British Columbia

Vancouver approves 39-storey tower for corner of Broadway and Granville Street

Vancouver city council on Tuesday approved plans to build a 39-storey tower at the corner of Broadway and Granville, paving the way for what will be the tallest building in the city outside the downtown core.

Building will be city's tallest outside of downtown core

A rendering shows the ground-floor entrance to the upcoming 39-storey tower at 1477 W. Broadway, atop the new South Granville SkyTrain station. Vancouver city councillors approved the tower project on Tuesday. (PCI Developments)

Vancouver city council on Tuesday approved plans to build a 39-storey tower at the corner of Broadway and Granville Street, paving the way for what will be the tallest building in the city outside the downtown core.

The building at 1477 W. Broadway will have a mix of retail, office, grocery and residential space, directly atop the newly built South Granville SkyTrain station.

The project was approved by 9-2 after a series of contentious public hearings through the week, with dozens of speakers making their arguments to council over four different meetings.

Coun. Christine Boyle said she voted in favour of the project in order to bring high-density housing to what will become a major transit hub in a growing neighbourhood.

"I hear again and again about the stress and anxiety about housing increases from seniors and from families across the city ... We know these will be loved homes for hundreds of Vancouverites and I think that's really important," she told CBC's The Early Edition on Wednesday.

"Location is really important, too ... it's part of building complete, walkable communities. South Granville and Fairview already have so much to offer on that front. It's a beautiful community for more people to be able to call home, and it's an important piece of climate action," she added.

"Allowing more people to live close to where they work, close to the places that they rely on and visit in their lives is an important piece of reducing transportation emissions."

A rendering of the tower proposed for 1477 W. Broadway. (PCI Developments)

The developer, PCI Developments, marketed the building as a "vertical block" that squeezes all of the elements of a traditional city block into one lot by stacking them vertically.

Once complete, the building will have 223 residential units. Forty-four of those units — 20 per cent — will be permanently secured at below-market rents, which are geared toward households making up to $80,000 per year.

"It's housing for perhaps a couple that are working in coffee shops or restaurants in the area," Boyle said.

Coun. Jean Swanson voted against the project, saying the tower's residential units will have a knock-on effect on surrounding rental values.

"My big thing is affordability and 80 per cent of the units in this building were going to be pretty expensive — especially since it's a high building. It'll get premium rents for top floors. The surrounding rentals in that area are hundreds of dollars a month less than these ones will be," Swanson said in an interview Wednesday. 

"What happens when you have expensive housing dropped in the middle of housing that's kind of affordable, is the land values go up, the taxes go up and the rents go up. So, unless we have some airtight protection for existing tenants, we've got a real problem."

Swanson said she also worries the approval sets a bad precedent, since the city is in the middle of consultations for the overall Broadway Corridor Plan

"I'm really afraid of the gentrification effect of allowing one tower ... then approving this tower would signal approving the Broadway plan, which is also calling for lots of towers," Swanson said.

PCI Developments has already begun what construction it can under existing zoning on site. The developer expects the building to be finished in 2024, roughly one year before the new SkyTrain station — part of the extension to the transit network's Millennium Line — is set to open.

LISTEN | Coun. Christine Boyle speaks about her vote in favour of the project:

With files from CBC's The Early Edition and Jessica Cheung