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Rize approval still rankles some residents

Developer says Mount Pleasant project attracting buyer interest
If the city grants the Rize development project, now known as The Independent, all its remaining permits, construction would likely start in the spring of 2015 and take two years. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Vancouver’s Development Permit Board approved last week, with conditions, the Rize development, which is now being billed as The Independent.

The Mount Pleasant project, comprising five building blocks including a 21-storey tower, features 257 residential units, commercial space, outdoor space, parking and bicycle stalls.

The project also includes a dog spa to wash and groom pets, a workshop that includes bike repair and workstations and tool lockers, as well as a large fitness area with lockers and exercise equipment.

The Development Permit Board asked the developer to reduce parking spaces by 10 per cent, add more bike storage and look at car sharing programs as part of the conditions.

“We need rezoning enactment and form of development approval still before we can go [to construction],” Matt Pesklewis, the project’s director of marketing and sales, told the Courier. “We need development permit issuance, which will come in the fall. We don’t actually have a development permit as of yet.”

The development has been the subject of debate within the community for years. Critics particularly object to the density and the tower’s height, which they argue is out of place in Mount Pleasant.

Once completed, The Independent tower would be the tallest building in the neighbourhood.

The Residents Association of Mount Pleasant (RAMP) has been among the most vociferous of critics.

Spokesman Stephen Bohus, who attended the July 14 Development Permit Board meeting, said speakers raised issues such as the tower being 21 storeys versus 19 storeys as initially proposed.

Pesklewis counters that by saying the number of storeys has changed, but not the height of the building.

“The RAMP people continue to go on [about] the height issue, but per the comprehensive development plan for Mount Pleasant, the height was always approved at 215 feet. We did not go beyond that and we never did change that. We did go from 19 storeys to 21 storeys, but that was due to some changes in the building itself,” he said.

“Levels three and four commercial spaces were reduced in height, allowing us to get one more floor in and then there was a reduction in the penthouse heights, which allowed us to get another floor. But we still stayed underneath that 215-foot building envelope. Actually, we reduced our height from the previous application to the city.”

Bohus points out the increase in storeys means an increase in residential units. He added that other speakers called attention to the fact there will be no food co-op in the development, as well as concerns about traffic and shadowing from buildings.

The food co-op backed out of the development because it couldn’t get financing.

“Other speakers mentioned the underground stream that goes through the site and the current transit loop (short turn) for trolleys on East 10th Avenue as concerns,” Bohus told the Courier.

Bohus added that there’s still a ways to go before the project gets its final approvals.

“The enactment has not happened and this Development Permit Board meeting said a whole slew of conditions that still have to be met as well,” he said. “So let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. We do intend to keep fighting this development. It’s wrong for our community. It’s out of scale and it would set a very bad precedent to have a 21-storey tower in the heart of Mount Pleasant.”

But if all the final approvals are granted, construction is expected to start in the spring of 2015 and take two years.

“We’re currently pursuing a signature tenant there, which we’re hoping to be a grocery chain — a grocery store,” Pesklewis said. “I can’t say which one. We’re in negotiations right now.”

Pesklewis believes the project will be well received.

“Obviously, there was some frustration [in the process], but what was fantastic was the amount of passion that was shown by community groups. I think that allowed us to continue to work with the city and the community groups to drive a better product,” he said.

“But ultimately, what we’re seeing is very high demand in that neighbourhood for homes. Without even marketing, we have, not registrants, but over 500 emails for additional information. We’ve had lots of people contact us. I would say overwhelmingly the support is more positive than it has been negative… there is a lack of housing in that area. We’re seeing a massive increase in single-family home prices in that area — probably the highest in the city. So I think there are a lot of people looking for options that aren’t single-family home prices.”