KENNETH CHAN (DAILY HIVE) - Construction will begin Monday, January 6, on a complete overhaul of Richards Street across the downtown Vancouver peninsula to include new bike lanes and greenery.
The municipal government is pushing forward with its plans to redesign 11 city blocks of Richards Street between West Cordova Street in Gastown and Pacific Street in North False Creek.
New separated bi-directional bike lanes will be built on the east side of the street, including the relocation of the existing painted southbound bike lane currently on the west side of the street between Robson Street and Drake Street. A configuration on the east side was chosen to reduce conflicts.
The southern half of Richards Street saw the installation of its first painted bike lanes in 2013.
As well, stormwater tree trenches will be created to reduce rainwater runoff and enhance the “urban forest” in downtown, including a new median with trees between the bike lanes and the roadway. Altogether, 100 new trees will be planted.
Other upgrades include protected intersections, the reconstruction of traffic signals, sidewalk improvements, street repaving, one block of sewer upgrades, and the relocation of four existing Mobi bike share stations and the installation of two additional stations.
To make way for the required bike lane and median space, and to retain curbside parking on both sides of the street, Richards Street will see its regular traffic lanes reduced from two through lanes to one through lane.
According to municipal government, a single through lane is sufficient for existing motor vehicle volumes on the street, which includes transit buses over the northern sections of the route.
During public consultation, city staff stated Richards Street, which is a one-way southbound roadway, can operate with just one through lane as “volumes are generally low and the parking restrictions during the afternoon peak between Dunsmuir and Nelson streets allow for increased motor vehicles at that time.”
The established redesign of the street will retain about 85% of the curbside parking spots.
Construction work will be completed over two phases to minimize traffic impacts. The first phase between Cordova Street and Nelson Street will be built from now to Summer 2020, while the second phase between Nelson Street and Pacific Street will be built from Summer 2020 to Spring 2021.
The new bike lane corridor passes by the new $14.5-million public park planned for the 0.8-acre, ground-level parking lot at the northeast corner of Richards Street and Smithe Street. Park construction will begin this month as well.
Further south on Richards Street, there are also future plans to construct a new seven-block-long bike lane along Drake Street between Burrard Street and Pacific Boulevard.
FRANCES BULA (GLOBE & MAIL) - The Squamish Nation got overwhelming approval from its more than 800 voting members to move forward with a massive rental-apartment development on Vancouver’s central-city waterfront – a project the nation is saying is a first of this magnitude for any Indigenous group in the world.
They say the 11-tower, 6,000-unit Senakw project on Kits Point will provide a model for other developments on reserve lands the nation holds throughout North Vancouver, as the Squamish aim for as much economic return as they can possibly get from their land.
“We went in with a clear conscience to maximize the profit,” said the nation’s CEO, Toby Baker, as a group from the Squamish council and nation announced the results Wednesday. “This is designed to be a cash-flow stream for multiple generations.”
Of the 827 Squamish voting members, 718 were in favour of changing the land designation to a long-term lease for development; 665 were in favour of the business terms, which means a 50-50 split of profits and investment with developer Ian Gillespie’s Westbank Corp.
“The Squamish Nation is elated and happy and thankful … with this resounding mandate,” said Squamish Councillor Khelsilem, who uses only one name.
“This is the beginning of a new type of leadership that the Squamish Nation wishes to develop.”
The nation wants to start construction on a first phase as early as 18 months from now, which will mean intensive negotiations to ensure the land that stretches to both sides of the south end of the Burrard Bridge gets necessary infrastructure such as sewer, water and power connected to it.
Khelsilem estimated the construction costs will be $3-billion, while the profits will be $8-billion to $10-billion for each of the two partners over the term of the land’s 120-year lease.
The planning team for the project has not determined yet how much of the project will be rental and how much will be leasehold condos, other than saying condos won’t be more than 30 per cent of the total. They also don’t know what the mix of rents might be yet.
That will all depend on market conditions, the cash-flow needs of the nation, and the partnerships the Squamish and Westbank are able to forge with both the provincial and federal housing agencies to access money that might be available for below-market housing or sustainability goals, said Khelsilem.
But the partners will have some advantages when it comes to building costs.
The nation is not required to go through any city planning or permitting processes, which could save years of waiting. It is talking about providing parking for only 10 per cent of the units, which could be another massive saving since a single underground stall can cost as much as $80,000.
Khelsilem said affordable rents are more possible in a situation where all the land cost doesn’t have to be covered right at the beginning, the way most development projects work.
Instead, the payment for the land will be done gradually over the term of the lease.
The nation expects to see 100 to 200 units reserved for its members, which could mean 300 or 400 people from the nation living in the development.
That means Indigenous students could become a significant new population in the school system, Khelselim said.
Squamish planners have already contacted the Vancouver school board and provincial Education Ministry to talk about a possible expansion of nearby Henry Hudson Elementary School.
Vancouver’s school board has had a difficult time in recent years getting the ministry to agree to build new schools in the big new residential developments that have gone onto former industrial land around False Creek, many of them near the planned Squamish development.
Henry Hudson, which is supposed to have 317 students but has close to 400, is due to be replaced with a new school built to contemporary seismic standards.
Prior to the Squamish announcement, the ministry had been talking about funding a new school with fewer spaces than the current one.
Khelsilem said the Squamish representatives are making the province aware that it has “some obligations to uphold our rights when it comes to the education of our children.”
KENNETH CHAN (DAILY HIVE) - The results of a survey independently conducted by Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart find strong support for rental housing density in the city’s neighbourhoods.
According to Stewart’s released findings this week, 80% of respondents indicate they support the construction of a six-storey rental building in their neighbourhood.
Support levels were also consistent on two other queries; over 84% said they support the construction of duplexes, four-plexes, townhomes, and three-to-four storey apartments in single-family neighbourhoods, and 87% noted they support the municipal government’s incentives to builders to construct more rental housing.
“As your Mayor, I will continue pushing for the changes needed to deliver more rental homes, especially for those households earning less than $80,000 annually,” reads an email newsletter.
“From advocating for more private and public rental housing investment, to encouraging policy changes that will accelerate construction of a significant number of rental units over the long term, every day I am working to take on the challenges and seek out solutions to the housing crisis.”
This comes just weeks ahead of city staff’s release of the rental incentive review report on existing and new measures that will catalyze more rental housing construction.
By the municipal government’s own admission earlier this month, it is falling far behind its 10-year goal of approving 20,000 secured market rental units between 2018 and 2027. To date, just 2,502 secured market rental units have been approved since the strategy came into force last year.
Over the first three quarters of 2019, city council approved 687 market rental units, which is a third of the annual target of 2,000 units. Two thirds of these units relied on various city rental incentive programs, such as Rental 100 Secured Market Rental Housing Program and the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program.
But in their approval streams through city council, they were also dogged by controversy over the level of incentives to developers and the perceived unaffordability of market rental rates.
In fact, one councillor — Jean Swanson — has voted against all 13 market rental housing projects considered by city council to date. And in April, after much debate, city council voted 8-2 against Swanson’s motion of culling the financial incentives of the Rental 100 program.
At the moment, Vancouver’s rental vacancy rate is hovering below 1%, with the resulting supply shortage pushing up rental rates.
Stewart says his survey was conducted online and attracted 1,700 respondents. It should also be noted that this was a non-scientific survey.
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