Marine Gateway open house draws a crowd

Post by Mike Klassen in


marine-gateway.jpgLike most of us interested in the way Vancouver develops I've been watching with interest the discussion happening around the proposed Marine Gateway project. The first time I really began to sit up and take notice was when I saw the image on the left posted on Gord Price's blog. Subsequently I began to follow Frances Bula's excellent reports on the project, and the many blog comments on both Price and Bula's blogs.

I admit the rendering of a "stacked" set of floors tilting to the north was to me a turn off. The fact that the very talented people at Busby, Perkins + Will designed it surprised me. It looks like starchitecture to me, like the boot of the 1970s Telus building on Boundary Road but with a lot less surrounding greenery.

It's possible that many people had the same reaction to the rendering above, because as hard as I've tried to locate this image on the development's website, or anywhere else, I've come up empty. This image was also nowhere to be seen at the open house I attended on Tuesday evening.

Introducing large developments such as Marine Gateway involve a significant mobilization of resources to help convince the public the project is the right one. So it was not completely surprising to me that James Hoggan and Associates are involved in communicating the aspirations of the project on behalf of the City.

Blogs have been the places where many comments on the project have started. I was surprised by some of the reaction on both Frances' and Gord's posts – it seemed a little too boosterish and in some cases conspicuously well-researched. One commenter on Pricetags also noticed this and said:

"Tessa and Voody – I could be wrong – but you both sound like you have inside information and speak as though you are handling PR issues for this project."

On Tuesday night I attended the Marine Gateway open house – their third apparently – in a small, poorly marked building with very little parking down on Cambie south of Marine. A tiny sign no bigger than a letter-sized sheet was set next to the door, which was about 100 feet back from the street. You'd be forgiven for getting completely lost without an address.

I was struck by how many people were in the room when I arrived, and the continuous flow of people coming and going. The make-up of the crowd I knew was pretty representative of the immediate community. The ethnic makeup was very diverse with both strong Chinese and south Asian community presence, young, old, affluent, and low-income folks. One of the presenters spoke Cantonese and held court with some of the older Chinese men and women.

Given that it finding this space was like an Easter egg hunt, it was an impressive attendance. While I didn't speak to many people, I perceived some anxiousness about the design and scale of the project from conversations I overheard. Some nearby neighbours raised fears about the loss of low density rental properties on the north side of Marine. The fact that models showed all those properties with high rises on them as part of a 20-year projected view of the site, probably didn't put their minds at ease.

Frances Bula has been providing ongoing coverage on this story – read her account of the Urban Design Panel meeting where the design didn't pass by only one vote. She's right to suggest that whatever the outcome of the decision by council on this new development is, it will have a significant impact upon future transit-oriented planning. The Vancouver Sun also has a good report on the project featuring quotes from the Director of Planning.

As for the building itself, I wondered why it was so cramped around the Canada Line station along Cambie Street. The reason was explained to me was that they want to keep the residential as far back from the Kent Street waste transfer station. In fact, the "leaning" building has the symbolic effect of trying to pull away from the possible odors and unsightliness of that site. That might not be why they designed the building that way, but it's the impression it gives.

The project has its supporters, but there are concerns about the impact it's already having on land prices for industrial property. It feels as if Vancouver is trying in vain to retain some of its land for jobs. Higher density is coming to neighbourhoods nearby rapid transit stations – there's no stopping it. But whether Busby's design is a good starting point for such a significant rezoning is still an open debate. A revised design is forthcoming from the architect soon.

- post by Mike


Wow, glad I read this because I hadn't seen that comment naming me as possibly having inside information. My first comment on the response was actually full of concern of what this project will do to prices of industrial land. Oh well. Maybe I should get into PR. ;)

I like the design, is the thing. I like that it's not a slender, slim, glass covered tower - we already have too many of those. I don't want my hometown to look like it was built using a cookie-cutter. While I have concenrs about its location on residential land, it looks like there's not much we can do to stop some sort of commercial/residential on that site, so why not make it bold and exciting? And why not take advantage of the transit there?

I'm sorry, that should read "I have concerns about its location on industrial land..." not residential.

The usual suspects must be worn out from commenting on this project on other sites. There are a few central issues in this matter which should be emphasized:

1] the sheer scale of this proposal is alien & offensive, especially in this community;

2] it would set a precedent which would allow other massively over scaled projects along the Canada Line;

3] this density means there will be +/-4,000 to 5,000 people housed in this complex alone, extending this to other sites could mean an additional +/-20,000 people @ this transit station alone. This increase together with aggressive densification [also mostly industrial land] in Richmond, the airport & up & down the rest of the Cambie corridor will overwhelm the ridership capability of the Canada LIne. This will turn an asset into a clogged liability putting more cars onto already congested streets, especially @ this intersection.

4] a very important question is: who owns this site? It's now being used as a Translink bus terminal & given they built the station on that property, they must own it. If so, there may well be a conflict of interest here.

5] the City also has a similar conflict via the LIFT programme.

I love this proposal, and it does make quite a bit of sense considering its location and the size of the site, though this should be the only exception - the industrial precinct next to it should remain industrial. The residential neighbourhoods north of Marine Drive Station could see densification as well.

It's quite appropriate, but I do have concerns about the Canada Line's ability to handle this unplanned growth. It was a shame that the project was underbuilt, that it was built for the short-term only, that its design was based on the much-flawed GVRD Livable Region Strategic Plan, and that the line was designed without any "surplus capacity" for corridor growth like what we're seeing today. The Canada Line is already at 1/3rd of its capacity.

All transit station precincts should see densification. After 25-years, it's a huge shame that station precincts at Broadway/Commercial, Nanamimo, and 29th Avenue have little density...especially Broadway/Commercial.

I am a resident that lives about two blocks from this proposal. I am one of the few people who literally just never bothered to get my driver's licence and have never had any desire to drive - which means I am an avid user of the SkyTrain and transit in general. Having lived dowtown for almost a decade, I am used to the idea of living in and amongst towers. That said - a building of this size and design won't compliment this area at all. In fact, the City itself has said via the media that it would not consider this tower anywhere else in our city and went on to say that all other development up the Canada Line would be at appropriate scales and densities. So why do they want to put in a tower down here that is not at an appropriate scale or density? My family and I very much welcome the idea of having shops and services, a grocery store and cinemas close enough to walk to. But this tower is massive. The City needs to consider proposals for developments that look appealing and will be welcomed by the existing residents of the neighbourhood. Myself and small team of others pulled together a Neighbourhood meeting that took place last night. For the past couple of weeks we went door to door and handed out notices to invite our neighbours out. We didn't have a budget, nor a translator, so we knew that it was going to be a challenge. But our efforts paid off. Over 100 of our neighbours attended as well of 5 City Councillors. During our walks delivering notices and at the meeting last night, I have not met a single person who has said I don't want development in our neighbourhood - but they all have said don't build a tower that high (370 feet finished height), that dense or that unappealing. If you don't live in this area or don't pass by us often, you may not think that this tower is a big deal. But if you lived here or travelled by on a regular basis, you would appreciate why the residents aren't on fire for a tower that looks like the one proposed. Setting aside what the building looks like, a tower of this size and density (370 x 250) will cast huge shadows that will move around and cover different areas of our neighbourhood throughout each day. One of the worst shadow effects will be over a local school that shares ground with a neighbourhood park. That school and park will be in total shadow for portions of the day. This will give you an idea of the size of the tower - this school is 1 1/2 blocks west of the proposed tower and the eqivalent of 5 blocks north - that is one big shadow. It's also important to point out as well, that while yes, this proposal is on industrial lands, those industrial lands are bordered by existing residential. There are townhouses immediately across the street on the south portion of Cambie, just steps from the SkyTrain as well as a family complex across Marine Drive and just east about a 1/2 block. So this parcel of industrial land is not sitting in the middle of other industrial land - it hugs the N.W. corner of Marine Drive and is basically facing the entire residential neighbourhood. Traffic concerns are also legitimate as this is only the first of many towers envisioned going north up the line. Marine Drive backs up now at the best of times, so with the addition of this development and then all future developments (another hub of towers is planned for just 10 blocks due north of this development and then another hub 13 blocks north of that at Oakridge) - that will cause serious congestion all along the same strip. So the City needs to plan the infrastructure now that will be required in 10 to 15 years after all of the towers and developments have been completed. We have some very experienced planners on our City Staff and I would hate to see them get railroaded into doing what the developers want instead of what is really required for the good of our city.

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