Gregory Henriquez recalls riding his metallic green banana bike around Oakridge mall in the late 1960s and early ’70s. He grew up a half block away in a rented duplex with his family. A parking lot surrounded the mall, as it does now.
“These [types of] malls developed in the 1950s and ’60s were all based upon cars and everyone driving everywhere,” Henriquez said. “The key paradigm shift in the years since then is an understanding of our global environmental crisis and a shift in terms of the way in which people move around cities.”
Henriquez is managing partner at Henriquez Partners Architects, which is redesigning Oakridge Centre — and the firm behind the design of other high-profile developments including Woodward’s and Telus Garden projects.
Henriquez Partners Architects applied to the city Oct. 15 on behalf of Oakridge Centre owner Ivanoe Cambridge and Westbank Development to amend the zoning for Oakridge Centre to allow for a mixed-use development, including buildings of varying heights up to 45 storeys with commercial, office, residential and public amenity space.
The proposal faces public scrutiny next week at two open houses on Nov. 15 and 17. Plans for the 28-acre site include 2,818 units with a maximum height of 125.6 metres.
“To take something which is existing as a parking lot, which is sort of a suburban concept, and turn it into a real urban mixed-use, inclusive city is really the concept,” Henriquez said.
He called the Canada Line a “game changer” in terms of what development is possible and how people live, work, and travel. It could handle increased use, according to Henriquez, because it’s underutilized. He cited current ridership statistics of about 126,000 trips per day, a figure that peaked at 200,000 during the Olympics. The Canada Line’s capacity with the trains it has is 300,000, he said.
“What we’re trying to do is develop a really inclusive city, which is mixed use and has all the attributes of a real city, which would be things like affordable housing, regular market housing, an enlarged retail component, which is alive day and night, office space, community space like a daycare and a community centre, a library and seniors centre and large public open spaces,” Henriquez said.
The scheme proposes residential buildings ranging from six floors to 45 floors — the majority in the range of 18 to 20 stories. When asked how he expects neighbours will react to highrises, Henriquez pointed to benefits increased density brings such as more affordable housing, a community centre and park space.
Matt Shillito, the City of Vancouver’s assistant director of planning, said “enhanced consultation” is planned due to the project’s scale and strategic significance.
Along with open houses, there will be workshops and online opportunities for feedback.
“It is a very large project,” Shillito said. “It’s on a 28-acre site, which in itself it’s very unusual to have a site like that, of that size, in a single ownership. And certainly the scale of the proposal is large as well, reflecting the size of the site and also its location on a major transit station on a transit line. So it’s a really big rezoning — the total square footage is 4.4 million square feet. They will be a landmark in the area and that’s obviously something we have to work through.”
Issues raised at open houses last spring before the application was filed included concerns about traffic, how it fits with the neighbourhood, what public amenities would be provided, and transit capacity. It will take at least 14 months before the development goes to public hearing. City staff expect to report to council part way through to get some direction.
The open houses are Nov. 15 from 5 to 8 p.m. and Nov. 17 from 10 to 4 p.m. — both at Oakridge Centre auditorium at 650 West 41st Ave. Cantonese and Mandarin translation will be available.