Dear Mayor and City Council,
Subject: CD-1 Rezoning: 228-246 East Broadway and 180 Kingsway.
We are writing to express concern regarding the rezoning application
put forward by Rize, and brought to Public Hearing along with the City
Council Policy Report RTS No.: 8840.
We write to you as an organization in Chinatown, just off Main street
with 7000 square feet of artist studios and 2000 square feet of
presentation space for three different non-profit organizations,
providing studios to over 30 artists and public access to contemporary
art and design.
We feel it is important to convey to you that the continued
development of podium-tower style condominiums is an invariable threat
to our operations. As the City makes efforts to relax zoning for
artists and arts organizations, it also remains committed to
ineffective design that continues to preclude mixed-income
communities. Artists and arts organizations thrive in an environment
that can support varied income levels. It is a necessity that costs of
living remains affordable in the Mount Pleasant area – as those who
work, present, speak, perform, build and think in our spaces must also
have somewhere affordable to live.
The City, presumably since the enactment of Larry Beasly’s Living
First policy, has looked to density as a means of bringing people
together in a promise of the powerful overlap of diverse communities.
However, while condominium towers have quite successfully increased
the density of Vancouver, the diversity of residents and the type of
public activities have been truncated substantially.
The Rize development at Kingsway and Broadway, in its latest
manifestation, makes a commitment to increase pedestrian interaction – depicting vibrant multi-ethnic groups engaging in shopping and leisure
activities – not the ‘vertical gated communities’ that have become
categorically gentrifying forces downtown. However, we think that the
unadorned glass and concrete building physically, financially, and
culturally limit the activities of the neighbourhood. The building’s
main threshold will be the garage door–where 300 cars will make their
way underground before beeping up to their isolated homes.
The flat, and unified commercial storefronts Rize proposes will follow
within a tradition of indistinguishable condominium buildings in
Vancouver – why are we so committed to this type of architecture and
this model of density? Only substantially financed enterprises will be
able to afford the rates for the commercial units, not entrepreneurs
from Mount Pleasant, nor non-profit organizations like ours. In
reading the recommendations in your report we can only assume that
this is condoned by City staff who are making recommendations that
value expedited density over an engaged design and development process
that responds to the needs and desires of its environment.
Adding new residents to community is not an unwelcome gesture. As
relatively new members of the community in Chinatown, we understand
that a neighbourhood must allow for portions of change, but we also
respect and value the context in which we find ourselves. We have
worked to create a presence in the community that has developed over
time through mindful observation and slow growth. Our approach
acknowledges certain constraints–facade, noise levels, street
presence–while making the most of what is available–the diverse
culture and history, architecture, affordable rent and an active
community. We chose this location consciously. It is a desirable area
in proximity to viable residences as well as a cluster of other art
As members of this community, we have invested ourselves in the
betterment in a small part of this city, without much fanfare. We have
converted buildings into spaces for the production and presentation of
art. The slow tide of shifts we bear with us contains safer streets,
opportunities for public engagement, non-commercial meeting spaces,
cultural awareness, community building endeavors, a tradition of
volunteerism, avenues for the exchange of ideas, civic engagement, and
a sense of belonging. We know that our collective labour, which is
enabled by the combined generosity of many individuals, is often
followed by cycles of gentrification, but we remain steadfast in the
belief that we need not be the harbinger of unbridled growth that
displaces and replaces. That is only one of many possible options in
the future of our City.
Ultimately, it is the structure of the options presented by Rize
through the City report that we take issue with. We write now to add
our voice to many others who call for a more consultative process, one
that recognizes and respects the history and future of the
neighbourhoods that are facing change. It is the present community
members who will absorb more traffic, who will struggle to maintain
homes amidst an inevitable rise in commercial and residential rents,
and who will every day be confronted with towers that lack any
significant cohesion with their surroundings, unless something changes
in the way the City approaches development.
Being centrally located shouldn’t be a privilege afforded only by the
wealthy, offered only as a luxury to the rest of us. This is
particularly explicit in the recent decisions by City staff to remove
the 9,200 square feet of proposed artist production space in exchange
for a cash contribution towards another site, likely further east. We
implore you to reconsider your approach. How much longer will the City
continue to give up diversity for density?
Brian McBay, Executive Director, 221A Artist Run Centre
Allison Collins, President, Board of Directors, 221A Artist Run Centre