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Controversial 57-storey tower approved for Vancouver's West End

'We're going to be completely entombed,' neighbour says.

Vancouver’s skyline will be getting a new addition with the approval this week of a skyscraper in the city’s West End.

After two nights of public hearings, city council Wednesday night approved the proposed re-development of the site next to First Baptist Church at Burrard and Nelson streets.

The development, a partnership between the church and Westbank Corp, will include two towers – a smaller seven-storey residential building and a 57-storey tower, designed by late architect Bing Thom. Thom, who died suddenly in October 2016, is well-known for his designs in Vancouver and internationally. He designed the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at UBC, the Surrey City Centre Library and the Sunset Community Centre, among many others.

The smaller building will include 61 units of social housing while the taller tower will have 331 market strata units. The plan also has other amenities for the community, including $10.5 million that has been earmarked for childcare.

At 57 storeys, or 169 metres, the new skyscraper will be amongst the highest in the city. The Wall Centre, across the street from the site, is currently Vancouver’s third highest building with 48 storeys. The Shangri-la is still Vancouver's tallest building at 188 metres.

The redevelopment of the site will also include seismic upgrades and restoration to the 107-year-old church, which owns the land.

The development has proved to be contentious. The city received 243 pieces of correspondence on the matter – 97 in support, 145 opposed and one with questions – as well as a petition in opposition with 228 signatures.

Mike Jensen moved to a smaller building on Barclay two years ago. He said his main concern with the proposal is the position of the tower, which, he said, will be squarely in line with his building, blocking light and any views.

“We’re going to be completely entombed,” he said.

Jensen added that the development would not address the city’s lack of affordable housing — it’s all about extreme luxury, he said.

Those who wrote to the city in favour of the application cited benefits to the church as well as the city as a whole with the inclusion of below-market rental housing, new childcare spaces and the expansion of programs offered by the church.

The proposal passed with seven votes. Coun. Adriane Carr was opposed, and councillors Kerry Jang and Melissa De Genova were not present for the vote.