SkyTrain Marine Drive’s transit-oriented development cluster will continue to grow, as Vancouver City Council has approved the major mixed-use redevelopment of the Denny’s restaurant just west of the transit hub.
Earlier this week during a public hearing, with relatively little debate, the rezoning application for 622-688 Southwest Marine Drive was unanimously approved by city council, with TEAM councillor Colleen Hardwick abstaining.
Chard Development will build two towers of 28 storeys and 32 storeys, reaching up to 330 ft — just eight ft lower than Marine Gateway’s tallest tower.
The residential component of the project is 100% rental housing, with a total of 573 secured rental homes, including 456 market rental units and 117 non-market rental units.
The market unit mix is 56 studios, 241 one-bedroom units, 153 two-bedroom units, and six three-bedroom units, while the below-market rental unit mix is 54 studios, 21 one-bedroom units, 36 two-bedroom units, and six three-bedroom units.
Of the below-market rental unit mix, 28 units will be set aside as social housing units operated by the YWCA for single mothers and their children. All of the YWCA units will be sized for families, with two or three bedrooms.
Brenda Ulmer, the vice-president of development for YWCA, told city council her organization has an affordable housing waitlist of 1,800 individuals — single mothers and their kids.
Deviating from conventional practice, the below-market units will not be clustered together separately, as they will be in the lower floors mixed with market unit neighbours. Additionally, all residents regardless of housing tenure will have access to all amenity spaces in the complex, including 23,400 sq ft of indoor amenity space, including an indoor basketball court, fitness gym, and various other indoor and outdoor amenity spaces on the podium and tower rooftops.
Within the lower floors, there will be a 7,200 sq ft childcare facility with a capacity for up to 49 kids, as well as 17,000 sq ft of “destination” retail and restaurant space to activate the various outdoor public spaces, including a plaza-like, mid-block connection between the tower podiums from Marine Drive to West 70th Avenue.
Three underground levels will contain 276 vehicle parking stalls and 1,102 bike parking spaces. The total floor area will reach 431,000 sq ft, establishing a floor area ratio density of a floor area that is 6.84 times larger than the size of the 66,474 sq ft lot. No community amenity contributions are needed, but the developer will be required to provide $12.7 million in development cost levies and $900,000 in public art. The architectural design firm is Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership.
“I’m really excited that this is so close to transit. I’m really happy to see the applicant pulling al of this together, and doing this in a way that really brings services and communities not only together but nearby transit, and I think that is so important,” said NPA councillor Melissa De Genova.
As a result of the YWCA component, the project won the rare support of both COPE councillor Jean Swanson and Hardwick, who are well known critics of market housing and density.
“I’m going to vote for this. I have a soft spot for single parents and was one for a long time. I really like the YWCA proposal and the fact that there’s childcare… so I can’t really resist it,” said Swanson. She added that she wishes there were more than 28 units for the YWCA, but it is “better than nothing.”
“But at the same time, I’m realizing that over 400 of these units are going to be expensive, some of them are probably going to be really expensive because they’ll have views and are really high up.”
Hardwick had a similar rationale for supporting for the project. Prior to explaining her reasons, she noted that her vote to “abstain” technically counts as a “yes” vote towards the project under the city’s charter. She has by far the highest number of abstentions of all council members.
“As a single parent that raised two girls by myself from Kindergarten to Grade 12, I can certainly appreciate the YWCA and the need for housing and for single parents. I support this development on that basis,” said Hardwick.
“But I remain concerned about the dismissing of our community plans because again… it’s continuing a pattern that really was begun by the former council over a decade where we stopped listening to the will of the people and neighbourhood. Doubling the height and density of this site on the basis of the nearby development is just not enough rationale for me. It’s all based on a narrative that has not been supported around our housing demand issues with the data.”
The site falls under the city’s 2014-approved Marpole Community Plan, which does not contemplate the approved density and heights.
However, the site benefited from city council’s decision in late 2020 that directed city staff to accept applications for taller building heights around Marine Drive Station to optimize the area’s transit-oriented location for affordable housing and employment. This extra density and height consideration was initially triggered by a pre-application enquiry by the proponents of the adjacent Ashley Mar Co-op redevelopment.
In Fall 2021, city council approved the rezoning application for the Ashley Mar Co-op redevelopment, which calls for three towers up to 338 ft with 31 storeys. It will contain 573 rental homes, including 456 market rental units and 117 below-market rental units.
The 2015-built Marine Gateway and the future Ashley Mar Co-op have essentially set two types of precedent for the areas near the transit hub, with the former initiating transit-oriented development, and the latter further expanding the transit-oriented development area.
Other major applications being considered by the city near the station include the second phase of Marine Gateway — replacing the car dealerships at 8530 Cambie Street, immediately south of the bus exchange. Contained within five towers over podium, the proposal calls for 1,000 homes (680 market rental units, 170 moderate income rental units, and 203 below-market ownership homes), 40,000 sq ft of retail and residential uses, 280,000 sq ft of office space for over 1,800 workers, and 300,000 sq ft of light industrial space.
To the east at 396 Southwest Marine Drive, there is a separate two-tower proposal with about 400,000 sq ft of office space, 170,000 sq ft of light industrial uses, and 10,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant uses.