Does Not Equal

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Expectations Created by Norquay Plan ≠ 2220 Kingsway Proposal


The lifespan of Norquay Working Group ran from its formation after the 25 March 2006 “kickoff” open house for Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre to its abrupt unilateral termination by City of Vancouver (CoV) at a final meeting on 3 February 2011. Over those years, and since then, CoV planners have held numerous “open houses” that created specific expectations of what their planning might hold in store for the future of Norquay.

The graphic at left below was presented to the Norquay community in a February 2011 open house, three months after Vancouver City Council approved the Norquay Plan. This representation does not derive from an intermediate stage in development of the plan. Norquay residents typically encounter the Norquay Plan intentions through open house materials rather than through the formal planning document itself. [The text in the graphic — Panel 6 from February 2011 — can be found in more readable form below.]


The development proposal for 2220 Kingsway that was unveiled in July 2012 provides an ultimate testbed for comparing what planners presented to the community with what a developer seeks to impose. The 2.3 acre site at the southeast corner of Kingsway and Gladstone is one of only three large yet-to-be-developed sites that lie along Norquay’s one-mile stretch of Kingsway. The Canadian Tire site is the first to go into play — even before the broad Norquay planning has been completed.

The following materials selected from various open houses relate directly to these few large “special sites.” The purpose here is to gather and to arrange those intimations, those virtual promises, so that they can be read while holding the specifics of the 2220 Kingsway development proposal in mind. It is left to the reader to form a preparatory notion of the three 14-storey towers as part of a compound that is completely walled-off from and looking down on the surrounding neighborhood.

What follows below consists only of directly quoted words and square-bracketed description of accompanying graphics. The emphases in boldface have been added. Linkage allows for comparison with actual CoV panel. In one instance brief elaboration has been added in curly braces.

[Note: In August 2012 CoV rolled out a new web site, broke linkages to most of the existing materials, brought forward almost none of the previous planning documents, and created great doubt about the reliability of future access to public record. Beginning with this posting, Eye on Norquay will routinely reproduce CoV materials to ensure that previous planning representations cannot be disappeared at the flip of a web server.]

January 2010

Panel 13: Kingsway Design Principles

An enhanced public realm in the form of wide sidewalks, outdoor patios, a major public gathering space, and smaller public plazas. The quality of this public realm is directly affected by the height and form of the buildings around them. Building heights can be restricted or allowed to vary, each with different impacts on shadows, views, ground-level open space and effect on Kingsway and the surrounding neighbourhood.

OPEN SPACE:  Allowing building heights above 8 storeys would free up more public space on the ground plane in the form of wide sidewalks, plazas and public squares. In turn, these would provide more areas for public art, heritage retention, commercial patios, recreation and social activities.

STREET ENCLOSURE AND CHARACTER:  A lower streetwall punctuated by a few taller building elements would feel more open but less urban in character.

June 2010

Panel 12: Kingsway Building Typology

SPECIAL ‘GATEWAY SITES (2 SITES):  Allowing up to 12 storeys of building height on the 2 ‘gateway’ sites (Purdy’s and Canadian Tire) creates an opportunity for public plazas or pedestrian mews, without allowing for increased density. [Accompanying graphic shows significant public passageway and open space at ground level.]

Panel 13: Kingsway Design Guidelines

Wider sidewalks, more public spaces, friendlier building frontages, small-scale retail spaces, and careful attention to urban design and context are a few of the objectives of proposed design guidelines for the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan.

BUILDING DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION:  High-quality building materials and architectural quality are key to the durability and visual appeal of development. Exterior finishes should be composed of durable materials such as brick and concrete and urban design review can be used to ensure high quality design.

PUBLIC PLAZAS AND OUTDOOR SPACES:  On larger sites, plazas and outdoor public gathering spaces can be created, as well as other opportunities to create outdoor spaces such as pocket parks and mid-block pedestrian access to Kingsway from surrounding streets. [Three accompanying graphics show pleasant open spaces that serve as more than fragmented corridor dead-ending toward big-box retail.]

Panel 15: 20-Year Outlook Along Kingsway

2015-2020:  This scenario shows redevelopment of large parcels that currently have limited site coverage (large parking lots or open space). [Accompanying graphic shows redeveloped Canadian Tire site at upper left with a single taller tower and site openness at ground level.]

February 2011

Panel 6: Kingsway: Height and Density

SPECIAL SITES — GATEWAY SITES:  Two large ‘gateway’ sites (currently in use by Canadian Tire and Purdy’s Chocolates) will allow buildings up to 14 storeys in height to allow for public plazas (minimum 8,000 square feet). [Accompanying graphic shows significant public passageway and open space at ground level. This graphic is also reproduced within this posting.]

Panel 8: Kingsway: Visual Impact of Height

One of the urban design goals for Kingsway has been to create a varied and eclectic ‘streetscape’ with care to ensure that buildings are not ‘bulky’ and do not overwhelm the street and sidewalk. Even with the increase in density, new buildings along Kingsway will fit well along the street and City staff proposes a mix of 10-storey building heights with lower (4-6 storey) podiums to create a ‘peak and valley’ effect to allow for views and sun on the sidewalk.

When it comes to a sense of comfort and ‘human scale’, the most important attribute is the design of the lower portion of the building along the sidewalk. More specifically, the ‘feel’ of Kingsway is affected by design features such as how finely detailed the building façade is and how tall the building is along the sidewalk (the ‘pedestrian perception zone’). An additional two storeys in height, if properly located, will not noticeably impact the perception of height at the street level. {Sidewalk and street level must include the Gladstone side of the Kingsway corner.}

[Two accompanying graphics show sensible height variation, not close mechanical repetition of maximum height mesas with narrow deep clefts.]

Panel 10: Kingsway: Design Strategies

BUILDING SETBACKS:  Staff Recommendation: Upper storeys should be set back from the building podium in order to reduce the appearance of building height and bulk.

ARCHITECTURAL EXPRESSION:  The community has commented that they would like to see high quality, highly detailed, and well designed buildings along Kingsway that are distinctive to the neighbourhood centre (i.e. no glass towers).


Written by eyeonnorquay

19 August 2012 at 9:02 pm

2 Responses

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  1. First off, thank you so much for organizing all the resources together in one place. I hope to see more discussion here (I’m assuming too you were the one who distributed the flyers in the neighbourhood, which was how I found out about this project)

    I think it’s important to recognize the context of all of this development – I mean I’m sick to death of the garbage ‘3-4 story mixed use’ buildings that get built again and again in this city. The LAST thing we need along Kingsway here is another bunch of nail salons and bubble tea houses with a few residential units above. The Canadian Tire itself is a wretched looking building – I am glad I don’t live immediately adjacent as staring at a parking lot and a bunch of auto service bays isn’t exactly visually interesting.

    What I see in the proposed development that I love:

    – Significant increase in sidewalk area – the proposed building has a significant increase in setback compared to the neighbouring buildings, providing a lot more sidewalk space

    – I like the ‘stepped’ approach on Kingsway itself – yes the East tower is right on Kingsway, but the remainder of the building does definitely step back as the height increases, allowing sunlight at street level

    – The street plan looks fantastic – as a cyclist in the area I’ll be much happier not sharing with vehicles as we ride up Gladstone from Kingsway, and as a driver I’ll be glad to see the constant left turners gone from Kingsway on to Gladstone, at least in that direction

    – The park area on the southwest corner looks intriguing, though I wonder about the actual practicality given the small size

    I’m really not sure what to think about the plaza – from the drawings and things it appears to be quite open to the public, but the actual purpose and composition of the plaza isn’t particularly obvious. It doesn’t appear to be clear whether there will be any points to enter/exit the plaza other than the northeast corner. Nor is it clear whether there would be retail adjacent to the plaza or not.

    If there is no retail, and only one entrance/exit then I don’t really see the point, as there would be no reason for me to ever wander in there (other than to take a look when/if it is actually built). To me there should be some sort of ‘passageway’ for pedestrians to walk completely through. A “public” plaza with no public purpose won’t serve anyone, but it does have potential. A fine dining restaurant with outdoor tables French-style would be an attraction for sure!


    22 August 2012 at 1:12 pm

  2. Eye on Norquay was instrumental in creating and distributing the leaflet you mention, but we did not do all of the work.

    With the last-minute considerations that were forced into the Norquay Plan, you could eventually be encountering a ten-storey canyon along Kingsway — still with the kind of retail that you deplore at ground level. Planners can guarantee nothing about the retail, and love to tell you that. A fairly attractive four-storey building went onto the site where Midland Liquidators used to operate. The “revitalized” multiple retail spaces turned into … yet one more drive-to bath and plumbing fixture outfit. So much for that friendly retail for our walkable denser neighborhood. Sort of like the Service Canada that went into King Edward Village. Drive-to. Ugh!

    Credit for the extra sidewalk area goes to our long and hard battle for the Norquay Plan, and especially to one planner with some good sense. In no way to the developer, who must adhere to that specification of the Norquay Plan. As minimally as possible, it seems.

    The stepped approach to Kingway entails a nasty 14-storey cold shoulder wall that looms over Gladstone, with almost no setback. The west tower is a huge problem.

    The possible Gladstone diversion has been in the works for a long time and has no connection with the developer. It was announced about the same time as the traffic reduction at Clarendon and East 45th Avenue. (I notice that barrier to east-west traffic along East 45th has recently been removed.) This diversion may not happen. Come to the open house and say that it should if that’s what you think.

    The so-called park is mostly a setting and frontage for a proposed restaurant. Any functionality for the local community is incidental.

    The siting and configuration of the so-called plaza is probably the biggest failure in the current proposal. You seem to get that already. The existence of a plaza space is not a kindness of the developer — it is a requirement of the Norquay Plan.


    23 August 2012 at 10:55 pm

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