Norquay residents and supporters need to resist any attempt by developers/planners to push new flat-roof design into the parts of Norquay that do not lie along Kingsway or form part of the narrow “transition zone” between Kingsway and the surrounding neighborhood.
Whenever the three new housing types (duplex, traditional rowhouse, stacked townhouse) are brought to Norquay open houses for review, there should be confirmation to the community that stacked townhouse in particular will not be permitted to alter the eclectic character of Norquay by substantially increasing the proportion of flat-roofed structures. The blight of this clearly unwanted design element must not be allowed to spread.
The table appended to this posting demonstrates that flat-roof design in Norquay is at present a minuscule component within Norquay dwelling types and comprises substantially less than 1% of existing dwellings.
It is not appropriate for “neighbourhood centre” planning to overwhelm and alter the existing organic mix of neighborhood design and character with cheap-looking and shadow-casting boxes that do not fit in and go against the clearly expressed wishes of residents.
What the Community Has Already Said
The Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision confirms (p. 27) substantial community support for design that “reflects character houses in the area [and is] less boxy — scale and massing … to ‘fit’ … surroundings — encourage … pitched roofs, porches and entries” [all accompanying illustrations are sloped roof]. A similar level of support is shown (p. 28) for “steeped roofs.” Elsewhere (p. 53) that level of support is show for “townhouse development like Duchess Street apartments [pitched roof design] … compatible with RS-1.”
The Norquay Planning Background
Extensive community engagement with planners eventually led to city council approval of the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan.
But not all understandings of the community received explicit statement in the Plan. Right up until the end, the Plan was in flux. Besides that, little time was provided for the community to review the many pages that had been prepared by planners working entirely on their own.
Some of the best documentation for understandings on building design can be found in the materials presented to the Norquay community at Workshop 4 on 28 April 2009. One of five parallel sessions focused on Housing Character. The graphics provided showed predominantly sloped roofs, and the planner offered the provisions of RS-5 as an improvement on design that Norquay might look to enjoy. The planner was told that Norquay did not want flat roofs. This concern was repeated multiple times to the succeeding new planning team in phase 3 (2009-2010) of the Norquay planning.
Additional Practical Rationale
At the level of practicality, in Vancouver’s rainforest climate, three construction features in particular exacerbate the neverending problem of rapid wood-frame building rot, also known as “leaky condo” disease. One of those features is flat roofs that do not shed water rapidly. The others are (1) insufficient roof overhang and (2) plastic vapor barrier that restricts breathability and promotes in-wall condensation.
It is understandable that flat roof may be unavoidable in the design of buildings for the four-storey apartment housing type — destined mainly for the Kingsway transition zone, but also due to encroach into residential neighborhood around Norquay Park and along Earles Street. Two things make flat roof more acceptable for this type alone: (1) Ownership seems more likely to be landlord-tenant rental rather than strata ownership. Consequently, single building owners should be less likely to stint on the necessary inspection and maintenance than very small strata corporations are. (2) The height and location of these buildings (except in residential areas, where this type was a last-minute community-unapproved intrusion of the Plan) should make the flat-roof design less obtrusive over time.
Same-Day Update on 30 April 2012 — 4:48 pm
The attention of Eye on Norquay has been brought to a 14 May public hearing on a “Housing Demonstration Project” nearby in East Vancouver. Sixteen strata townhouses are proposed for an assembly of two residential properties that together measure 100 x 218 at 5761-5775 St. George Street. The presentation to the Urban Design Panel described “family oriented townhouses [whose] massing and design will have a relatively steep pitched roof.” Here’s hoping that the 1900 properties in Norquay will enjoy the same respect being shown to the context surrounding this “demonstration” project.
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Appendix: Street-By-Street Survey of Existing Flat-Roof Dwellings in Norquay
New Zoning Address Duplex 2470 East 29th Avenue Transition Apt 2191 East 32nd Avenue Duplex 2325 East 40th Avenue Duplex 4718 Clarendon Street Stacked Townhouse 2707 Duke Street Transition Apt 5066 Earles Street Transition Apt 2248 Galt Street Stacked Townhouse 4616 Nanaimo Street Stacked Townhouse 4632 Nanaimo Street Stacked Townhouse 4850 Slocan Street Transition Apt 5015 Wales Street Duplex 5651 Wales Street