Shannon Mews grows up

On July 29, 2011 at 2:10am, Vancouver City Council passed the re-zoning application on Shannon Mews by a vote of 6-4 in favor - despite the wishes of the community. I don't live in Shannon Mews, I have never physically seen the space either, and I think the community opposition could be wrong based upon a couple of factors:

  1. The opportunity for newly expanded city development in the City of Vancouver is very limited. It is surrounded by water on 3 sides and the City of Burnaby on the east. There is only one way to build - and that is up.
  2. The demand for condominium-style buildings has increased because families are smaller, usually around 2 parents and 1 child, or 1 parent and 2 children. The population is increasing.
  3. More homes in Vancouver have rental units or rented bedrooms than ever before. There are multi-family dwellings where the original plan was for single family dwellings. Community re-zoning is necessary when the City needs to resolve intense urban growth.
  4. The integration of authentic spaces and historic designs into contemporary designs and urban architecture becomes a solution for the City to respond to demand. It becomes a requirement to look at the old and repurpose it's original intention because we, our society, had changed.
Karl Brodhecker, a spokesman for the Shannon Mews Neighbourhood Association, said this to The Vanouver Courier on Friday afternoon:

“It was a foregone conclusion because council is ideologically driven and they consider the communities and the citizens of Vancouver to be nothing more than an experiment in order to force the behaviour that they believe we should have on us. They take no concern whatsoever in neighbourhood interests,” he said.

So, City Council didn't listen, right? Well, what happens when the overall demands of the city outweigh the demands of the few in the neighbourhood? The few learn a hard and difficult message, progress is inevitable. So, there were some changes to the development application:

  • 14 stories scaled back to between 2 and 9 stories, reducing shadow lines on homes surrounding the site
  • Maintain 79m between buildings
  • Increase access thru Churchill Street
  • 390 Studio & 1 Beds (951% lift)
  • 315 2 Beds (308% lift)
  • 30 3 Bed & Townhomes (157% lift)
That's a heck of a lot more supply, sewage, and transit that's going to be required. There was a pretty intensive Traffic Analysis done, right down to photographs, just to show the type of volume that could be expected with the changes. You can read it, but I assure you, it's really comprehensive.
To get an idea of the scope of the changes, here are some of the Building Form concepts (new buildings in white):


Although the architectural character of the proposed development will be distinctively con- temporary, and in contrast to the heritage buildings, the building form will respond and relate to both the topography and the stepped massing character of the Mansion. The proposed development will consist of six new buildings accommodating a variety of housing unit types. In each quadrant of the site there will a designed balance between built form and external landscape area. The proposed massing of buildings encloses courtyards or gardens providing external space for the residents.

The massing profile of buildings across the site responds to the slope of the site and the ‘pyramidal’ buildable envelope developed (as a constraint) at the outset of the design process by the design team. The majority of the buildings are bar buildings enclosing a courtyard or a garden, and consist of a stepped profile to their massing similar to that of the Mansion. However, point towers have also been located; one at the centre of the site and the other at the corner of Granville Street and 57th Avenue.

The precedents shown enhance and support the intended character of the proposed new buildings. The built forms are simple and cubic in character and can be constructed from a simple vocabulary of materials.

The proposed buildings will be of concrete construction (painted finish) with glass, steel, and wood screen detailing. (Source)

Overall, I'm going to humbly state that my opinion of this project has changed because a city must look ahead of this point, right here, right now, and face the idea of becoming a stale and stagnant place to live and grow. We can appreciate the historic, but if we constantly live in history then we do not move forward. It brings to mind something I remember about Karim Rashid's design philosophy, which can be found in his Karimanifesto:
Design is about the betterment of our lives poetically, aesthetically, experientially, sensorially, and emotionally. My real desire is to see people live in the modus of our time, to participate in the contemporary world, and to release themselves from nostalgia, antiquated traditions, old rituals, kitsch and the meaningless. We should be conscious and attune with this world in this moment. If human nature is to live in the past - to change the world is to change human nature.
The neighbourhood association say's it's going to fight to the bitter end and try to prevent the development of Shannon Mews, and I completely empathize with them, but I realize that it's selfish to say that I oppose this development, because I don't. I'm actually excited about the possibility to live right next to a historic building and sip my morning Americano and nibble on my croissant, right on my balcony with a beautiful, breathtaking, vista in the middle of a pretty sweet city. Oh, I didn't mention that Shannon Mews was owned by B.T. Rogers, of Rogers Sugar? Silly me.