Keefer Block – 189 Keefer Street


Keefer Block 2015

Here’s an edge of Chinatown building that we first looked at when it was proposed three years ago. It was built to the area’s zoning, so wasn’t slowed by the rezoning process, and now completed (with a restaurant and coffee shop fitting out and opening soon) it looks almost exactly like the model of the approved building.

189 Keefer render 5

Solterra picked up a 1970s two storey building on the corner of Keefer and Main Streets, (the north-west corner) in November 2011 for a reported $6.5 million. Rafii Architects designed a 10 storey 81 condo unit project over two floors of retail and office (three commercial units are on a mezzanine floor).

Keefer Street is on the left; Main Street is on the right of the image. The scheme was approved by the Development Permit Board after the Urban Design Panel gave it unanimous support. It’s the first of a series of new buildings in Chinatown that will introduce more residents to an area that has been in decline for many years.

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Emily Carr University of Art + Design

Emily Carr

The Urban Design Panel get to see the design of the proposed new campus for the Emily Carr University of Art + Design next week. Here’s a shot of the north face of the building model; it looks like there will be just one building that will be located on 1st Avenue off Great Northern Way. The render of the project, just published on the city’s website, suggests that there’s not a lot of colour missing from the model: it really is proposed to be an off-white building.

emily render

Budgeted at $134 million the design is by Diamond Schmitt Architects from Toronto (working with Vancouver-based Chernoff Thompson Architects). Another member of the Applied Arts Team who won the bid to build the project is EllisDon, the contractor building another Toronto-designed Public-Private Partnership project, the VGH mental health facility named for Joe & Rosalie Segal, who made a significant donation to get it built.

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Telus Garden boxes

Telus the truth

There has been quite a bit of critical commentary about some of the design features of Telus Garden, the new half million square foot office block on West Georgia Street. There’s a back-projected screen that will show video content that has some residents concerned, a lane was closed off and dog-legged in what proved to be a less controversial move, and there’s a complicated curved canopy that runs for nearly 300 feet from one end of the building to the other, that seems to be gaining positive reviews.

The two projecting boxes have proved to be the most controversial features of the building, (although they don’t really block any views). They’re capable of showing multi-coloured patterns on the underside, and the city didn’t allow them to be private office space as they crossed into the public realm. On Richards street the box will be a ‘skygarden’ with mature trees (if the illustrations are to be believed), but on Seymour the box is somewhat different.

In his youth, developer Ian Gillespie was a competitive diver (winning a number of medals for the sport), and the building will showcase this with a 3 metre deep pool (the water weighs 231 tons, which explains the size of the steel frame on the structure). Originally the water was going to be lit at night, but this was considered too likely to be a distraction to drivers, so for the time being (while there are still people driving downtown) that feature will not be operating.  The first tenants will be moving into the building in April. Fool-proof safety features for the water include a 35 cm foam pad at the bottom to prevent any problems from diving into relatively shallow water.

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7 E6th and 7 W6th Avenue


7 E6th

Here’s another example of how the Mount Pleasant industrial area continues to evolve.  We published the render a year ago when this 50′ site had a 1907 house on a corner lot. Now this 18,000 square foot office 7 E6th renderand industrial building has replaced it. We weren’t sure initially who the architect was, but it is MallenGowingBerzins architects (MGBA), a firm with a lot of recent history for designing interior spaces in the city, (including some of our favourite bar restaurants) but relatively few buildings.

This might be start of a trend – there’s now a proposal for an almost identical twin 7 W7thimmediately across the street to replace an older single-storey industrial building. This one has clothing manufacturing on the main floor, and then two floors of office above. There’s no coloured render for this one!

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Cordovan – 555 East Cordova Street


This modest Downtown Eastside development application got support from the Urban Design Panel at the end of 2012, sales started at the end of 2013, and now it’s pretty much completed. It’s a small infill project designed by Gair Williamson and developed by Boffo Properties, described in the UDP Agenda as a ‘four-storey residential building with 24 units of achievable home ownership units on the second through fourth floors, 5 units of non-market rental on the ground floor and parking accessed from the lane’.

Boffo partnered with non-profit housing provider, Community Builders Group, who have purchased and will manage the five non-market units. This is the penultimate condo project in this part of the Downtown Eastside (an area known by its zoning, DEOD), as the new DTES Plan changed the requirements to all rental in this area, 40% of which have to be non-market housing.

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The Residences at West

West 1It’s nearly three years since we posted the renders of this project, and the first phase is now pretty much complete. Designed by Walter Francl Architecture for the Executive Group on the 100 block of West 2nd Avenue, the project has been split into three phases, with the next tower, Tower Green looking close to commencing construction.

West render 5You can see how closely the finished first tower matches the most recent render, from mid 2012. Eventually the project will occupy a complete half block immediately behind the four tower Wall Centre False Creek development. The three towers range from 13 to 16 storeys, over a 6 storey podium with a total of 488 condos as well as retail space. A bank and restaurant are already open; other spaces are being fitted out. The street tree pits have already been created, and in a few years that part of the render could be accurate too – although not just yet.

All the development in South East False Creek have to be rezoned because the City adopted a rezoning policy, rather than pre-zoning the area. All the developers pay a higher than average Development Cost Levy to cover the new roads, parks, waterfront walkway, social housing etc for the formerly industrial area. In addition some additional density can be considered for additional community benefits, and in this case the developer is providing an $11m childcare program with spaces for infants, toddlers, three-to-five year olds, and a preschool program. That’s now complete on top of the podium; there’s a high glazed screen at the 6th level protecting the outdoor play space on the roof. The developer has also acquired some heritage density from the Best Building on 1st Avenue and made a contribution to the affordable housing fund.

The last building currently on the site represent a link to the city’s post-war growth. The Dominion Construction Company, run by Charles Bentall, built their headquarters here back in 1954. Still in business today, Dominion built the Bentall Centre for its related company as well as many other landmark city buildings, including the BC Pavilion at Expo 86 (these days the home of the Edgewater Casino – for the time being).

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1177 Jervis Street

1177 Jervis 2This tower is proposed for the corner of Davie and Jervis, and is the first (but by no means likely to be the last) project that has emerged from the recent West End Plan. Limited parts of the West End allow greater density where the project adds non-market housing. This NSDA Architects designed 19-storey tower for Intracorp would have 63 condo units (almost all 2-bedroom) and there would be 28 non-market units. There’s a small retail unit on the corner of Davie and Jervis – seen here in the model reviewed by the Urban Design Panel only a month after the application was available on the city website. Davie would also see some townhouse units.

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