Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Kerrisdale Station

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This is a departure into Gordon Price territory. There is an interesting development at 41st and East Boulevard I went to look at today. It has been there since 2000 so I am sure others know more about this than I do (I did determine it won a Georgy Award in 2001).

Kerrisdale Station

It is next to the former CP Arbutus line, which once was an interurban and has been looked at now and again as a potential LRT route. With of course massive resistance from residents who now enjoy what is still recognisably a streetcar village with good local transit – trolleybuses on 41st and Arbutus, and express buses to UBC, and a few blocks from the B Line on Granville.

The name is a bit sad I think. Like that one down at Steveston, the building simply marks where a station once was. But the building is an unusual mixed use development.

5790 East Boulevard

It is a four storey apartment building that faces on to East Boulevard. The apartments have a typically over arching name. Does anybody take these seriously?

The Laureates

And this is not “affordable” housing. This, after all, Kerrisdale. But the ground floor is, mostly, a London Drugs store. The frontage of the store is on to West 42nd Street which is not part of the original retail frontages which are on West Boulevard and 41st. One sore point for me is that London Drugs is one of those retailers who does not think that window displays are important. That may be that they do not affect sales per square foot, but they do change the interest of the street. I have noticed in other mixed use developments where retail is on the ground with housing over, that it is not unusual for the stores to have windows that are left blank, with blinds down behind them.

There must have been considerable up zoning over whatever was there before. It is considerably denser than the development on the other side of 42nd, and includes retail and residential but allows both to function without getting in each others way. The store has underground parking (as do the residents in a separate gated area) offering two hours free off street in an area which has metered on street places. The parking garage has two elevators one into the store’s ground floor and and the other to all the floors of the apartment building.

London Drugs on W 42nd Ave
But what was a real surprise to me was that when I entered the apartment building, got off the elevator at the third floor and walked to the back there was a complete pedestrian street of town houses on top of the drugstore!

Townhouses on the Third Floor

The level of detail is good, although I was a bit surprised that there is a flight of stairs between the third floor and the “street”. A level access would have been much smarter I think – and at these prices (a 2 bedroom townhouse here is currently listed at $958,800) I would expect it. But that is perhaps a minor cavil. The fountain was a nice touch, if a bit primitive.

When you look around most of Vancouver’s streetcar villages, the retail is nearly always single storey. And obviously this was not a cheap development. More than one level of underground parking will see to that. Now if there had been LRT at the front door, could some of that parking have been relinquished? Especially if there were some co-op cars located there? London Drugs is of course both a downtown and suburban retailer, but does seem wiling to be a bit more adventurous in picking locations. In the centre of Richmond the store is at “Plaza level” (1 floor up) of Westminster at No 3 – next to mostly restaurants at that level. The BCAA and an optician got the largest ground floor spaces.

But what really strikes me is the lost opportunity. The tracks are still there, unused since the brewery at Burrard stopped taking grain by rail. There would be no need for special working relatiosnhips with frieght trains – the last one ran years ago. CP is still the owner, bit the City seems to think they can get the right of way for a greenway. Certainly CP is not happy at the loss of potential development revenues. And meanwhile the tracks rust. And the roads are busy.

Level Crossing

Written by Stephen Rees

April 10, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Posted in architecture, housing, Urban Planning

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9 Responses

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  1. “The tracks are still there, unused since the brewery at Burrard closed.” A bit off topic, but as far as I know the brewery at Burrard (Molson) is still in operation. It was the Carling O’Keefe Brewery at 12th and Arbutus that closed down in the late 1990’s. The entire Arbutus Industrial Area has since been redeveloped into housing.
    Until the year 2001, CP served Molson with two hopper cars roughly 3 times a week, usually in the morning or evening. According to one of the CP crew, CP was unable to ship any more than two cars at a time due to the limited length of the run-around track just outside of the brewery at Burrard, although I also suspect that the unloading area inside of the brewery was also limited in size. Hops are now delivered to the Brewery by trucks. Maybe I am a bit naive, but I’ve always wondered why Molson didn’t ship their final product out of the Brewery by boxcar.

    Here are some links on the Arbutus Line:;action=display;num=1150611101;start=

    Click to access A005.pdf

    Andrew L.

    April 10, 2008 at 5:02 pm

  2. Thank you

    I have corrected the post

    Stephen Rees

    April 10, 2008 at 5:07 pm

  3. Hey, that’s my neck of the woods! I walk to that London Drugs all the time. The complex also has offices and other street-level retail such as a restaurant, a medical clinic, a liquor store, and a hair salon.

    For the London Drugs on Broadway at Vine, probably because of this store, I believe the city forced them avoid a non-street-friendly wall and leave space for small tenants.

    In that last shot, you are about 30m from the community centre, which has a senior centre, swimming pool and library. Two blocks away from the London Drugs is the Kerrisdale Arena (ice rink). Transit in the area is excellent and will only get better with the 91 B-Line in 2009. We need more density though. The two most recent developments in the neighbourhood are luxury condos where former rental apartment buildings stood, reducing the number of units. Thankfully, the city “moratorium” has temporarily stopped the loss of relatively affordable rental units here.


    April 10, 2008 at 5:16 pm

  4. I found, during the ‘Arbutus’ debates in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, that many people when presented with photos of modern LRT and lawned rights-of-ways, they were much more amenable to light rail.

    The dreadful “creme de la creme” lady was not indicative of the publics mood. I found it was the city bureaucrats who were anti LRT and did as much as they could to scare residents with fictitious stories about LRT. At one meeting, a gentleman went played an ancient recording of a 30’s English tram crossing points, claiming it was a recent recording of light rail car! You could hear the needle scratching the vinyl! A city Engineer went so far to tell me, “I was wasting my time because the Arbutus interurban was narrow gauge and modern trams could fit on the rights of way.”

    I was the vocal few, supported by city bureaucrats and politicians, who did their best to misinform the public and the media. The rest, of course is all history.

    What I find amusing is that the city planners now tout the ‘Arbutus’ as a possible streetcar line and the Arbutus corridor being a fine example of a ‘reserved rights-of-way’, the streetcar would be, in fact, considered LRT.

    Malcolm J.

    April 10, 2008 at 5:58 pm

  5. That London Drugs on W 42nd Avenue used to be set back from the street with a large parking lot that covered most of that block. That’s all I remember. I went to that Chinese restaurant on the 2nd floor when it was still called the Miramar. But things have changed all around it. It’s much nicer now than before. Anything is nicer than a huge parking lot that you have to walk across to get into the store.


    April 10, 2008 at 6:35 pm

  6. Ok, totally unrelated to the post but related to the fact that you were at 41st and East Blvd – best burgers in town The Red Onion. I have a restaurant review on my blog that might be of interest.



    April 11, 2008 at 9:21 am

  7. That project does seem to have a good fit into the old streetcar streetscape. It’s uncannily similar in scale to the low rise portion of the O’keefe development a little further “down the line” and will go a long ways to remediating Vancouver’s planning / housing woes outside of the inner city.

    The townhouse or rowhouse mews model could be used at grade in the block or two of avenues parallel to the boulevards, therein providing thousands of people with housing alternatives to the $2+ million single family paradigm around there. I would really like to see fee simple rowhousing … strata does not appeal to a lot of people. Should they ever get rail transit up there, then in my opinion that would justify 6-7 storey apartment blocks with continuous ground-accessed retail on the boulevards.

    Coincidently, my old apartment building is visible from Molson’s at the end of the line, and I remember the evening grain trains well. There is another development at 1rst x Fir called the Galleria that struck me as an appropriate model too. It has continuous commercial / retail at the ground floor with offices on the second level and two storeys of residential above, but set back to provide large terraces.


    April 11, 2008 at 11:33 am

  8. For both of the mixed use blocks that you’ve shown – I think that the City’s height restrictions have negatively impacted the resutling built form.
    For the first project shown (west side @ 42nd) the retail units have extremely low celings – required to keep the total building heigt in check. The retail spaces would ahve benefitted greatly from a few more feet in height.
    Your observation regarding the townhouses atop the London Drugs probably also result from a requirement to keep the overall building height low. The walkway probably houses the stores mechanical systems below it – but raising the entire townhouse component would have “overshadowed” the houses in the area (across the street).

    Ron C.

    April 11, 2008 at 11:48 am

  9. EDit – just realized that the first pic is of the same complex. There is another mixed use building on West Blvd @ 42nd where the retail has exceedingly low ceilings (i.e. residental 8ft ceilings).

    Ron C.

    April 11, 2008 at 11:52 am

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