British Columbia

28-storey West Broadway development stirs debate among area residents

The mayor of Vancouver says a highrise development on West Broadway would bring much needed affordable housing to the area, but critics are concerned it will be too tall.

Vancouver's mayor supports the highrise; opponents say proposed building is too tall

IBI Group Architects has submitted an application to build a 28-storey residential building on this empty lot at 2538 Birch St. along the Broadway corridor in the Fairview Slopes area of Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Area residents worry that approval of a 28-storey development would signal a dramatic change for a neighbourhood along West Broadway in Vancouver.

The development at 2538 Birch St. in the Fairview Slopes neighbourhood would be the tallest building on West Broadway by a long shot.

"It's completely out of context for the neighbourhood," said local Ian Crook. "It's going to be 100 feet taller than anything else in proximity."

However, other residents and the mayor believe the project would bring much needed housing to busy Broadway.

"That's a huge employment corridor now," say Mayor Kennedy Stewart. "We've got the downtown which employs a lot of people in the area. This new Broadway corridor is going to employ that many more in the tech and health sector, with links to UBC."  

Moderate income affordable housing

The City of Vancouver had previously approved 16 floors for the site, but in May the developer resubmitted a rezoning application for 28 floors under a municipal policy for affordable housing.

The Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program allows full rezoning for developments where 20 per cent of residential units are reserved for moderate income households. Up to 20 projects across the city will be part of the program.

The 2538 Birch St. application promises that 53 of its 248 units will be for households making between $30,000 and $80,000 a year.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says private developers can be encouraged to build affordable housing thanks to the city's moderate income housing policy. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

However, urban designer Frank Ducote says there's more to city design than simply building more rental supply.

"I think this is setting a new standard, that it should call for a plan rather than a one-off zoning application.".

Ducote is recommending that the city should tell the developer to go back to its 16-storey application or that the project should be put on hold altogether until a community plan for the neighbourhood is in place.

City staff say a plan for the Broadway corridor is being developed, but that the 2538 Birch St. project could be approved through the moderate income pilot program before the plan is completed

Stewart believes the city has to work with developers to make sure new projects include affordable housing.

"I would love the federal government to come in and drop billions and billions of dollars to build affordable housing, but that's not happening so this is about the best we can do and I really am supportive of this policy."

City of Vancouver staff are holding an open house Thursday night to get feedback on the project.

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