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Proposed complex would pump life into dead zone

Handout rendering of a massive commercial, retail and community complex anchored by an arch of up to 2,000 residential units could transform the dead zone next to Vancouver’s BC Place stadium into the heart of a bustling entertainment district while honouring the city’s green sensibilities, according to James K. M. Cheng Architects Inc. Handout/James K. M. Cheng Architects Inc.

A 30-storey glass arch structure of up to 2,000 residential units will act as a window between BC Place and False Creek, anchoring a massive mixed-use complex that will transform a dead zone into the heart of a vibrant entertainment district, according to a proposal to the city.

James K. M. Cheng Architects Inc. submitted a rezoning application to the City of Vancouver that outlines a plan for a multi-use site at 750 Pacific Blvd., known commonly as the Plaza of Nations. Commercial use would include small-scale retail, hotel, office, restaurants and cafes, while community use would include a sports-science centre, a daycare and an ice rink that could serve as a part-time practice arena for the Canucks.

The proposed pièce de résistance is a residential structure, with between 1,700 and 2,000 units, that takes the form of a giant arch. The development would provide a mix of housing types and include private ownership and purpose-built rentals for residents of various ages and income levels, according to the application.

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James Cheng said the arch-shaped building will serve as a window through to BC Place.

"Vancouver has been criticized for having so many towers, and everything looking the same," he said. "What we tried to do is create an urban piece that is strong enough to stand up to the stadium, but still have a relationship to it."

The plot of land is one of four in the Northeast False Creek area that has yet to be developed. Vancouver city council has turned down several mega projects in the past few years, such as a large hotel and casino complex that would have been attached to BC Place, because they did not fall in line with the city's vision for the area.

Mr. Cheng's architectural firm had submitted to the city in December, 2007, an application for a much larger project. It was rejected but he walked away with a number of recommendations from city staff. Those guidelines – which included giving prominence to environmental, social, cultural and economic sustainability and creating public, open spaces – helped shape the new application, along with community consultations.

"The developments in that section of our city, which is our largest and last big waterfront property, should be a special place," said Councillor Raymond Louie. "For a long time, it sat empty. This is an opportunity for us to develop it in a sustainable fashion where it is able to serve the people who will eventually live there, but the wider community as well."

Such a community link is apparent in a proposed civic plaza at the waterfront – a flexible space of about 48,000 square feet that would accommodate up to 4,000 people for various outdoor events. A "water feature/children's play focus" is proposed, as is an outdoor pavilion for fitness classes or kids camps.

The buildings on the site would vary in height, up to a maximum of 30 storeys, according to the application. Landscaped roofs on several of the buildings would optimize "opportunities for urban agriculture." The development would be LEED-certified.

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Mr. Cheng has played a significant role in the look of downtown Vancouver, having designed buildings including the Fairmont Pacific Rim, the Shangri-La and the Shaw Tower.

City staff will now review the application and report its findings, and any recommendations, to council. The process could take between a year and 18 months, Mr. Louie estimated.

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News reporter

Based in Vancouver, Andrea Woo is a general assignment reporter with a focus on multimedia journalism. More

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