Key to Placemaking

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Date:  26 July 2011


Mayor Gregor Robertson
Councillors Suzanne Anton, David Cadman, George Chow, Heather Deal, Kerry Jang, Raymond Louie, Geoff Meggs, Andrea Reimer, Tim Stevenson, Ellen Woodsworth

Penny Ballem, City Manager
David McClellan, General Manager of Community Services Group
Brent Toderian, Director of Planning
Kent Munro, Assistant Director, Current Planning
Harv Weidner, Planner III, Community Planning
Neal LaMontagne, Planner III, Citywide and Regional Planning
Paul Cheng, Development Planner II
Alison Higginson, Planner II, Rezoning Centre

A Key to Placemaking in Norquay, A Key to Revitalization of Kingsway:

Open Letter about the Siting of Development at 2667-2703 Kingsway

At the 12 July 2011 public hearing on the rezoning application for 2667-2703 Kingsway, I offered Council a carefully prepared presentation, with written copy [1] provided to accompany oral presentation. The presentation included four “asks,” all of which got lost in a spate of anxiety to sign off on the thirteen questions distributed as appendix. (Those questions were incidental to what got passed right over.)

Observe that the four specific requests made no effort to challenge recently approved developer “rights” to height and floor space ratio (FSR). Even so, Council transmuted the substance of my presentation into the red herring of complaint about what Norquay Plan policy allows — and then disposed of my comment like a dead fish.

Although the rezoning has been approved, the issues that I tried to raise live on — left to the discretion of city planners. There remains an opportunity to get this development done right.

I hope that reason can overcome this recent history of reactive and defensive fear in the face of substantiated criticism, and find a path to honest solutions for the key consensus problems identified by the Urban Design Panel review [2].

Simply put, the space along the sewer right-of-way through the center of the development needs to serve its crucial public function — as gateway to the greenway. That greenway is the second of the top three specific community amenity priorities (p. 15) named in the Norquay Plan [3]. The public hearing discussion revealed that the greenway already represents a long-undelivered promise made to Norquay for previous densification. This opening to the greenway should become one of the most evident features of the Kingway revitalization, a major marker of place. At present it is nothing like that.

As the 2667-2703 Kingsway development is now configured, Norquay seems headed for one more sad and unnecessary compromise. Undue haste and lack of community involvement underlie this problem. Recognize that this is the second of five anticipated large-site developments along Norquay’s stretch of Kingsway. Only a handful of opportunities exist to establish fundamental structure for the Kingsway revitalization.

To turn to practicalities. What is needed is an adequate size of gateway, one that aligns with Norquay Park across the street, and one that respects the context of the Kingsway slant across the predominant street grid. In other words, the eastern wall of building A and the western wall of building B need to be set at an angle to align with the length of Norquay Park. After all, one of the design notions is that 2667-2703 Kingsway will provide a face to the north end of the park, ultimately connecting the park with Renfrew ravine through a linear park.

With current alignments, the developer has proposed to jam box-shaped buildings into a non-box context. Imagine New York’s fabled Flatiron building forced to be four walls standing at right angles on its triangular site!

To encourage the developer to do this right, redistribution of massing and additional height and FSR could provide sufficient incentive. Is it possible that an 11-story building A and a 7- or 8-storey building B could offer the profits that the come-and-go developer needs to extract before leaving our more permanent community residents with a much improved setting? A better and preferred solution would be to find whatever money is required for this implementation through the 2012-2014 Capital Plan now undergoing formulation.

As an individual, reasonable and pragmatic, representing no one other than myself, I would like to see this egregious design problem find a good solution. Fine improvements have just been completed in Norquay Park. To wink at a quick fix right across the street makes no sense.

How this particular situation resolves will send a big signal to the demonstrably abused [4] Norquay community. City planners have here an opportunity to respond to legitimate, carefully articulated concerns — concerns based in external professional review — concerns that are backed up by willingness to see compromise that favors the developer.


Joseph Jones

[1]  Statement of Joseph Jones to 12 July 2011 Public Hearing on 2667—2703 Kingsway

[2]  Urban Design Panel Minutes for Wednesday, May 4, 2011 — Item 1. 2699 Kingsway

[3]  Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan (4 Nov 2010)

[4]  Rowan Arundel. Vancouver density: investigating current patterns and potential future densification areas. University of British Columbia, Geography Department. 2008.


Written by eyeonnorquay

26 July 2011 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Open Letters

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