(Quick update: Vancouver Sun July 31 article says no offers have been received yet, and shows some Park Board commissioners had no prior idea about this plan to move the Vancouver Aquatic Centre out of the West End. VanRamblings provides additional info. Cedar Party Glen Chernen has put the entire info package online here. Metro News Vancouver has now also covered the story.)
Preamble: The City of Vancouver is quietly moving to sell public land at 1390 Granville Street and 625 Pacific Street. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake if a 500 foot tower goes up here, and private profits from public land. We start by saying at the outset that, going back to 2010 or earlier, we have noticed that certain decisions affecting this area north of the Granville and Burrard Bridges appear as if they were being quietly reverse-engineered to reach certain outcomes. Watch to see who benefits from this particular land sale process. The public may discover something surprising about how the City of Vancouver is functioning. And in this specific case, heightened public scrutiny might change the outcomes. Now, the story…
Here are the main facts from the opening of the sale package. “The City of Vancouver is proceeding with the demolition of the old Continental Hotel building at 190 Granville Street in 2014. Upon completion of the demolition, the Property will be available for redevelopment in concert with the decommissioning and removal of the eastern Granville Bridge off ramp and ‘loop’….Redevelopment of the property is largely guided by the Granville Loops Policy Plan [PDF link here] adopted by Council in 2010 [note: under the NPA regime]. The City, in offering the Property for sale, is asking for some innovative proposals for the delivery of key public benefits for this area of the City although offering cash or a combination of cash and amenities will also be considered.” Among the amenities listed for consideration are “provision of 120 ‘turnkey’ non-market housing units,” the construction of “a renewed Vancouver Aquatic Centre on the Property,” the delivery of a “community amenity in the form of built premises of approximately 10,000 square feet for … Qmunity either on the Property or on other land located in the West End,” and more. The timeline in Schedule I indicates that the package was available for pickup the week of May 12, 2014, offer closing time is August 15, offer selection process is from that date to October 24, and “Council approval of selected offer” is prior to October 24. We note that this time frame allows the decision be be made under the current Vision Vancouver regime at City Hall, before the November 15 election.
The City of Vancouver web page “Residential and commercial properties for sale” today has just one item listed: 1390 Granville St / 625 Pacific St, Vancouver. You can click the link to get this brochure about the city-owned property for sale, titled “Invitation for Innovative Offers.” On July 19, 2014, Cedar Party mayoral candidate Glen Chernen did a blog post saying “Bridge for Sale.” This may actually have been the first time the sale was mentioned publicly (will correct this if otherwise). No media coverage resulted, to our knowledge. On July 28, a small advertisement appeared on page 2 of the Vancouver Sun, providing minimal detail, and indicating where you could pick up the sale package. On July 29, Chernen issued a media release on Scribd (Aquatic Centre / Granville Bridge Demolition Sale Plans Discovered) with a more in-depth review of the sale package. (See also VanRamblings for commentary.) See bottom of this post for cover and table of contents of the sale package.
Just across Granville Bridge from this site, is the proposed site of the Vancouver House, a proposed 52-storey tower recently approved by City Council, to be built by developer Westbank. Here is an article in The Province (July 29, 2014) about that project: “Vancouver House tower makes enemies before it’s built by targeting Asian buyers”
Here is a photo of part of the subject property for this land sale. Now, for one of the reverse-engineering parts. The staff presentation by former Director of Planning Brent Toderian on January 20, 2011 paved the way for significantly higher buildings around the Granville Loops. The site of the Westbank B.I.G. tower was originally zoned for a 225 foot height; the Higher Buildings policy approved a 425-foot height for that site (with a 8-3 vote on Feb 1, 2011, with Vision in favour and the NPA and COPE against). CityHallWatch reported of the suspicious circumstances of that policy adoption, when a City staff report was released quietly online late on a Friday, the last working day before Christmas in 2010, we held a press conference the next day to raise attention, and due to public scrutiny, the Council decision was pushed back from the Tuesday, by nearly two months.) The height changes for downtown were eventually approved, and a 507 foot tower was later approved for Westbank through a rezoning. An open question is whether Westbank had any plans before the Vancouver Views policy study began for a higher building on that site. Here are the ‘before’ and ‘after’ heights from Toderian’s presentation: