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Vancouver council approves Mount Pleasant tower

Controversial Rize development debated over six nights of hearings

City council gave the go-ahead Tuesday to a controversial rezoning application to redevelop a city block in Mount Pleasant into a $150 million mixed-use complex featuring a 19-storey residential tower.

Council voted with one opposed and one abstention to pass a motion by Vision Coun. Raymond Louie to support Rize Alliance Properties Ltd.'s proposal to build 241 homes and commercial space on the 1.25-acre trapezoid-shaped site.

Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr voted against the motion, while Vision Vancouvers Tim Stevenson abstained.

Louie, who is a member of the ruling Vision Vancouver party, said the design has to be improved by breaking up what he called the "large monolithic, horizontal element" above a pedestrian colonnade on the project.

The vote came after six nights of public hearings which attracted more than 100 speakers who weighed in on Rize Alliance's proposal. The height of the 19-storey tower was at odds with many speakers at the hearings.

When built, the tower will be the tallest highrise in the community and dwarf the nearby seven-storey Lee Building, a landmark structure at Main and Broadway. Other concerns raised at the hearings included increased density, traffic impacts, no affordable housing in the project and how such a complex fits with Mount Pleasant's community plan.

The proposal calls for a mix of commercial and residential, with other building heights of five storeys and nine storeys. A two storey commercial "podium" is part of the ambitious plan.

The site is in the heart of Mount Pleasant and bounded by Broadway, Kingsway, 10th Avenue and Watson Street. It's in the same neighbourhood as the Kingsgate Mall and the Mount Pleasant community centre.

The public hearings attracted hundreds of people, with the majority against and more than 40 business operators and residents in support. Some see the development as another project aimed at the rich in a city mired in an affordable housing crisis.

But as city staff and the developer, who is working with Acton Ostry Architects, pointed out during the hearings, approval of the project comes with an amenity package for Mount Pleasant.

Originally, Rize Alliance proposed 62 rental units and an artists' production space but city staff decided to opt for a cash package. The developer has to pay $4.5 million towards "cultural activities," which could include an artists' production space and public art.

Another $1.7 million will be used for affordable housing projects in Mount Pleasant. City staff estimated $1.7 million could translate to 15 concreted-built housing units or up to 25 units in cheaper wood-framed construction.

Rize Alliance also has an agreement with the Mount Pleasant Food Co-op to allow the organization to operate in a 34,000-square-foot space within the complex.

The plan calls for the conversion of 10th Avenue to a one-way street, between Watson and Kingsway, to reduce traffic volume on the street. A city report predicted volumes will drop from a high of 220 vehicles per hour to a low of 130. A separated bike lane on the south side of 10th Avenue will be implemented to reduce conflicts between motorists and cyclists.

Rize Alliance's proposal was the first significant rezoning application before council following its approval of the Mount Pleasant community plan in November 2010. The site is one of three identified in the plan for taller buildings. The others are Kingsgate Mall and the IGA site at 14th and Main.

The rezoning was the most controversial application before council since a Las Vegas company pitched a proposal last spring to build a mega casino adjacent to B.C. Place Stadium.

Council quashed the expansion of slot machines and games tables from Paragon Gaming's existing Edgewater Casino but gave the company the option to relocate to the proposed site with its current number of slots and tables.

Paragon has yet to take council up on the offer.

Full results of the Rize vote will be available at

Twitter: @Howellings