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Developing Story: Tower numbers remain in new Oakridge plan

Revised plan for Oakridge development ready for viewing
Open houses for the revised Oakridge redevelopment proposal take place Oct. 3 and 5.

Revised plans for the proposed redevelopment of Oakridge Centre will be on display at open houses Oct. 3 and 5.

The size of the civic centre has been expanded, but the number of  towers remains  the same with the highest still at 45 storeys.

Henriquez Partners Architects and Stantec applied to amend the site’s zoning on behalf of Oakridge Centre owner Ivanhoe Cambridge and Westbank Development in November 2012. The initial application featured 13 towers ranging from 18 to 45 storeys with 2,800 residential units, as well as rooftop greenspace, retail space and amenities such as a community centre.

The mall was developed in 1956 and last renovated in the mid 1980s. The 2007 Oakridge Centre policy statement limits towers to 24 storeys.

In June, council endorsed staff recommendations outlined in an interim report on the rezoning application, including tower heights up to 45 storeys, as well as the general level of density proposed. That decision came after council heard reaction from about two-dozen people.

Critics are alarmed about the proposed density and scale being considered, while supporters approve of what they see as a sustainable design for the 28-acre site.

Graeme Silvera, Ivanhoe Cambridge’s vice president of retail development for the western region, told the Courier Tuesday that the revised plan still includes 13 towers, the tallest of which remains at 45 storeys, while the lowest is now 17 storeys. The positions of some of the towers have shifted.

The tower on the northwest corner by 41st was moved into the middle of the site, according to Silvera.

The locations of towers near The Terraces — a 32-unit strata located in the top three floors of the building housing Crate & Barrel and medical offices — were also moved slightly. Residents in The Terraces are troubled by the height and proximity of the towers, and they consider the overall development too dense for the neighbourhood.

Silvera said the 45-storey tower next to the Terraces was moved 12 feet further away and the 42-storey tower pushed seven feet further away.

“That was the maximum tweaking we could do looking at the retail underneath, so we tried to get [the towers] further away. That was the best we could do,” he said.

Silvera maintains one of the biggest changes in the revised plan is to the size of the civic centre, which has increased from 45,000 square feet to 70,000 square feet.

The community centre used to be 23,500 square feet, but it’s been enlarged to 36,000 square feet, while the library was 13,000 square feet and is now 25,500 square feet. The childcare area has stayed the same size at 8,500 square feet.

“We’ve now included the seniors centre in the community centre as an integrated unit,” Silvera added. “And the building has also changed position quite significantly. It used to be in the middle of the site, which wasn’t very accessible. Now it’s been moved to the extreme south end of the site adjacent to the pick-up and drop-off area and Safeway.”

The affordable housing component has also increased from about 150 units to 280 units and there are now six access points to the rooftop open space. The rooftop’s usable open space has expanded from roughly seven to nine acres.

Whether any of these changes appease critics remains to be seen.

“There are some critics we’ll never satisfy, but certainly I think these changes will do a lot to show the community that we are listening and that we have made some significant shifts,” Silvera said.

“You’ve got to look at this site in the context of a long-term 2050 development.”

The plan goes before the urban design panel next, possibly in early November.

The open houses are at Oakridge Centre in the former Zellers location from 5 to 8 p.m., Oct. 3 and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Oct. 5.