14 months after Vancouver City Council approved the 2010 Mount Pleasant Community Plan, a hearing was held to re-zone a key site in the neighbourhood to 5.5 FSR (floor space ratio). Neighbours who had participated in the planning process were joined by other citizens and professionals to decry the recommendation to move beyond the mandated 3.0 FSR. In order to illustrate the 3.0 FSR opportunity, and working in consultation with members from the Resident’s Association of Mount Pleasant, we developed a scheme in keeping with local traditions.
Continuity of the Streetwall
Perimeter Site Massing
An “Urban Room” in the centre of the block
Reference to Local Landmarks
Density & Height
Building 1 on Kingsway: 90,000 s.f. (6 storeys — 70 feet)
Building 1 on Kingsway: 25,000 s.f. (-15 — subway concourse level)
Building 2 on Broadway: 21,500 s.f. (3 storeys — 36 feet)
Building 3 on Watson: 21,500 s.f. (3 storeys — 27 feet)
Building 4 on 10th: 1,500 s.f. (1.5 storeys —27 feet)
Total Area: 159,500 s.f. (3.0 FSR)
The “scale” of the buildings in this scheme is in keeping with structures in the immediate vicinity. They match, but don’t exceed, the footprint and the height of important buildings in the area. Distributed along the perimeter of the site, buildings shape an urban room, or public square at street level.
Design Element 1: Flat Iron Building (6 stories)
An iconic (landmark) Flat Iron building (70 feet tall) stands at the corner of Broadway & Kingsway, responding in scale to the open space of the intersection. The footprint of the Flat Iron building matches a precedent set one block to the north by a 2-storey 1940s building. Below ground, at subway concourse level on the future Broadway Line, the Flat Iron building has 25,000 s.f. of commercial retail space. Lower level retail would also have a prominent entrance on the prow of the Flat Iron building, at the principal intersection of Broadway & Kingsway.
Design Element 2: The Broadway Building (3 stories)
The building fronting Broadway has 2 stories commercial, plus a residential third storey with nine 800 s.f. apartments. The apartments have front doors on the square, or urban room, and roof terraces. The local reference for the architecture should be the 1911 Wenonah Apartments at Main and 11th.
Design Element 3: The Watson Street Row Houses (3 stories)
Nine 3-storey row houses (2,400 s.f. each) front on Watson Street. Each house could have either one or two 800 s.f. mortgage helper suites providing affordable rentals in the area. The row houses have front doors on Watson, while the suites are accessed from the square, or urban room. The developer could sell these units as fee-simple properties if the legislature passes in time. There are local precedents for row houses at the SW corner of 10th and Main.
Design Element 4: The Cyclist Pavilion (1.5 stories)
A small iconic structure marks the entrance to the square or urban room on 10th Avenue. We imagine this 1,500 square foot structure could have additional facilities below ground. As a Cyclist Pavilion, it requires consultation and input from the cycling community to determine its best use. It may provide a place for cyclists to shower before hopping on transit; repair their gear; eat at a cafeteria; or socialize in a relaxed environment.
Design Element 5: The urban room
The public open space that occupies the middle of the block at ground level is the generator for this scheme, organizing the flow and experience of the urbanism all around. Measuring 60 x 120 feet, the urban room is surrounded on three sides by buildings about 30 feet tall. The fourth and tallest building (70 feet) fronts the space with an arcade. The open but covered corridor provides a protected path from the arterial street on the neighbourhood edge to the local street in the neighbourhood centre.
The proportion of the urban room along its long axis is 36 : 120 or 1 : 3. The proportion along the short axis is 27 : 60 or 1 : 2.
The 70-foot Flat Iron Building is really too big to front the urban room. The morning sun will be blocked. Its height will dwarf the open square even as it back stops traffic noise and pollution from Kingsway. The expectation is that people using the space will sit with their backs to the ‘Big Wall’ and enjoy the panorama in front of them on the other three sides.
Access & Circulation
The central square, or urban room is accessible from all surrounding streets. It is designed to work with Watson Street to create a Pedestrian Priority Precinct that might extend across Broadway to the “heart” block.
Parking garage access— is off Kingsway with a right-in, right-out entrance.
Truck loading for commercial retail units is market-style loading on a special area built off 10th Avenue. Markets all over the world, including Granville Island Market (55,000 s.f.), do loading from the street. Loading times are restricted to off-peak hours when neither businesses, nor neighbours will be unduly disrupted.
Street Aspect Ratio
The 3.0 FSR scheme achieves a balance between developable building area and the resulting quality of the urban space. Building heights are set in proportion to the width of the fronting open space, or right-of-way in order to achieve the desired street aspect ratio.
Along Kingsway, Broadway and 10th Avenue, buildings set back in order to achieve 3 and 6 storey heights. This kind of planning supports pedestrian activity & social mixing with human scale urbanism.