Presentation 2 Ducote

SFU City Conversation: Future of Our Downtown Waterfront Hub
June 4, 2015

Some Thoughts About The Downtown Waterfront
Frank Ducote, Principal, Frank Ducote Urban Design and
Representative of the citizens’ Downtown Waterfront Working Group

Below: Slide show of presentation with text
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<p>It’s wonderful to be here amongst former colleagues of mine from the City as well as in private practice. </p><p>I entitled this presentation Mind the Gap. We have a gap here in the fabric of the city and it's a real opportunity. 
</p><p>Thanks to Michael's photograph here, which frames the argument for us. I'm going to go from that big scale that the two previous speakers from the City were talking about down to the site scale down at 555 West Cordova immediately east of the Waterfront Station and west of The Landing shown on the right edge. </p> <p>
The question we had, about half a dozen people involved in this Downtown Waterfront Working Group, plus other people who don't want to be identified but are providing advice: Why are so many former City of Vancouver planners involved in this working group? </p> <p>It's not that we are inherently negative about what the City does, but sometimes things come along that provoke you into taking a position. 508 Helmcken was one of those that a group of people that I and others in this room were a part of, to try and make a point about what the City is doing on what seems to be on an ad hoc level. </p> <p>When we saw the plan for the hub area, located within the yellow lines within this aerial from the hub study that Anita and Steve just talked about, we saw an opportunity. There is quite a bit of air space and land down there. </p> <p>
This plan view shows that the area doesn't line up with any streets, so it's hard to call it a street-end view. But it's an amazingly powerful view and we think it's really important not to miss that opportunity. </p> <p>
The hub framework plan called for an 11-storey building in that location. It does show the Cordova Connector coming through there, taking half the space. </p><p>
So one of the framing questions I'm going to have is, do we need full road space through there? And I think the argument could probably go both ways. This road is probably a 20-metre road allowance, which would be the same with How Street and other streets in the area. </p><p>
So we got excited about the opportunity here but also disappointed with what was coming forward with the application. </p> <p>Here is another take from the hub study, a wonderful diagram shows a sloping down in heights from new buildings over the tracks in this space towards the scale of Gastown. To me that's a framework principle. And it just respects the height of Gastown, which goes up to maybe 100 feet in some places, but generally speaking three, four, five or six storeys. In the case of The Landing, seven or eight storeys. </p><p>
It also shows slope down towards the waterfront. When you think of the domical shape of the land form downtown, and having the similar domical shape for heights of buildings where the tallest buildings should be in the middle and the lowest building towards the edges at the water, that would follow the kind of principle - not a bad one. </p> <p>Anita showed this sketch. Since the time that this drawing was done for the hub study, the Federal Government has said they have space needs of up to a million square feet, although it could be quite a bit less. But the interesting thing about that number is that it's almost exactly equal to the million square feet that are planned for over the tracks. </p><p>
So there is be a framing question about what happens if this goes forward: will there be any demand left to build this road extension to get in and out of the waterfront? </p><p>
On the positive side, if it does happen, then the overpasses and other port connections, and hopefully the street extensions will eventually happen, as Anita mentioned. Our thinking in our waterfront group is whether this goes forward sooner or later. If it goes forward, it has bog positive implications. If it never goes forward, there are large negative implications. </p> <p>So here is what was proposed. Luckily, the Urban Design Panel did not give it the green light. I put a couple of red lines on this drawing and we are looking north towards mountains and water. What you see on the left is the CPR station which has very strong parapet line at a high three storeys, a classical building. And we have a warehouse building from the late 19th century, The Landing, a very simple format, slab kind of building, at about seven or eight storeys. </p><p>
So those are good reference points when you think about neighbourliness and relationships. Do you want to loom over your neighbour or be in keeping with your neighbour? </p><p>
The yellow line is possibly the height of the 11-storey building that we refer to in the hub study. So you can see that more than double the height is being proposed in this application. And it’s generated by the view cone from Queen Elizabeth Park - a technical thing but it's very important as it shapes an awful lot of our downtown. </p> <p>The shaded area here is the upper part of the proposed building, 18,000 sq. ft. The finer line in there is indicating the floor plan of the ground floor and tapering up. So it has this quality of being a small footprint in a big building. </p> </p> And we have one of those already in the works around here. Here is how it looks in the setting. </p> <p>This is the comparison of what the hub framework plan called for on that site. And this is what the development application called for. And you can make your own assessments on whether there is any coordination between these two. </p><p> 
So as much as I think the hub framework plan is a major statement and a good statement about the future evolution, and a flexible statement of the evolution of the waterfront, when the first thing out of the box comes looking like this, you sort of question the whole plan. </p> <p>The area has different intersecting grids.</p> <p>These are the access points we have right now. We have Howe Street, we have a potential extension of Granville Street, and as Steve mentioned, this Cordova extension would be a right-in and right-out if we were to go across at this location. </p> <p>We already have top-heavy buildings being planned in this City. We have what I think is now called the Cube on West Georgia with the suspenders, our first, a little footprint with a massive building sitting on top – it was quite famous in its day. </p><p>
And we have this one here at Vancouver House being proposed as well, however there are a whole lot of other variables that affect that site. </p><p>
And the question to me is, how many times do we have to do that? <p> <p>So I'm going to go into our propositions, or our thoughts. They are mostly my thoughts, I won't blame anyone else. </p><p>

We have three levels to consider. The blue line represents the15-storey level from the Downtown Eastside plan and parts of Chinatown. So you can see there is a little bit of leeway from 11 storeys to be a taller building because of its importance, if it's a good enough site. </p><p>
Above that 11-storey height, the height has to be earned. There has to be performance qualities about public realm, about architectural design, about access, about what's the good for the city as a whole, not just what's good for the development. </p>
Now to our questions <p>Is this enough of a network? </p><p>
Looking at the red lines, do we have enough circulation network should Granville Street be built? I'm hearing it’s an important bus system, but could that be something smaller just for pedestrians, bikes and emergency perhaps, and a wider footprint for the building itself? </p> <p>Has Telus Gardens set a precedent that significant encroachments over street space is possible? If so, what about cantilevering over the proposed road space rather than looming over the historic CPR station? </p><p>
Telus Gardens did an unusual thing. It somehow commandeered some of the air space on both ends of the building for, I think, private enjoyment. And if that is, indeed, a good precedent, can we do a similar thing with that road extension rather than over Waterfront Station, as the present design is, but leaning the other way, over the road, and use it for public purposes? You get a bigger footprint for the building, which may bring down its height. </p> <p>
On Question 1: There should be an implementation plan developed for the hub - it was recommendation b) in the 2009 Council report. That means detailed infrastructure, that means streetscape in the public realm, that means quality of things; maybe even design guidelines - what kind of form and character do the buildings have? </p><p>
None of that work has really been done. In other cities, you don't get to build something until you've done that kind of implementation plan. So in a sense it's just a bookmarked time until that implementation study is done and through a public process. </p><p>
On Question 2: And what could be done to open up Granville Street sooner than later? I see a million square feet on one side. I see 375,000 square feet recently approved on the other side of Granville Street. Can any of the DLCs and CACs from those buildings go forward and pay for that? </p><p>
And can residential use supplement and incentivize development over the track. </p><p>
On Questions 3 and 4: If Granville Street is opened up, can the right-of-way through that site be reduced or eliminated, and used only for pedestrians, bikes and emergency vehicles? </p><p>
On Question 5: And be a better neighbour ultimately. </p> Summary points Thank you
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On Question 1: There should be an implementation plan developed for the hub - it was recommendation b) in the 2009 Council report. That means detailed infrastructure, that means streetscape in the public realm, that means quality of things; maybe even design guidelines - what kind of form and character do the buildings have?

None of that work has really been done. In other cities, you don't get to build something until you've done that kind of implementation plan. So in a sense it's just a bookmarked time until that implementation study is done and through a public process.

On Question 2: And what could be done to open up Granville Street sooner than later? I see a million square feet on one side. I see 375,000 square feet recently approved on the other side of Granville Street. Can any of the DLCs and CACs from those buildings go forward and pay for that?

And can residential use supplement and incentivize development over the track.

On Questions 3 and 4: If Granville Street is opened up, can the right-of-way through that site be reduced or eliminated, and used only for pedestrians, bikes and emergency vehicles?

On Question 5: And be a better neighbour ultimately.

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