Chinatown project: It ain’t over, till it’s over

Beedie Living submits revised proposal for 105 Keefer St. property

12th and Cambie

Because I’m a baseball guy, and it’s summer time, I’ll begin with a quote popularized by the late, great Yogi Berra, who told reporters way back in 1973 to not be so fast in concluding his New York Mets were finished for the season.

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

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Turns out, he was right: The Mets rallied and went on to knock off the Cincinnati Reds to win the National League pennant. Atta-boy, Yogi!

I could be wrong, and haven’t had time to check the archives, but I don’t believe Yogi ever visited Vancouver’s Chinatown. I could make something up and say he did and taught kids how to hit a curve ball in a vacant lot at Keefer and Columbia streets, but that would be fiction.

Yogi again: “Take it with a grin of salt.”

It was Yogi’s “it ain’t over” quote that came to mind July 14 when I received a news release from developer Beedie Living regarding its property at 105 Keefer St.

As regular readers will recall, that’s the property on which Beedie planned to build a 12-storey condo. City council voted 8-3 in June to reject the proposal, which called for 106 market apartments, 25 apartments for seniors, a recreational and cultural space and room for business on the ground floor.

There were victory hoots, tears of joy and a big celebration by all who opposed the project. Many in the lobby of the council chambers that day proclaimed victory.

Except…

Beedie’s proposal went before council because the building’s proposed height of 118 feet required that it undergo a rezoning, and subsequent public hearing.

Now Beedie has revised its proposal, keeping the height at 90 feet. That means it’s now in the hands of the city’s four-member development permit board, which is comprised of senior staff. Council does not have a say this time.

I tried to get a look at the revised proposal, but the developer wasn’t available and the city said to check back next week. Beedie’s release does not say how many apartments are proposed, or whether any will be “affordable” or subsidized by B.C. Housing.

The developer, however, does say it will provide “important subsidized cultural ground-floor space and increased pedestrianization of the Chinatown Memorial Plaza that can marry the cultural, retail and public realm.”

The design on the exterior of the building will also get a do-over “to ensure that the character of the building is reflective of its context and rich heritage in the area.”

As expected, all those people in celebration mode last month are upset that Beedie hasn’t backed down and worked out a land swap or sale with the city and other governments.

Jannie Leung, a community organizer with the Chinatown Action Group, is among those calling for “100 per cent social housing” and community space on the property.

“Of the hundreds of people who went to city hall [for the hearings], we made it pretty clear that there’s a housing crisis in the neighbourhood,” said Leung, whose group worked with the Chinatown Concern Group to launch a website July 16 that outlines their vision for Chinatown. “We don’t need more expensive condos.”

Vision Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang, who voted in June against the original proposal, said he understands opponents’ concerns. But, he pointed out, the property is not for sale.

“You can offer them a trillion dollars and they won’t take it because Beedie is committed to this project,” Jang said.

No date has been set when the development permit board will have a look at the proposal. The process allows input from the public. How this will turn out is tough to predict.

As Yogi once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

mhowell@vancourier.com

@Howellings

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