28-storey tower at 1555 Robson Street: Development Permit Board (rescheduled to 7-Jan-2019) (DP-2018-00589)

1555-robson-render(Update 7-Dec: This item was advertised for the December 10 DPB meeting. But WEN has confirmed it was removed from the agenda at the last minute. The new date is January 7, 2019. See also Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware’s Swan Song – Christmas Animation 2018 and the West End Community Plan)

Another tower is up for its final development permit, part of the huge wave of land purchases and construction proposals made possible by the West End Community Plan (WECP) adopted by City Council in 2013. This meeting is open to the public and you may speak to the meeting if you register in advance.

Development Permit Board
“1555 Robson Street – DP-2018-00589”
[Scheduled for Dec 10, 2018, but cancelled and no new date set yet]  
Town Hall Meeting Room (1st Floor, City Hall, 453 West 12th Avenue), Vancouver City Hall

DPB site: https://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/development-permit-board.aspx

Basic info:

  • Applicant is IBI Group (architect) on behalf of VivaGrand Developments, the North American office of Xiangli, “a leading real estate firm with 22 years of experience and over 350,000 square feet of residential, mixed-use, and infrastructure development in China” (no other info publicly available).
  • A 28-storey, mixed-use building with office and retail uses at ground level
  • 177 residential units including 24 units of what the city defines loosely as “social housing” (with a separate entrance), the rest being strata condo
  • A Floor Space Ratio of 9.63 (approximately 174,837 sq.ft.)
  • Building height of approx. 300 ft.

Many West End residents and visitors will know this location on Robson Street near Cardero as the home of the popular Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware, which got media attention a year ago when owners Jane and Karen Tennant were forced out of business after 33 years here as a result of a 92% property tax increase, which we attribute largely to the WECP.

NOTE: WEN has confirmed that Chocolate Mousse is still open for business (December 2018) at 1553 Robson Street. Tel. (604) 682-8223, open to 9 pm every day except Sunday (6 pm).

1555 Robson rendering by IBI GroupThe proposed tower replaces a two-storey commercial building from 1949. The tower, if built will be across the lane from a 43-storey tower at 1550 Alberni, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and now under construction by Westbank, also enabled by the WECP, and set for completion in 2020.

Online “mystery” bloggers at City Duo attended the Urban Design Panel meeting on October 31, 2018. Their report lavishes praise on the design, but inadvertently exposes some of the ways the City and this advisory body deal with design and regulatory issues:

  • … the Kengo Kuma building across the lane did heavily impact the project, as it will be built right up to its property line.
  • As city policy requires an 80 foot separation between towers, city staff allowed a small relaxation of the floor plate size of this building from the normal 80 foot width to 84, to avoid limiting this proposal. Both the city staff and the applicant team seemed a little nervous when broaching that subject, but no one on the Urban Design Panel appeared to have any problem with it…
  • Instead, they spent most of their time discussing the public realm, and the multiple uses the building will host. There was some time spent discussing the separated entrances, as everyone in the room was painfully aware of how controversial that can be…. [the reference here is separate door entrances for luxury condos versus “social housing”] .. Ultimately, while the applicant and city staff acknowledged that separated doors are a sensitive topic, it wasn’t a concern shared by the panel. In fact, one member seemed rather irritated by the whole conversation. They warned the applicant that some people will try and make it an issue at the development permit board hearing, but their own experience showed it likely wouldn’t matter….
  • In fact, the only recommendation the panel put forward was in regard to the 2 floors of office space the building will provide.

For more on the topic of separate entrances, see New Vancouver condo tower on Robson Street will have separate lobby for social housing (by Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight, 30-Oct-2018)

Daily Hive reports that “VivaGrand Developments acquired the property in August 2017 for $79.5 million, according to BC Assessment.” … This redevelopment is permitted under existing zoning and is made possible by the City’s West End Community Plan, which densifies the arterial corridors of the West End area, including Robson Street, Alberni Street, Denman Street, and Davie Street.

Units in the building appear to be available for pre-sale. Contact VancouverNewCondos for a quote (https://www.vancouvernewcondos.com/properties/1555-robson-in-vancouvers-west-end).

Urban YVR (300 ft. tower at Robson and Cardero to replace Korean restaurant, kitchenware shop, 24-Aug-2018, by Peter Meisner) provides additional info about the proposal: The commercial building at 1555 Robson Street, built 1949, is home to the Jang Mo Jib Korean restaurant and the Chocolate Mousse kitchenware shop. The Chocolate Mousse was the subject of a Vancouver Courier story last year, with the shop struggling to survive as it paid more property tax than rent. … Vivagrand Developments has applied to the city to develop the site, which it acquired in 2017 for nearly $80 million. At the time, CBRE said “the transaction represented a new benchmark value for a downtown residential site.” The new tower will include 177 residential units, plus 24 units of social housing as mandated by the West End Plan. There will also be three retail units on the ground floor. Vivagrand is also developing another residential tower in the West End — at the corner of Davie and Nicola, across from the Gabriola Mansion. It was recently redesigned after the first version was rejected by the city.

See also “Taxed to death: How Vancouver’s small businesses are falling victim to soaring property tax: Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware faces closure after a 92-per-cent rate increase, the latest in a line of long-established businesses set to shut shop” (Jan Zeschky,  Westender, 14-Dec-2017) https://www.vancourier.com/news/taxed-to-death-how-vancouver-s-small-businesses-are-falling-victim-to-soaring-property-tax-1.23121997

More on the City of Vancouver’s definition of “social housing“:  The City of Vancouver defines an entire residential development as social housing if 30 percent of the units will be lived in by people who earn below the Housing Income Limits (HILs) determined by the province. According to B.C. Housing, HILs is the income needed to pay average rent in the private market. Even if 70 percent of the units are rented at market rates, the entire development is considered social housing, based on the definition adopted by the city in 2014. … Moreover, the definition extends to social housing components of condo developments. … In 2013, the city approved the West End Community Plan to guide future developments in the neighborhood. … The plan allows rezoning for skyscrapers provided social housing is included in the project. (From “West End twin-tower development revives question about Vancouver definition of social housing”
by Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight, 21-Mar-2018 https://www.straight.com/news/1047381/west-end-twin-tower-development-revives-question-about-vancouver-definition-social)

From October 2018 newsletter from Chocolate Mousse: “Due to rezoning our property tax has increased 400% from what it was two years ago which is totally unaffordable. We the tenants are obligated to pay the tax on behalf of the property owner with zero benefit to ourselves. So many businesses are in the same vulnerable position. It is an unfair system and it needs changing. We have gotten nowhere with the current Mayor  and council. The letter we wrote specifically to Mayor Robertson has gone unanswered. We are disillusioned by the lack of response.”

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Official info from City website

Under the site’s existing C-6 zoning, the application is “conditional” so it may be permitted; however, it requires the decision of the Development Permit Board.

This application has been scheduled for the Development Permit Board on                    December 10, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. in the Town Hall Meeting Room (1st Floor, City Hall,  453 West 12th Avenue).

To assist you, a brief explanation of the Development Permit Board process is posted on our website at: http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/development-permit-board.aspx.  You or your representative may attend the meeting and, upon request, will be accorded the opportunity to address the Board.

We welcome your written comments (letter or e-mail) on this development application. Comments should be received on, or before September 12, 2018, to be considered in the staff review. However, comments will be considered up until the date of decision.

[WEN tip: Download these immediately if you think you might need them. The City deletes public access once a project is approved.]

Contact: John Freeman, Project Facilitator, john.freeman@vancouver.ca, 604.871.6076

To assist you, a Glossary of key technical terms and a brief explanation of the application process is posted on our website at: vancouver.ca/devapps

In reviewing this application, and before making a decision, the Development Permit Board will also need to consider City by-law regulations, and Council-adopted policies and guidelines. Once a full application review is completed, a decision will be made. If you respond to this notification, we will keep you informed by re-notifying you as to the decision.

The submitted plans may be viewed at the Project Facilitator’s office, Development Services, Building & Licensing, 1st Floor at 515 West 10th Avenue between 8:30a.m. and 4:30p.m., Monday through Friday. Copies of City by-law regulations, policies and guidelines are available at the City’s website at https://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/land-use-and-development-policies-and-guidelines.aspx or at either the Development Services, Building & Licensing (1st Floor, 515 West 10th Avenue) or the Central Public Library (350 West Georgia Street).

Please note that all comments and responses to this notification are subject to, and may be released, pursuant to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The Act does, however, protect your privacy by prohibiting disclosure of personal information (such as names, addresses and other identifying information) where such a disclosure would be an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy.

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An advertisement in the Vancouver Courier (6-Dec-2018) also gave the contact of 604-829-9582 or davin.fung@vancouver.ca

 

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