Rize Alliance’s latest development at Kingsway and Broadway has received praise from the city, despite backlash from the Mount Pleasant community.
One of Vancouver’s first neighbourhoods, and often called Vancouver’s first suburb, Mount Pleasant has seen a rapid shift in demographics in recent years. The area has become an attraction for first-time homeowners, families, and artists, among others, increasing demand for affordable housing. With the completion of a new Community Plan in 2010, with active consultation with residents, the area appears primed to take centre stage within the city in the near future.
With the increasing trend of densification in Vancouver, as a move towards more sustainable living conditions, one thing that the Mount Pleasant Community Plan aimed to do was determine locations best suited for higher density developments. While the plan lays out the desire to honour local preferences for mostly low and mid-rise buildings, it mentions that high rays will be kept to selected sites. Rize Alliance, having purchased parcels of land to create a new development bordered by Kingsway, Broadway, Watson and 10th Avenue, owns land designated as prime for higher density development. Despite this, there has been a fierce opposition to the proposed development within the community.
Though the development consists of four buildings, the primary tower has drawn the most opposition. Initially proposed as a 26 story, 340-foot tower with a floor-space ratio of 6.44, the largest building among the Rize development has been altered, with the current rezoning plan calling for a 19 story, 215-foot tower with a floor-space ratio of 5.55. Despite this alteration, this building is vastly taller than what is characteristic of the neighbourhood, drawing significant opposition from community groups like the Residents Association of Mount Pleasant (RAMP) and other individuals.
What are the primary arguments against the development? There are definite fears surrounding the possibility for the further gentrification of Mount Pleasant, including higher rental prices and property taxes, as well as the development not suiting the personality and character of the neighbourhood. It is significantly taller than building height guidelines for Mount Pleasant, will result in increased traffic congestion in the area and alter views. One of the most significant changes of note is the removal of 9,200 square feet of community art space, as well as the removal of units designated as short-term incentives for rental (STIR) housing, from the plan. While the reduction in height was part of the reason for these changes, Rize has agreed to pay a Community Amenity Contribution of over six million dollars in place of these features, which some critics have written off as being too low.
There are many arguments for the development as well. The Mount Pleasant Community Plan specifically lists this site as one of three areas that is a candidate for increased building height and densification. The 241 proposed housing units are needed in the area, as the demand for housing in Mount Pleasant is reaching peak levels. Close access to transit is vital for large developments, and this location is relatively close to the current Main Street – Science World and Broadway – City Hall SkyTrain stations. In addition, the proposals for faster public transportation options along the Broadway corridor will almost inevitability come to fruition. Increased density is vital in urban environments, a cornerstone of sustainability principles and a necessity if intending to reach the Greenest City 2020 goals. There are also the commercial benefits of new retail spaces and more local residents.
Every aspect both for and against the development cannot be fully discussed when writing a blog post that will be as concise as possible. In addition, it does not leave space to discuss the rampant NIMBYism apparent in this situation and its implications for both urban planning and community representation. Are there any additional pros and cons which you think are key considerations for this development? Are you in favour of the development or do you believe it will cause a negative impact on the Mount Pleasant community? Let us know below, it’s always great to hear a variety of opinions.
Anyone with an opinion on the situation should also consider attending the public hearings, which resume at 7pm on March 27th in City Hall’s Council Chamber. You are still able to register to speak, if you so desire, and you can watch video of the first three hearings online here.