This West Side development could be home to Vancouver’s first jamspace in a residential building

Proposal calls for 6,000 square feet of studios, rehearsal rooms

At first blush, the development proposal for an empty lot near West Seventh Avenue and Fir Street isn’t the stuff of headlines: 11 storeys, 43 units and a few townhomes.

But it’s what accompanies those details that should grab the attention of Vancouver musicians regardless of where they live in the city.

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In what’s shaping up to become the first development of its kind in the city, the building’s first two floors will include rehearsal spaces, a recording studio and small performance space.

For those about to rock, the West Side salutes you. At least that’s the city’s hope.

“We’re trying to make something that works given the loss of space we’ve seen for music,” said Alix Sales, the city’s head of cultural spaces.

The Solterra Development Corp. is behind the proposal, along with architectural firm IBI Group, for the land at 1616 West Seventh Ave. The application is conditional under the area’s existing zoning — it may be allowed but requires a decision by the Development Permit Board.

That’s where density bonusing enters the question, a process of give and take between the city and developers where the municipality will leverage amenities — affordable housing, park space or purpose-built rental units — against the developer’s request for more density.

Given the city’s dwindling amount of dedicated arts space, staff are now asking the development community to include the arts in the development process.

Preliminary plans for the first two floors of the building include 6,000 square feet that would include 10 or more rehearsal rooms, a recording studio and a performance space that will fit 60 to 70 people. Sales and fellow cultural planner Kristen Lambertson foresee the performance space accommodating the odd gig, but mostly used for rehearsal and as a meeting space.

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An artist’s rendering of the proposed development at 1616 West Seventh Ave.

It’s the kind of setup usually seen on the city’s East Side, particularly near the Clark Drive corridor. So why the West Side now?

“We have to be really opportunistic about where those spaces are depending on where the opportunity comes,” Sales said. “In East Vancouver, we haven’t got a lot of increased density and when we do, it’s often quite rightly for social housing or childcare.” 

A public feedback session was held in July, when area residents were mostly opposed the building’s size and its potential to block view corridors.

Few, if any, concerns were raised about the noise potential. 

“Because it’s going to be within a residential building, we want this to work,” Lambertson said. “This has been something for both the city as well as the developer in terms of really building something that is acoustically sound, that the sound can be contained within.”

The proposal is by no means a done deal. It’s subject to a public feedback process that ends Nov. 15 along with a development permit board hearing on Jan. 20, 2020.

If approved, a request-for-proposal will be issued to find a non-profit provider to run the performance area, while the city will retain ownership of the space.

“This is so new for us,” Sales said. “We’ve not done it before, which is we’ve done so much consultation to try and ask, ‘Why can’t we make this work, why can’t we come up with a shared music space?”

Feedback can be sent until Nov. 15 to project facilitator Chris Miller via chris.miller@vancouver.ca.

@JohnKurucz

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