There is one more piece of False Creek North that will now be developed, the former “Plaza of Nations” property south of BC Place. This is one of the last undeveloped pieces of land that is waterfront, and has been under contention since 2015. This week the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed they would not be hearing an appeal from a decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia regarding ownership of the land.
This 5 hectare site was acquired by Oei Hong Leung of Singapore in the 1990 at a cost of 40 million dollars from Li Kai Sing, who had purchased the entire Expo 86 lands for 320 million. Mr. Oei held on to the property which today is valued around 800 million dollars, a lift of 2,000 percent in 32 years.
A civil suit had been launched by Concorde Pacific against Mr. Oei over a preliminary agreement to jointly develop this parcel of land. The court found for Mr. Oei in ascertaining that there were not sufficient “essential terms” to make the contract binding.
Mr.Oeil who owns Canadian Metropolitan Properties had already commenced working with the City of Vancouver on a design for the property, choosing to develop it in three phases. Francl Architecture and James Cheng Architects have partnered to produce a design for phase one, which is a departure from the Vancouverism model of a podium with a tower.
The form chosen is a 28 storey stepped back building which has retail uses on the first two levels, then three storeys of offices, 648 strata units and 180 units of social housing. The area where the marina is currently will become a focal point for the public with a generous plaza that will also provide access between the sea wall and BC Place. The design also includes accessible green roofs which will function as park space.
Mr. Francl was the architect for Creekside Millenium in Olympic Village as well as the community centre. Mr. Cheng was the architect for the Fairmont Pacific Rim and the Shangri-La. As a team these two firms have a background in building luxury condo units as well as public amenities.
Mr. Oei was confident enough in the outcome of the Supreme Court of Canada decision to already embark on the permit application process for Phase One which will have a maximum of 280 feet and one million square feet of residential space.. Amenities in this phase include a community centre, an ice rink, a music centre, and a 67 space daycare.
As part of this development the Dunsmuir viaduct will be demolished and replaced with an at grade road that will facilitate walking and biking connections.
Green roofs that will be accessible to the public will be a signature of this development, as well as accessible waterfront similar to that of Olympic Village. Large stepped granite boulders leading to the water’s edge are proposed, with accessible public docks where motorized and non motorized boats can be used. You can take a look at some of the images of the massing models for Phase One here.
Here are two YouTube videos below. The first YouTube video has James Cheng Architect discussing the preliminary design in 2018. The second YouTube video is prepared by CBC’s Jon Hernandez that gives a background to why this site was delayed in construction, and has some images of what the site looked like during the World’s Fair Expo 86.
Li Kai Sing made lump sum payments with no interest over an extended period of time. The government eventually admitted the deal was worth $145 million, less than half their original announcement.” Also, “ The contract said the province was responsible for the environmental cleanup of the Expo lands, which had been rail yards and mills; Harcourt thinks the cleanup costs were $200 million.”
So the Province basically GAVE AWAY the north shore of False Creek.
It’s very sad that the net result of public ownership of False Creek lands is so mediocre. The giveaway of the former Expo site, followed by subsequent development with minimal affordable housing included as the development community has made huge profits, is easily one of the saddest legacies of the highly successful world’s fair.
The Olympic Village ran into incredibly unfortunate timing, the only moment of real estate market uncertainty in decades meant little or no return for the taxpayer owners, and again there is little evidence of affordable housing as that site continues to develop.
That leaves the original False Creek South, a mixed income gently dense master planned community that was so successful for some people of moderate means, it is under attack from the the jealous. Why this wonderful model hasn’t been duplicated ever since completely escapes me, and what should a simple process of lease renewal now seems to be a process of adding considerable density with the goal of keeping but not adding to the existing stock of affordable units. I guess we can’t have nice things for ordinary people any more.
The lands that were developed by Concord Pacific only delivered potential sites for non-market housing, not actual construction. While some were developed in the first phases, there are several undeveloped sites that the City can acquire, but can’t really develop unless either the Province or the Federal Government fund the construction – and that hasn’t been forthcoming in the past couple of decades. They’re still in limbo.
There are two non-market buildings in the larger Southeast False Creek development, as well as several co-ops, including three in the Olympic Village itself, and one built by Concert Properties and given to the City.
With Expo Gardens, (as the Plaza of Nations is apparently going to be named), the City learned the lesson from the Concord developments, and the developer will build the non-market units, and they will be given to the City as ‘air right parcels’ to assign to non-market operators to manage.
In the first building (to the west) shown in the piece by Sandy above, there will be 38,000 sq. ft of retail and 120,000 of office space in a 5-storey podium, and 648 market residential units above, as well as 180 of social housing.