Urban Design Panel gives L’ecole Bilingue replacement school passing grade

Members of the city’s Urban Design Panel didn’t like plans for the Vancouver School Board’s L’ecole Bilingue replacement school as much as they liked the proposal for the new International Village elementary school, but they still endorsed the project in a 6-3 vote of support Jan. 29.

The UDP is an advisory body to city council and staff — its decisions aren’t binding on the city.

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L’ecole Bilingue, located at 1166 West 14th, is at high risk of damage in an earthquake, so it’s being demolished in favour of a new building.

Construction costs are estimated at $13.2 million.

The French immersion school accommodates roughly 485 kindergarten to Grade 7 students, who will move to the South Hill Education Centre property on Fraser Street at East 44th Avenue during construction.

That site will become home to 25 portables, which will house classrooms, a library, washrooms and office space.

Urban Design Panel members noted the VSB was working with a restricted budget, but questioned whether the site was being underutilized and what could be done about the southwest corner of the property, which they described as a “pit” and a “very unfriendly corner” three metres down from the street level.

There were differing views on the architectural merits of the building and colour choices.

One member suggested it needed a stronger urban design and architectural concept.

But there was overall support for the plans and massing given the context of financial limitations.

Vancouver School Board staff noted they were introducing “future proofing” measures, so the building can be modified more easily at a later date to take advantage of innovations if finances allow.

The VSB will hold more open houses about the project during the development permit phase. Some elements of the building may be tweaked or modified in response to UDP comments and other issues.

Students will move to the South Hill property for the 2014/2015 school year.

Construction is expected to start at the end of summer or early fall. The target date for opening the new school is September 2016.

noconnor@vancourier.com

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