Italian kitchens, the first large scale use of induction cooktops in Vancouver, as well as a place to fix your bike, saw a 2×4, workout and wash your dog. Close to 50% of the first release homes are priced under $399,900 and more than 30 homes in the project are over 1,000 sq.ft. in size.
- What do you hope The Independent will bring to Mount Pleasant?
#1 Homes for people who want to live in Mount Pleasant
#2 Energy to add to an already dynamic neighbourhood
#3 Architecture that will be seen as unique to Mount Pleasant