Residents raise concerns over proposed 54-storey ‘Granville Gateway’ tower

A group of neighbourhood residents is objecting to the prospect of a 54-storey tower being built at the north end of Granville Bridge.

Pinnacle International’s proposed building at 601 Beach Crescent, along with Westbank’s Vancouver House under construction on the other side of the bridge, are meant to create what’s been dubbed the “Granville Gateway” leading in and out of the downtown.

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The application, which is being considered under the city’s Higher Building Policy, includes plans for 303 market residential units, 152 social housing units, 442 underground parking spaces and 970 bicycle spaces. GBL Architects is the architectural firm of record for the project.

An open house about the rezoning application was held at the Executive Hotel Nov. 26.

Shilo Lam, who lives nearby, was collecting names on a petition against the project at the entrance to the hotel on Monday. She said many residents are opposed to the proposed height for the highrise and have united under a group called Vancouver Beach District.

Lam thinks 54 storeys is far too high, and she’s worried about issues such as open space, light and shadow. She also said the neighbourhood doesn’t have the appropriate infrastructure, such as schools and health services, to handle the increased density.

The city’s higher building policy was adopted in 1997. It’s a set of guidelines to be used in conjunction with other policies for reviewing buildings seeking significant increases over existing height limits. The policy has been amended many times, including in 2011 when the “Granville Gateway” sites were added after a public consultation process.

Pinnacle’s rezoning application for a height increase from 17 to 54 storeys under this policy requires a public hearing and council support before it’s approved.

Jan Magnolo and her husband bought a condo at Park West 2 near George Wainborn Park last year. They thought that only a 17-storey building was possible on the site so they were surprised to discover that 54 storeys could be considered through the rezoning application.

Mira Bajic, who lives in the same building, agrees. She shares concerns about a lack of existing infrastructure. Bajic said the area is very residential and Beach Avenue wasn’t designed to handle the traffic that would be produced.

It’s “just adding housing without taking into account how it’s going to fit in the neighbourhood,” she said.

Bernd Banke said the developer is trying to push for extra density without consulting the neighbourhood properly.

“What our neighbourhood is upset about is 54 storeys versus 17. It seems like no one has ever asked us,” said Banke, who cites losing views and congestion as among his concerns.

He believes the addition of social housing into the project and the fact it’s being pitched as creating a “Granville Gateway” are being used to ensure it’s approved at the proposed height.

“So I am worried it will go through,” he said. “Some people don’t even know about it.”

Not everyone opposes the project. Yong Sun, who lives close to BC Place about 10 blocks away, told the Courier well-designed developments make the city more interesting.

He said a lot of the architecture downtown is banal but “in recent years we’ve started to see better design.”

When Sun first saw Vancouver House, he thought its architecture was “gutsy.”

“When I saw [601 Beach], part of what I liked about it was it’s a rather elegant response [to Vancouver House]. It’s not over the top,” he said.

Sun is impressed by the street-front design and how the design enlivens the “dark and unsafe” space under the off-ramp. Nicely planned spaces also help address concerns about isolation and loneliness, according to Sun.

He doesn’t think height should be a concern in the downtown core and it’s more important that it’s not a cookie-cutter design.

“That affects people a lot more, he said, while adding it’s unrealistic for the tower to be shorter because that would kill the gateway concept.

Kandice Kwok of JYOM Architecture, who’s involved in the project, said they looked at the greater master plan when developing the concept for and positioning of the building. They also considered how the tower would relate to, contrast with, and complement Vancouver House when determining the design.

Kwok said Vancouver House is like an art sculpture standing on one side of the bridge, while 601 Beach’s shape creates a sense of movement or dance on the other side.

The idea was to create the gateway "without being a goal post."

“Something that would be strong and moving and organic, yet with straight lines at the same time,” she said.

“The Vancouver House [design] is the lifting of a curtain. We’re the dance or the show. That’s how we pair together with them.

noconnor@vancourier.com

 @naoibh

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