Vancouver City Council has approved continued work on redeveloping the decades-old Oakridge Mall into a virtual mini-city in south Vancouver that could include thousands of residents, parks and a residential tower of up to 45 storeys.
On Tuesday, council passed a motion that includes various provisions to carry on with city staff work, including consultation with the public, on the proposal to redevelop the 11.5-hectare site on the Canada Line transit line at 41st and Cambie.
The opening of the Canada Line, which has an underground station at Oakridge, has newly linked the mall to the rest of the region. Councillor Geoff Meggs told reporters during a break in the council meeting that Tuesday's vote set a pattern for development at the site, which he deems the most important in south Vancouver because of its size – covering eight city blocks along transit in an integrated way under a single developer.
"This is a municipal town centre on a scale we see all across the region around transit stops," he said.
The plan for redevelopment includes a possible 45-storey tower, with other towers of declining heights further away from 41st and Cambie. There's also a new endorsement for development of up to six storeys across the site with more retail, housing, a rooftop park and a large community centre. City staff are also being urged to "focus on maximizing" social-housing units within the development.
The rezoning application for Oakridge proposes more than 4.5-million square feet of development, according to a staff report. The site is now about 822,000 square feet of various uses, including retail, office and residential.
"I look forward to seeing this come back with some next steps and more community feedback," Mayor Gregor Robertson told council, speaking to the motion before it went to a vote. "Oakridge is an important high-growth centre for the city of Vancouver going forward. There's justifiable concerns in the neighbourhood about how that growth happens."
Tracey Moir of the Oakridge Langara Area Residents association said she wasn't surprised by the decision, but is wary because the city seems to be trying to create a second downtown, despite community concerns about such a possibility. "It's a huge disappointment," she said.
She said her group was supportive of development on the site, but at an order of magnitude lower than what was being proposed for the largely single-family neighbourhood. "The density is overwhelming," she said.
Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr voted against increasing density and the height of buildings, but otherwise supported the motion. She said the Canada Line is already at capacity, and she thought high towers were not a green, liveable options. "We have to make our developments fit with the neighbourhoods," she told reporters.
The redevelopment is being proposed by Ivanhoe Cambridge, the mall owner, working with developer Ian Gillespie and Mr. Gillespie's company, Westbank Projects Corp. In a statement, the developer said it was pleased with the council vote and fended off suggestions that there has not been enough consultation, noting it has had submissions from more than 14,000 people. "We will continue to work closely with City of Vancouver staff on an enhanced community consultation process."