(Update: RECONVENING on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. with applicant presentation, public speakers, council debate + decision)
This major rezoning application went to a virtual Public Hearing on Thursday, June 25, 2020, and will reconvene on June 30 at 9:30 a.m. (On June 25 there was only time for the staff presentation.)
If you have any concerns as a West End resident, we encourage you to write or speak to Council on this major rezoning for a 60-storey tower mid-block on the north side of Nelson Street, between Thurlow and Burrard Streets. Instructions on how to do so are on the official Public Hearing web page.
City Council is currently in the midst of a big rush of public hearings (May 12, 26, 28, June 23, 25, 30, July 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, plus possible reserve dates) before the summer hiatus. The City assumes these electronic meeting (with audio only, and all Councillors joining remotely) are legal under provincial emergency legislation during the COVID-19 pandemic (but could be challenged).
Below are some images and points about the rezoning, plus comments and web links. There is quite a history to this site. The value of the site was unlocked by the West End Community Plan adopted in 2013 under Vision Vancouver, which left the permitted density (and profits) on sites in this corridor virtually unlimited as a huge favour to developers. The location was the subject of dramatic speculation and profit-taking by prominent Vancouver developers, resulting in the current developer, Henson Developments, bringing this proposal forward now.
Public hearing agendas and documents (general info):
Virtual (electronic) Public Hearing June 25, 2020 (6 pm start). This application is 4th on the agenda (1059-1075 Nelson Street):
Rezoning application page:
There will be many opinions about such a massive development. Skyscraper and density lovers will support it. The developer has included some green features. Social housing and market rentals are in the proposal. Development Cost Levies and Community Amenity Contributions will bring funds into City coffers. Tenants renovicted from the existing affordable rental units on the site will be anxious to get into the new building once completed. Some housing activists who support any construction anywhere will support this.
But there has been little public discussion about the negative livability, environmental, shadowing, and affordability impacts of such a major development. It is an expensive, huge and bulky building on such a small site, at nearly 25 FSR for density and 585.5 feet in height.
Here are some points worthy of attention:
- It is a small site for this kind of density and extreme height, especially given the towers already on that block (and under construction).
- The proposed Floor Space Ratio of 24.94 may well have the highest density of any building ever approved in Vancouver, and could well be the highest density building ever built on the North American continent. This level of density will have major impacts.
- It will shade Nelson Park, which is precious and heavily used park space. This is a densely-populated urban community. For mental and physical health, and general livability of the community, bright park space is a must-have. But the proposed tower, combined with others existing and under construction, will cast shadows for many blocks in many directions. The proponent’s shadow studies show that Nelson Park can kiss good-bye to morning sunlight for much of the year. That includes also the children at Lord Nelson Elementary Annex.
- Despite the “passive house” standards, the amount of energy consumed in demolition, excavation, and construction will be enormous. Digging a hole 100 feet deep for nine levels of underground parking is one example.
- Under a COVID-19 world, will skyscraper living dependent on elevators for every departure and return ever be the same?
- There are many discrepancies with provisions of the West End Community Plan for this area.
- Pages 11 and 12 of the staff Referral Report (April 14, 2020, Gil Kelley, General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability) merit a close look, particularly regarding floor plate size. During West End Plan consultations in 2012 and 2013, the size of floor plates was a key topic. Since the adoption of the plan, proposals have included endless rationalizations of “averaging” and “exclusions” to justify bulky buildings like the one proposed. Proponents and City staff use these as a strategy to over-ride the objectives of the Plan in order to create more luxury real estate at $3,000 a square foot. We hope that Mayor and Council will query staff in detail on this point. How can West Enders be confident that the West End Community Plan will be followed?
- The proponent and City staff are also proposing a “zero setback” from Nelson Street for levels 4 through 60 (see Page 12 of the report).
- Is the creation of hundreds more luxury condos the best way to advance housing opportunities in Vancouver? Who is the target for sales of these condos? Whose needs are being served?
Here is a summary of other points of the proposal, courtesy of Kenneth Chan of Daily Hive (heads up – slow to load due to many ads and cookies). Excerpt:
Henson Developments is proposing to construct a 586-ft-tall, 60-storey tower with 485 homes, including 113 social housing units and 49 market rental units within the lower floors, and 323 market condominium units within the upper floors. The social housing unit mix is 29 studio units, 29 one-bedroom units, 29 two-bedroom units, and 26 three-bedroom units, which uniquely makes many of these homes large enough for larger low-income families. The market rental housing unit mix is 11 studios, 18 one-bedroom units, and 20 two-bedroom units.
Both the social housing unit and market rental housing mixes go towards replacing the existing 51 market rental units found within the site’s 1950s-built, low-storey structures. Social housing will cover 25% of the building’s total floor area, and amounts to a $70-million, in-kind community amenity contribution (CACs) to the city.
As for the luxury housing component, the condominium unit mix is 43 studios, 130 one-bedroom units, 130 two-bedroom units, and 20 three-bedroom units.
… The building is designed by UK-based WKK Architects, which is best known for its work on Dubai’s Burj Al Arab. The local office of IBI Group is the architect of record for the application.
… If permitted, the tower’s height will be just half a foot higher than the adjacent The Butterfly, developed by Westbank.
The tower will have a total floor area of 432,000 sq ft, giving it a floor space ratio density of 24.94 times the size of the lot.
To support the density, eight underground levels will contain 299 vehicle parking stalls and over 1,000 bike parking spaces.
In addition to the CACs, the developer will also be required to provide $9.4 million in development cost levies and $658,000 of public art.
Proposed 60-storey residential tower would be among Vancouver’s tallest
Naoibh O’Connor / Vancouver Courier (June 4, 2019)
Excerpt: “… Currently, Vancouver’s two tallest buildings are the 60-storey, 659-foot-tall Shangri-La at 1128 West Georgia and the 63-storey Trump Tower, measuring 616 feet, at 1161 West Georgia…. Several city policies, which council has set over time, regulate building height in Vancouver, explained Jason Olinek, the City of Vancouver’s acting assistant director of planning for development planning.”
The company behind the development, Henson Developments, provides zero information publicly about who is behind the company. Not a single name of any person can be linked to this development in a Google and media search.
1318-1030 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC V6E 2Y3
60-storey ‘pixelated’ tower proposal for Vancouver’s West End to be revived
Kenneth Chan, Nov 30 2018
Proposed Vancouver tower to contain $70 million of social housing (RENDERINGS)
Kenneth Chan, Apr 24 2020
“Stampede: the inside story of Vancouver’s wildest property deal, gone in 7,200 seconds”
An SCMP investigation reveals the obscure transactions behind a commercial real estate frenzy, including a two-hour stampede by investors desperate to pay C$60m for a site valued at C$16m. Then, a month after taking ownership, they resold it for C$68m.
By Ian Young, South China Morning Post (April 20, 2016)
Is 1075 Nelson Street really worth $68 million? How the story behind a baffling recent real estate transaction has everyone in Vancouver talking” (By Max Fawcett, Apr 21, 2016)
Excerpts: A few weeks ago, Globe and Mail reporter Kathy Tomlinson revealed how local real estate agents were profiting from—and, perhaps, fuelling—speculation in Vancouver’s overheated housing market. This was on the heels of her February expose that introduced everyone—well, everyone who doesn’t work in the real estate industry—to the existence of a practice called “shadow flipping.” Kerry Gold, meanwhile, wrote the cover story for a recent issue of The Walrus, one that laid out the negative impacts associated with rising real estate prices in painstaking detail for an audience that might not yet be quite so intimately familiar with them. All three were the kinds of stories that should remind everyone about the value of great print journalism (speaking of which: buy more of it!) and the price we’d all pay—and are already paying—for losing it. But Ian Young’s piece in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday may have topped them all. In it, he detailed the deal-making behind an astonishing chain of transactions that saw a piece of property (1059 and 1075 Nelson Street) assessed at $15.6 million sold for $60 million—and then effectively flipped for $68 million barely a month later. Most astonishing of all, perhaps, is the fact that the initial seller was Wall Financial Corporation—a company that had clearly signalled its intent to build yet another signature skyscraper on the property it tied up for $16.8 million in 2013. As Young wrote in his piece, “They had big plans for the downtown site: a glittering 60-storey residential skyscraper, taking advantage of the location within the city’s West End Community Plan, where a building could rise 168 metres tall under new zoning.”
Comments by skyscraper afficionados
WEN note: Same developer (Henson Development)
Developer pitches West Vancouver gondola (by Brent Richter, North Shore News, March 27, 2020)
“A developer planning to build hundreds of strata and rental units above Highway 1 in West Vancouver is pitching a public gondola to Dundarave as part of the project. Henson Development is proposing 146 rental and 439 strata units in a series of two-to-12-storey buildings on 8.9 acres just east of Collingwood School’s Wentworth Campus.”
WEN note: Henson Development Company in Baltimore seems to have no connection to the Vancouver-based company of a similar name.
List of VANCOUVER TALL TOWERS (June 2019)
Shangri-La (659 feet) at 1128 West Georgia. Completed 2008
Trump Tower (616 feet) at 1161 West Georgia. Completed 2017
The Butterfly (556 feet) at 969 Burrard St. Under Construction
1075 Nelson (555.5 feet). Proposed
1133 Melville (550 feet). “The Stack” office building. Under Construction
One Burrard Place (550 feet). Under Construction
601 Beach (535 feet). Proposed
Private residences of Hotel Georgia (518 feet) at 667 Howe St. Completed 2013
Vancouver House (507 feet). Under Construction
1450 West Georgia. (497.3 feet). Proposed
One Wall Centre (491 feet). Completed 2001
Shaw Tower (489 feet). Completed 2004
Harbour Centre (481 feet). Completed 1977