Waterfront Tower meets calls for moratorium
By Cheryl Chan, The Province June 4, 2015, theprovince.com
A controversial tower proposed for a prime downtown Vancouver location between two heritage buildings has ignited calls for a moratorium on development in the area.
Waterfront Tower, a 26-storey tower proposed by Cadillac Fairview on a parking lot at 555 W. Cordova Street was rejected by Vancouver’s urban design panel in January as the wrong fit for the small site wedged between Waterfront Station and The Landing.
While proponents described the building’s modern design as “origami-like,” critics called it a “geometric blob,” “the Martian landing,” and an “ice pick” due to its narrow base and widening body that appears to crouch over the station. Cadillac Fairview is now rethinking the design.
“When the first thing out of the box looks like this, you question the whole plan,” said Frank Ducote of the Downtown Waterfront Working Group, a group composed of concerned planners, architects, heritage planners and citizens.
Ducote was one of the speakers at a lunch time “city conversation” at SFU's Vancouver campus on the future of Vancouver’s waterfront area, laid out in a 2009 Central Waterfront Hub Framework, that includes new commercial spaces, open public spaces, and better waterfront access.
But the initial design for Waterfront Tower was so shocking and “out of gear” with the hub plan it made Gordon Price, SFU’s City Program director, question what went wrong with the process. “How did we get to this stage?” he asked the panel, to applause from the audience.
The waterfront plan is complex and involves many players, including the provincial and federal governments, the Port of Vancouver, and private owners such as Greg Kerfoot, co-owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, and Cadillac Fairview. The city only has right of access to create a road which would connect Cordova Street with the waterfront.
There are also other projects afoot: Across the street, a 25-storey office tower on 320 Granville was recently approved by the city, and the federal government has said it wants to explore adding up to 1-million square foot of office space above Sinclair Centre.
“Getting people to understand the vision and complexity of the waterfront hub is important,” said speaker Anita Molaro, assistant director of planning for the city. “It is incredibly complex.”
The city will evaluate projects based on whether it fits the hub plan, she said. There will also opportunities to give public input as part of the development process for proposed projects. Others say that’s not enough.
One man in the audience called for a moratorium until all the players can come to the table instead of the city approving projects in a piecemeal fashion.
Cam Cathcart, who served five years on the Vancouver Heritage Commission, agreed. “It’s got to be all the pieces,” he said. “Hub is great, but there’s too many little parts not being put together and that is what appalls me about this.”
Cathcart said he recognized there are varying interests and timetables at play, but said citizens should have a strong say. “We welcome investment and development, but it has to be done in a way we all agree should be done.”