eMail Exchange with Planner Tucker re: Sept 14 eMail

Frank Murphy — September 17, 2010

The first of the emails is my response to Andrew’s email. You may want to read his reply to my September 14 email first which appears second in the thread…

Subject: Vancouver’s Oakridge redevelopment
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 2010 12:39:51 -0700
From: Frank Murphy <frankmurphy@shaw.ca>
To: Andrew Tucker <Andrew.Tucker@nanaimo.ca>
CC: Mayor&Council <Mayor&Council@nanaimo.ca>, Ted Swabey <Ted.Swabey@nanaimo.ca>, Al Kenning <Alastair.Kenning@nanaimo.ca>

Andrew — As on numerous occasions in the past you’ve responded to my questions promptly and in detail and it’s appreciated.

I anticipated that you would quite rightly point out that there is a dramatic difference in scale between the proposed Oakridge redevelopment and that of Nanaimo’s Port Place. I doubt you’d disagree though that the scale doesn’t preclude the application of the principles of inclusion involving the concerns and aspirations of each of the 3 stakeholder groups.

You have understandably addressed my concerns by recounting official policy and offer the point that these policies were developed with a certain amount of public input. If I understand correctly, I am to accept that this fulfills Council’s and the Planning Department’s responsibility to to engage in an inclusive and collaborative process on individual redevelopment applications to obtain the best possible outcome for all stakeholder groups.

In a nutshell, here’s the reasons I have been given by yourself and your department to my concerns in regards to how the Port Place redevelopment proposal unfolded.

1. We didn’t seek further public input from stakeholders such as the immediately adjacent neighbourhood associations because we were under no legal obligation to so.

2. It’s difficult

and now 3. We’re guided by policies which originally had some public input.

Governed by the same provincial legislation the City of Vancouver initiated a proactively inclusive process which offers a model for future development proposals which will find their way to your department. The model in place that guided the Port Place plan will result in mediocrity and will not meet the needs of all stakeholders.

Any reasonable, objective review of the list of Downtown Plan guiding principles would conclude that with the exception of an arguably improved linkage between downtown and the waterfront, it fails to make any progress on the other 5. I include reluctantly even the additional housing stock proposed. I know Council was understandably swayed by the promise of increased housing on this site but the harsh reality is that we have established that simply building it isn’t enough. Many existing residential units sit unsold and several projects have been abandoned. Do we really believe that First Capital will build housing for which there is no market? I wouldn’t. While creating market demand for housing isn’t a core responsibility of the Planning Department, this harsh reality has to be stared down before we can realistically expect an increased residential population downtown. It will take innovative economic development, affordable efficient transit, cultural amenities, etc. There is no progress made on these goals contained in First Capital’s Port Place plans.

I offer this scenario even as just a talking point: if it was determined that the City required an access road between Terminal and Front aligned to where the Gabriola Ferry currently docks, an expropriation process should have been initiated. The whole landscape of this project suddenly changes. Add to that the prospect that the City is considering replacing what’s now the Annex facility on Wallace Street. First Capital enters into negotiations with a partner and the project is the subject of a design competition. Top architects from anywhere in the world are invited to develop innovative creative solutions to this key inner city site. They are of course bound by the fundamental requirements of each of the stakeholders high on the list being the contractual obligations to the much valued anchor tenants already in place. Other major players may or may not be in a position to participate: the Snuneymuxw, the Port Authority… Coastal Community Credit Union, VIU…

You would also be aware of the approach to city core redevelopment taken by Surrey BC: http://www.townshift.com/competition/context.php

It’s not lost on me that this lands squarely in the “easy for me to say” category, but that’s also why I think it’s important to say it. Where we have no disagreement is that we want the best for our great little city. Thanks again for engaging in this conversation.

Frank

___________________________

On 15/09/2010 10:58 AM, Andrew Tucker wrote:

Mr. Murphy,

Thank you for your recent email regarding the Oakridge Centre Policy Statement that was approved by Vancouver City Council in March of 2007. Oakridge is the largest shopping centre in Vancouver (687,000 sq ft of retail, 195,000 sq ft of office and 921,000 sq ft of residential) and serves the entire city south of False Creek. The proposed expansion was to add 330,000 sq ft of retail, 200,000 sq ft of office and 1,200,000 sq ft of residential). Approximately 12,700 people live within a 10 to 15 minute walk of the then proposed Canada Line station. At that time, the City was looking to develop the Canada Line station, acquire a 1.1 acre parcel for non-market seniors housing and a 2.8 acre parcel of parkland on the 28 acre site. Obviously, the proposed development would change the face of this part of Vancouver and is of a scale not found in Nanaimo.

By way of comparison, the existing Port Place Mall is 117,000 sq ft on a 10 acre site. The proposed redevelopment (Phases 1 & 2) will result in a total of 125,000 sq ft of retail, 18,000 sq ft of office and 94,000 sq ft of residential (61 units) not including the high rise component.

In Nanaimo, we have made extensive efforts to engage city residents in the planning of Downtown. There was an extensive public consultation program in the development of our Downtown Plan (2002) which recognizes the Harbour Park (Port Place) site as a distinct precinct and allowed for high rise development. Action 1 under that precinct is to “encourage the owners of the Harbour Park to develop their lands for a major retail centre with an integrated high density residential community”. The Plan contains six guiding principles:

1. Encourage living downtown. Increase residential development making downtown a place for seniors, singles and families, living throughout the downtown within safe healthy neighbourhoods where residents feel a strong sense of community.

2. Improve and stabilize the downtown economy by generating new and expanding businesses. A stronger development climate and an ever increasing population base will attract more business and investment to the downtown.

3. Integrate and coordinate arts, culture and entertainment facilities and programs. Arts and culture are important to the quality of life in Nanaimo and are particularly appropriate located downtown where they are readily accessible to everyone, contribute to the attractiveness and livability of downtown and contribute to its economic stability.

4. Provide better linkages within downtown and the waterfront emphasizing orientation to the waterfront with enhanced accessibility and pedestrian and cyclist pathways.

5. Conserve and enhance the scale and historic character of Commercial Street.

6. Provide convenient public transportation by improving and increasing transit use between downtown and other parts of the Island and the Lower Mainland and making it a more convenient and practical means to and from the downtown.

I would suggest that these principles are similar to those found in the Oakridge document. Following the Downtown Plan the City prepared the Downtown Zoning Bylaw (2005) which created the Harbour Park C-29 Zone specifically for what is now the Port Place site and the Downtown Design Guidelines(2008). All three of these policy documents involved extensive public consultation between landowners, residents, the Downtown Nanaimo Partnership and the City over the eight years that it took to develop them. The Development Permit that Council recently considered is not a public process but is required to reflect the principles and guidelines already established through the policy documents and processes noted above. Again, I would argue that the Port Place Development Permit meets the intent of the Downtown Plan and the related policy documents that were developed through public process.

I hope this clarifies the link between policy development and the administrative review of Development Permit applications. Thank you for your continued interest in the City’s efforts to revitalize downtown.

Andrew Tucker
Director of Planning
City of Nanaimo

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