1241 Harwood St before Urban Design Panel Today at 4:15 pm at City Hall 3rd Floor.

At the Urban Design Panel the proposed development project of 1241 Harwood will be reviewed today Wednesday Jan. 26 at 4:15 pm.

The Urban Design Panel reviews proposed development projects as part of the city’s normal evaluation process. As described on the city website:

“The Panel gives impartial and professional advice to the Director of Planning, Development Permit Board or City Council on any proposal or policy affecting the community’s physical environment. In particular, the Panel offers advice on significant development permit applications which are to be reviewed by the Development Permit Board or Director of Planning, as well as comprehensive rezoning applications and other projects of public interest.”

The Panel functions only as an advisory body and does not have any decision making authority, but the Design Panel is held in very high regard both by the Planning department and Mayor and Council. If a project is not supported by the Panel the project is usually withdrawn for revisions which starts the whole public consultation process over from the start.

Case in point is the development application of 1241 Harwood st. (DE414280), was at the design panel back in July 2008 and the project was “not supported”. The Panel “…was uncomfortable with the massing of the tower and thought it seemed to loom over the heritage house….” . Basically the majority opinion on the Panel was that the proposed project was out of context with the site.

Here is the link to minutes of the meeting:Minutes UDP

The propose project is complicated as it is a Heritage Restoration Agreement (HRA). On the 1241 Harwood site there is a 1903 mansion called Eastwood Place. The West End back in the day use to be the tony neighborhood of Vancouver. Many of the city’s elites built large homes with gardens in the West End. Now Eastwood Place is home to 7 rental units.

Also on the 1241 Harwood site is a rare example of a 100 year old Tulip tree which is thought to be the largest example of its type in Canada. Part of the reason for the unusual massing of the 2008 proposed project on the site was a result of an attempt of the architect to protect this tree.

In Vancouver, HRAs are funded by the City of Vancouver (COV) through density bonusing. Developers who agree to restore a building that has a heritage designation are given density to pay for the expenses of the restoration.

The challenges of the 1241 Harwood project are that the site of the heritage house and the tree necessitate a very complicated and unusual massing of builds if the tree is not be cut down. If the tree is cut down, it would dramatically change the dynamics of the massing of buildings on the site.

The architects of the project seem to want to save the tree. A proposal was put to Vancouver City Council last summer requesting a density bonus for saving the tree. Unfortunately the trees root ball is on two sites and the owner of the other site does not want to be encumbered by the heritage designation of the tree for future development possibilities.

This was an unusual request to Council and it is unclear if they would have granted a density increase to save a tree if it was all on one site, but given the root ball straddled two sites Council did not agree to exchange density where the future of the tree was not secure on one site.

The story of the request of a density exchange for the tree at Vancouver City Council made the front page of the Globe and Mail with an article by Francis Bula:State of the City

May 13, 2010 Straight story about the tree:Carlito Pablo’s story on Tulip Tree

Here is link to staff report: “projection of living heritage resources”

Here info about proposed project from the City’s website:COV page on 1241

It will be interesting to see how the Urban Design Panel views the resubmitted 1241 Harwood proposal. From the renderings of the project it still seems to be a very awkward placement of buildings on the site where the newer building looms over the older Eastwood Place.

Update: 5:43 pm, City Hall after Urban Design Panel votes: UDP supports the project unanimously with comments about the location of the parking entrance on Harwood Street, design consideration on the entrance of the parking and some comments about location of the tree.

I will post the minutes when they are posted.

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