Far East Vancouver

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5515-5665 Boundary Road, 5448-5666 Ormidale Street,
and 3690 Vanness Avenue

Main Points

  Treats an East Vancouver neighborhood like a large parcel of undeveloped industrial land
  Blockbusts the Kingsway/Joyce “neighbourhood centre” area with a spot-rezoning megaproject
  Disrespects the Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision of human-scale development
  Breaks scale with existing Collingwood Village and builds on existing “creep” factor
  Sneaks off to last-ditch public hearing before a lame-duck Council


The megaproject to be described below lies so far east in Vancouver that it really belongs to Burnaby. The type and scale of the proposed development manifest a westward seepage of Metrotown.

Son of Metrotown! Sandwiched between Collingwood Village and the Telus building (Brian Canfield Centre at 3777 Kingsway), down a steep hill from Kingsway, this development has been steadily plodding its way toward public hearing.

The rezoning site is in excess of three acres. The majority of the parcels in the block are currently developed with single-family dwellings.  (p. 2-3) [1]

The target area has been cleverly selected, and the process precisely timed to minimize pushback.

From a Norquay perspective, the other side of Renfrew-Collingwood has seemed too far away to attempt any action or coverage — especially since the immediate surrounding community has failed to organize and stand up in any apparent way.

The Crux for Norquay

This massive development proposal would fall within the boundaries of a Kingsway/Joyce neighbourhood centre … which has not even been planned yet! This kind of neighborhood blockbusting has become standard operating procedure with the City of Vancouver: spot rezone ahead of so-called planning, and thus predetermine what can come afterward.

Norquay’s experience so far has been mild by comparison: one 22-storey tower with 8-storey blocks adjacent, crash-landing into an area that had previous experience of nothing over four storeys. Just ahead of the March 2006 initiation of neighbourhood centre planning for Norquay! And more recently a 12-storey block across from Norquay Park. The 2300 Kingsway rezoning also happens to be a Wall Financial project.

Although Norquay feels trampled by five years of contentious “planning,” in retrospect the unwanted and out-of-human-scale towers that planners have forced on the neighborhood may seem small compared with the looming nastiness to be dumped elsewhere. For example, the three towers of 28, 29, and 30 storeys now in the works for up the road toward New Westminster, in an area just west of Boundary Road and north of Kingsway.

Perhaps the years of Norquay struggle that limited future tower heights along Kingsway to 16 storeys at the centre and 14 storeys at either end did achieve something worthwhile. It remains to be seen whether the City of Vancouver will honor its own “planning.” Recent tendencies showing creep are not encouraging. Neither is the earlier history of Collingwood Village that is revealed below.

Neighbourhood Centre Farce

Although “neighbourhood centres” are supposed to be the realization of CityPlan, Vancouver planners have seemed reluctant to undertake a third one since encountering massive and prolonged resistance to the second one in Norquay.

A look at what the Boundary-Ormidale-Vanness rezoning report has to say about neighbourhood centres is instructive. First comes this passing bit of lip service:

“CityPlan: Directions for Vancouver” provides that additional housing should be provided around future neighbourhood centres (Joyce Street and Kingsway).  (p. 4) [1]

“Additional housing” could be anything from a double-wide on cinder blocks on up to a 50-storey block with zero setback. Or less, or more.

Next comes a piece of pure waffle, drenched in the cheapest syrup going.

Other retail services are focused along Kingsway, with the area around Kingsway and Joyce Street identified as a future Neighbourhood Centre in the Community Vision. Staff support the primarily residential approach of the rezoning application, however, large-site developments generally contain a variety of uses in order to provide a more complete community for new residents. … Given the distance to other local-serving retail uses, staff support the inclusion of some commercial use on this site, to be limited in type and scale, minimizing its impact on the primary commercial high streets in the area.  (p. 6) [1]

“Given the distance” (remember that is also up a steep hill) — which makes mockery of the concept of a centre — let’s damage the existing nearby commercial by putting in retail competition … and along the way let’s mouth a few words about “minimizing impact.” How else could planners justify plunking a gated drive-to complex of towers on top of what was a single-family neighborhood?

Toward the end comes the biggest laugh of all.

The site is in the Renfrew Collingwood Community Vision area, just east of a potential Neighbourhood Centre around the Kingsway/Joyce shopping area. The vision document does not identify the site as a “Large Site” with specific Vision directions relating to rezoning or development.  (Appendix G, p. 1) [1]

City planning produced a “vision” that made no provision for this area to consist of anything other than the ground-oriented type of housing that is supposed to surround a centre within a five- to ten-minute walk. But now speculators want an empty field for their megaproject? Bye-bye to that phony “planning.” Meanwhile, the “potential” for the “neighbourhood centre” vanishes.

Developers and planners could care less about what was supposed to be the governing vision for Vancouver, a collection of 23 distinct neighborhoods. When profit has such an opportunity, why not go ahead and crossbreed downtown with Metrotown wherever it seems convenient?

Imagine yourself living in a single-family home in the next overshadowed block, even owning a property whose livability has been severely diminished. The recipe: collateral damage with no compensation — except perhaps a reduced property tax bill brought on by declining property value.

What Is Happening

On 1 November 2011, less than three weeks before City Hall may no longer be able to wink and smirk at every developer-planner proposal that comes along, Wall Financial is slipping this massive project along to public hearing.

The labyrinthine designation for the rezoning — 5515-5665 Boundary Road, 5448-5666 Ormidale Street and 3690 Vanness Avenue — announces that the undertaking is designed not to be understood.

The timing seems superbly fortuitous — a last gasp while all attention is focused on the 2011 Vancouver municipal election, and while incumbents are scurrying about and hoping to retain their seats.

Here is the overwhelming official summary:

To rezone 33 individual parcels in this block from CD-1 (220) and CD-1 (224) to a new CD-1 District for the purpose of developing a project comprised of: three residential towers being 29, 30 and 28 storeys in height on Boundary Road and Vanness Avenue, with a density of 5.50 floor space ratio (FSR); a 6-storey, stepped building on Ormidale Street; 1,114 dwelling units; underground parking for 1,329 vehicles with access from Ormidale Street and Boundary Road; 33,000 square feet of community amenity space; a limited amount of local-serving commercial space; and publicly accessible open space.  (p. 1) [2]

The associated “urban design” criterion is sheer black humor:

              To reduce the apparent scale of the tower and podium components

Next Door at Collingwood Village

Anyone who thinks that Collingwood Village is large-scale has seen nothing yet. Even the Urban Design Panel picked up on the dubious disparity:

As well a couple of Panel members thought the massing hadn’t addressed the Collingwood Village in the built form. They felt that the rise in height from the Collingwood residential neighbourhood to twenty nine storeys might be too much. There was also some concern from several Panel members regarding the height and potential oppressiveness of the streetwall podium.  [3]

The Appendix below shows how creep boosted that earlier megaproject upwards from original heights, with sneaky increase by as much as 7 storeys. Now, the 72 meters maximum brought in by that trickery is used to justify going for three towers of 81 to 85 meters.

The higher the developers can place their cocoons, the more profits they make … and the more the new tower dwellers can look down on those whose human-scale neighborhood they violate.

Nothing in this project is about housing people affordably, creating community, or constructing environmentally responsible buildings.

*     *     *


CD-1 (314) 3400-3600 Vanness, Foster and Euclid Streets: By-law No.7204 (2 Nov 1993)

Table 4 on page 8 shows seven sub-areas with allowable building heights ranging from 48 to 72 meters. Entire area (map as Schedule A on page 3) is bounded (clockwise) by Joyce, Vanness, Ormidale, Foster, Aberdeen, and Euclid.

=     =     =

POLICY REPORT — Date: February 19, 2001 — Council: March 6, 2001
CD-1 Text Amendment: 3602-3660 Vanness Avenue (Collingwood Village)

Increasing their maximum permitted heights as follows:

•  for the tower in Sub-area 7, from 48 m (158 ft.) to 51 m (167 ft.) or from 17 storeys to 18 storeys
•  for the tower in Sub-area 8, from 53 m (174 ft.) to 67 m (220 ft.) or from 19 storeys to 24 storeys
•  for the west tower in Sub-area 10, from 56 m (184 ft.) to 72 m (236 ft.) or from 19 storeys to 26 storeys
•  for the east tower in Sub-area 10, from 20 storeys to 21 storeys

*     *     *

Further Reading:

[1]  Policy Report [ Boundary-Ormidale-Vanness ] (20 Sept 2011)

[2]  Summary and Recommendation [ Boundary-Ormidale-Vanness ] (1 Nov 2011)

[3]  Urban Design Panel Minutes For: Wednesday, June 1, 2011

[4]  Rezoning Application: 5515-5665 Boundary Road, 5448-5666 Ormidale Street and 3690 Vanness Street

[5]  Charlie Smith. “Wall Financial Corporation returns to council for East Vancouver rezoning hearing.” Georgia Straight (26 Oct 2011)


Written by eyeonnorquay

30 October 2011 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Events, News

One Response

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  1. If a developer is allowed to build a FSR of 5.50 here – in an area zoned for FSR 1.2 or 1.45 – then basically they can build FSR 5.5 anywhere in the city. This simple fact drives up land values everywhere. The ‘planning’ department needs to at least acknowledge this, and not recommend approval of the development.


    1 November 2011 at 7:23 am

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