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Developing Story: Rize open house gets mixed reviews

Critics of the Rize development planned for Mount Pleasant didn’t appear to be mollified by updated details on the project unveiled at an open house Monday evening. City council approved the rezoning application for the site in April 2012.

Critics of the Rize development planned for Mount Pleasant didn’t appear to be mollified by updated details on the project unveiled at an open house Monday evening.

City council approved the rezoning application for the site in April 2012. Residents are now being asked their thoughts on the revised development permit application for the project, which features a 21-storey tower, 258 residential units, 7,295 square feet of commercial space, 399 parking stalls and 350 bicycle stalls.

It goes before the Urban Design Panel April 23 and before the Development Permit Board June 30.

Chris Vollan, Rize’s vice-president of development, told the Courier before the open house that the design conforms to council’s directions at the rezoning and also responds to some feedback gathered at a previous open house last July.

“I think the major moves are in reducing the height of the Broadway building by 30 feet and really introducing a lot of character and craft into the building that really does complement the neighbourhood. This is a really unique structure that would fit nowhere else in our city other than Mount Pleasant,” he said.

Vollan pointed to the mosaic brick for the exterior of the building on Broadway, which he said speaks to the century-old Lee Building nearby.

“That level of detail and understanding the context just doesn’t happen in Vancouver.  It’s taken a long time to design and it’s crafted versus pushed out of a computer,” he said. “Mount Pleasant is a very unique, crafty neighbourhood and this building is designed to fit it and move it forward. It’s a contemporary expression of a very cool neighbourhood.”

At the open house, Marilyn Gardner, who’s lived in the neighbourhood for six years, remained unconvinced.

“I really feel they don’t listen to any input we’ve provided at community input sessions,” she said, adding residents were told there wouldn’t be a lot of parking because it’s a transit hub, yet parking spaces have increased from 320 to 399.

“[The development] doesn’t fit into the Mount Pleasant plan — never has,” she said. “Basically Vision [Vancouver] doesn’t listen. It’s all smoke and mirrors.”

Barbara Jeffery said the project is out of place and fears it will spur further development and turn Mount Pleasant into “another Yaletown.”

“I can’t imagine this in the middle of Kerrisdale or Kitsilano,” she said. “Mount Pleasant is losing its friendly neighbourhood feeling when you start to do things like this.”

Project supporters included architects Juan Gurrola and Antonio Vasquez who filled out feedback forms.

“The architects have gone through great lengths to do something coherent in the neighbourhood,” said Gurrola who works in Mount Pleasant and lived in the area when he first moved to Vancouver 13 years ago. He said he looked forward to finding out what commercial tenants will lease space, although he hopes potential competition won’t drive out Buy-Low Foods at nearby Kingsgate Mall.

He also thinks the tower should be higher, arguing highrises offer a sensible approach to density in the city.

“Yes, I do like the building. I do like the project. I liked it better when it was higher and more playful in its massing. Now it’s more practical,” he said.

Vasquez added that he appreciates the use of colours and texture in design features and how the architects played with heights and scale.

“I look forward to seeing how it will animate the street,” he said.

In an email to the Courier, Russell Acton, from the firm Acton Ostry Architects, which is working on Rize, says the architecture for the project “reinterprets the rich, varied and vibrant artistic expression of the Mount Pleasant community that is captured through contemporary street photography, West Coast painting and sculpture, and the phenomenology and order of steep and colourful hill towns. The tree-topped crown of the tower marks and distinguishes Mount Pleasant in Vancouver's Greenest City skyline.”

Brendan Caron, meanwhile, still opposes Rize and objects to plans to increase parking nand the number of condos.

“It’s a real money-maker for them… It’s not good for the community,” he said, adding he fears residents will soon no longer be able to afford to live in Mount Pleasant. “This is the knife in the very soul of this area.”

John Allison said the project’s proponents have done a better job of trying to make it fit into the neighbourhood’s “artsy vibe,” but “it’s still a giant tower.”

Grace MacKenzie called the project “ridiculous.”

“It’s still too high on Broadway,” she said. “Personally I give up. I really do. This is the kind of bullshit that Vision Vancouver has been pushing from the beginning.”

The city will accept written comments about the development application until May. 5. Comments may also be considered up until the date of the decision.

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