New art gallery, towers and roof for BC Place passes Vancouver council

Vancouver city council has approved a massive revitalization project for the northeast end of False Creek, including the new retractable roof for BC Place, ensuring the giant dome will be part of the city skyline in some form for years to come.

Vancouver city council threw its support behind a massive revitalization project for the northeast end of False Creek, including the new retractable roof for BC Place, ensuring the giant dome be part of the city skyline in some form for years to come.

The plan spearheaded by the B.C. Pavilion Corporation, which operates BC Place for the provincial government, includes a new art gallery on the shores of False Creek, plus 130,000 square metres of residential, retail and office space.

Mayor Sam Sullivan said he was pleased the area around the stadium will be redeveloped to draw more people into the space after the Olympics.

"It's going to have cafes. It's going to have an outward focus, maybe little shops around it. The unfriendly pedestrian environment will be changed," said Sullivan.

The financial cost of the plan is the responsibility of PavCo, which will use the revenue from the retail, business and residential developments to help pay for the new BC Place roof.

Council split over social housing

But the decision by city council on Thursday night wasn't without controversy and wasn't unanimous.

Sullivan and his colleagues in the Non Partisan Association voted in favour of the plan, but most Vision Vancouver party councillors voted against it.

That was because the plan excludes an affordable housing provision most developers must adhere to in Vancouver, which requires subsidized housing in new condominium towers.

The developer also won't have to pay more than $4 million for community amenities such as parks and other public spaces.

The surprise vote came from COPE Coun. David Cadman, who normally is a strong supporter of social housing, but supported this development plan without it.

Cadman said he voted for the project because the developer is essentially the provincial government and it needs all the money it can get to pay for the BC Place refurbishment.

The deal was the best way to support the vision put forward by David Podmore, the chair of PAVCO, to keep the city's largest sports facility and concert venue going beyond 2010, Cadman told CBC News on Friday morning.

"Mr. Podmore went to a province that basically wanted to knock the thing down, and sell the real estate, and managed to secure an agreement to go ahead and refurbish the thing, and that's what we need. We need to maintain this stadium as a key element of our city," said Cadman.

Cadman points out the province's contribution to the plan also includes a $50 million contribution to relocate the Vancouver Art Gallery, which currently occupies the old court house on Robson Street.

Sullivan said work on everything except the BC Place roof is expected to begin very soon, with the roof replacement slated for after the 2010 Olympics.