Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces

By VPSN

August 29, 2016 at 1:49 PM

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Pacific Centre Plaza – comments on the proposed redevelopment

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Pacific Centre Plaza

The City has received a proposal to redevelop portions of 701 West Georgia, part of the Pacific Centre shopping mall. The site currently includes a distinctive atrium and plaza – both of which would be lost as part of the new design.

This is one of several privately-owned public spaces that have been proposed for redevelopment (most recently, downtown Vancouver lost the plaza beside the Grosvenor Building on the 1000-block of Alberni). The VPSN continues to be concerned about the loss of these spaces. Many of them were also created through previous amenity-related negotiations – and intended to offset the impact of previous tower-developments. They are an important part of the urban landscape – and are also potential assets that could be revitalized to provide even better public spaces for residents, employees and visitors on the downtown peninsula.

The public has been invited to provide comment on the proposal, and the VPSN has written a letter. An excerpt is reproduced below.

Re: Pacific Centre Development – DP-2016-00107 – 701 W Georgia (Block 42)

We have had a chance to review both the existing CD-1 (455) bylaw for the site, as well as the development application submitted by Perkins + Will on behalf of the proponent.

At a high level, our letter is motivated by concern over the loss of privately owned public space in the downtown. The Pacific Centre plaza is one of several hard surfaced open spaces that were created for public use through amenity contributions related to existing developments. Like other amenities, they were intended to offset the impact of growth. In recent years, however, there have been several instances where the City has made allowances for these open spaces to be redeveloped. We feel this is a problem.

Specific to the 701 W Georgia site (block 42), we note that the plaza and atrium are distinctive features of the street, with the open space serving as an increasing popular area for public gathering (supported through the recent provision of moveable chairs and tables, and live music at lunchtime).

While we understand that the redevelopment of this site is linked to earlier negotiations around the construction of the Canada Line station at Granville and Georgia (block 52, also part of the Cadillac-Fairview CD-1). We would nevertheless like to see some form of plaza or open space retained at 701 W Georgia.

We note that the design development notes provided by City staff during the writing of the initial CD-1 (455) bylaw, suggest that the proponent should “seek to retain some open space and provide some interior space…. Encouraging public interaction and lending significance to these corner sites.”

We would request that the City direct the proponent to modify their application to better reflect the spirit of the initial bylaw.

On the design side, we note that the design rationale produced by Perkins + Will suggests that “by completing the street edge on the northeast corner of this intersection, street life and the animation of the public realm is intensified,” and that furthermore, such development, “completes the containment of the civic plaza on the north edge of the Vancouver Art Gallery.”

While we admire the work that this firm does, we are concerned that the provision of open space on this site was never adequately part of their scope of work. Certainly the objectives of animating the public realm and supporting the VAG North Plaza redesign are laudable. There proposed building has many admirable features – but we would ask the question: to what end could a well-integrated open space feature at 701 W Georgia support these goals and enable the previously agreed-to redevelopment to proceed.

We would encourage you to revisit this application and require the retention of plaza or open space on the site. Well-designed public space on this site will complement and enhance the project, supporting the overall enrichment of Georgia Street and downtown Vancouver.

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