Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Arbutus Village: One more neighbourhood on the warpath about development?

Frances Bula had a recent post about the community opposition to a proposal to redevelop the Arbutus Village Shopping Centre with a new 'urban village' with a mix of retail, office and housing. Apparently thousands of people have signed a petition opposing the development since the Arbutus Kerrisdale Shaunessey Vision Statement opposed new housing on this parking lot.

I was once a consultant on this proposal. While I suspect the developer and architect would prefer that I not comment, given the many ill-informed comments on Frances' blog, I think some thoughtful planning judgement and common sense needs to be brought to this situation. This is the type of development that must be allowed to proceed.

You can find Frances Bula's post and the notice from ARKS at Here are my thoughts:

As a former advisor to Larco on this redevelopment, I am astounded at the mis-information and some of the opinions expressed on this post.

Firstly, unless the proposal has changed dramatically since I was involved, there is no intention to replace retail with housing. Rather, the intention is to retain the food store, liquor store, neighbourhood retail (dry cleaners, restaraurant, etc) and professional offices and ADD housing above, and around the commercial space. The retail will be transformed from a very uncomfortable ‘mall experience’ to a more pleasant street oriented retail.

The architects are Dialogue (formerly Hotson Bakker et al) who were the architects and planners for Granville Island. I was involved with their selection and thought they were a good choice because of their ability to create a pleasant shopping environment.

The residential densities are much highert than the current zoning, but modest compared to some of the new projects around the city. In my opinion, they are quite appropriate for the size and context of the property. The building form is terraced mid-rise, rather than high rise, to relate to the nearby buildings.

I have not seen the latest plans, but if they look like a bunker as one critic has suggested, then they should be modified, since the developer’s intention has always been to create something attractive that will appeal to residents of the area. I understand there is a mix of housing types and sizes.

So why the substantial objection to all of this? Why doesn’t it fit with the ‘vision’?

Because the vision does not support any housing on this large parking area. The vision is absolutely wrong, and those who support it are wrong.

If you can’t add well designed housing to a large parking lot in the middle of an established area, on an arterial road, where should you add housing?

As for those concerned about ‘spot rezoning’, it should be noted that this proposal did go through a comprehensive two stage planning process, establishing a policy framework to serve as the basis for the subsequent rezoning application.

While I like many of the people who are opposed to this development, they should realize that this is precisely the type of redevelopment that should be occuring in our city. I just hope that all of the people in the community who support this development, and I know that there are many, will speak up.

But even if they don’t, it will be a tragedy if this Council would reject this proposal just because hundreds or thousands of people sign a petition against housing on a large parking lot on an arterial road in a part of the city that desperately needs alternative housing choices.


Josie said...

The Arbutus Village proposed development will take approximately 8 to 10 years to complete.
That is, 8 to 10 years of continuous construction with all the noise, dust, dirt, and disruption to those of us who live next to the parking lot.
If you think this is such a great idea, why don't you buy my condo and come and live here!!!

Anonymous said...

Bravo... Someone that can stand up to the NIMBYS in the neighborhood!

I respect your thoughtful discussion and I hope this proceeds--maybe council will even encourage a floor or 2 higher than what is proposed to allow greater density and more people to use existing facilities such as existing infrastructure.

I can't wait to buy there!

Canada said...

The Arbutus Village proposed development will take approximately 8 to 10 years to complete.
That is, 8 to 10 years of continuous construction with all the noise, dust, dirt, and disruption to those of us who live next to the parking lot.
If you think this is such a great idea, why don't you buy my condo and come and live here!!

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