By Glen Korstrom Jan. 3, 2017
Rezoning to allow a 30-storey tower next to East Vancouver’s Joyce-Collingwood SkyTrain station is set to accelerate redevelopment in the area.
The December rezoning of properties by Vancouver city council follows the city’s approval in June of a new precinct plan that hiked density guidelines for the neighbourhood, particularly for sites close to the SkyTrain station.
Westbank Projects Corp. achieved council’s blessing to build a tower with up to 30 storeys at 5050 through 5080 Joyce Street, where single-storey and two-storey buildings now sit.
The tower will have to meet a host of conditions before getting a development permit, but critics are concerned that the site is eligible for a floor-space ratio of 15.37 square feet of building area for every square foot of the lot, which is higher than anything else outside the downtown core.
Saint Mary’s Parish is another landowner in the neighbourhood that is putting plans together to build a tower on its three-acre site about a block south of Westbank’s site.
The parish’s site houses Saint Mary’s elementary school, the church, a playground, parking lots and the Columbus Tower seniors’ home.
“The school desperately needs some upgrades,” Ong said. “Density provides an opportunity for us to investigate the potential of using housing to fund services.”
Couns. Geoff Meggs and George Affleck told Business in Vancouver that they saw much less opposition to density in the Joyce-Collingwood area than in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood, where council increased density for certain sites in August.
That is why the vote passed unanimously, they said. They both also lauded council’s requirements that there be plenty of “family housing,” or larger suites, in Westbank’s tower.
“We added requirements for a better pedestrian streetscape as part of the strategy and a daycare and all that stuff,” Affleck said.
“We don’t know how much money we will get from community amenity contributions [CACs] for all of the developments in the neighbourhood combined but [it will be significant].”
Some residents, however, view as inadequate the $4.72 million in CACs that Westbank has to pay to develop its tower.
“[Councillors] say that CACs are great for communities because we can build community centres, move libraries and improve parks,” said Arielle Yip, a member of the Joyce Area Residents Association.
“About the only thing we can do with $4 million is to create a dog park.”
She estimated that a new library would cost at least $10 million while a community centre would cost upwards of $15 million.
Even if sufficient CAC funding were included in the area’s revitalization, many residents do not want new tall towers to be built because they are concerned about traffic congestion and construction noise, Yip said.
The biggest concern, however, is that a slew of new towers will gentrify the area, push up rents and displace longtime residents and small-business owners – much like what is happening in Burnaby’s Metrotown neighbourhood.
Ong said the plan being developed by Saint Mary’s Parish reflects those community concerns.
“We want to be part of the solution by building 100% rental housing instead of more market condos,” he said.
"Anything we build will be rental units. We won’t be able to stratify the tower and sell it off.”•