City approves Downtown rental tower
Concerns about traffic, blocked views and transient occupants didn’t dissuade council from giving a Downtown rental highrise the green light.
The 26-storey tower will replace the former Gyro Building at Sixth Street, which used to house the Simon Fraser Health Unit. It will have 5,500 sq. ft. of commercial at street level and 282 rental units and townhouses.
Council approved South Street Development Group’s rezoning application Tuesday. South Street bought the property from the city in 2012 for $2.8 million.
Several neighbours voiced their displeasure while many others supported it during a public hearing.
Diane Butler lives in a Carnarvon Street complex next door to the property. She told council there isn’t enough street parking as it is. She’s also worried renters will tie up traffic on Carnarvon while moving in and out.
Architect's drawing of proposed
for 57 Sixth St.
“We feel this is a very unsafe situation because Carnarvon is already in distress because of all the traffic it gets,” said Butler. “We feel [the 26-storey height] is just overpowering and not in the best interests of the community. I do not feel this many renters is going to help us build the community we are seeking to restore in New West. Renters tend to be transient, here today and gone tomorrow They don’t have an interest in our community.”
Her building has already been shook by the Gyro’s demolition and she fears it will get worse during construction.
Several area residents echoed her sentiments. But many others supported the proposal saying the Downtown needs density to make it more vibrant.
Rental units will also make living there more affordable, they pointed out.
“It will meet a need for rental housing in the area and improve the downtown core. I don’t believe it is out of line with others in the area,” said Douglas Wicker, although he did express a desire for speed bumps on Carnarvon.
The complex will have 66 studio, 157 one-bedroom, 51 two-bedroom and eight three-bedroom units. There will be 180 parking spaces with 28 of them for visitors.
“We have found there is a far lower demand for car spaces in rental buildings than there are in condominium buildings, and even lower demand when they’re close to rapid transit,” said South Street president Sam Hanson.
His company will provide 11 transit passes for residents and three parking spots for Modo co-op vehicles.
Downtown resident Richard McAlpine said owning a vehicle isn’t necessary these days.
“I strongly believe in supporting this proposal. Rental housing is crucial to a viable community and I see this added housing space as only enhancing and improving the quality of life for all of us in the Downtown and in our fair city,” said McAlpine.
“It really is about affordability and about our children being able to live in our city,” said Coun. Bill Harper. “Rental housing really does fortify that argument.”
While acknowledging support for the project is evident, Coun. Betty McIntosh said there are legitimate reasons for opposing it.
“I know the traffic on Carnarvon is definitely an issue. It is tied into vehicles going to the Pattullo Bridge. It’s not a developer’s problem, but it is a problem for livability Downtown.”