Stephen Rees's blog

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

The Ridge Redevelopment

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The Ridge

This is a new development that has recently been completed on Arbutus Street at 16th Avenue in Vancouver. It replaced a string of mostly single story small stores, the cinema and a bowling alley.

The Ridge Theatre

Here is what it looked like in April 2012. The only thing that has been kept is the sign, now above the entrance to the condominiums, around which the City Market has wrapped itself. The store occupies the most of the ground floor and has parking underneath.

The service road in front of the block that used to provide surface parking has become an open plaza currently being used to display seasonal offerings. Like the lower level elevator lobby to the parking, the goods on display appear to be just available for the taking, though I assume there must be some surveillance. The store has its own elevator to the parking level (P1)  the condos have their parking on the lower levels, with the own elevator.

The overall development is only four storeys which I assume reflects the cost of providing underground parking. Two surface lots on adjacent blocks north west of Arbutus, which used to be part of the parking serving the site are now closed off, presumably for more redevelopment. Access to the underground parking is through the rear lane, whose access and agrees at each end has been rounded off to deter left turns.

There was no requirement to replace the social function provided by either the cinema or the bowling alley, both of which were going concerns, if not as financially attractive to the land owner as the offer from Cressey. The City Market is a newish Loblaw offering but with more prepared food and organic produce, aiming at the Whole Foods/Shaughnessy market. They are not competing on price with the established food stores. It is a franchise operation, run by the man who used to have the Extra Foods store in the same location.

Certainly progress in terms of densification if lacking in the diversity of uses apparent in the older picture. Consistent with the aim of increasing population in what is essentially an inner suburb, but with little opportunity for any social interaction other than retail. The City Market does have a small cafe, with real gelato even in November, and I suppose that might spread onto the patio in summer. But I do not see this as much of a destination, or especially urban.

This block, with the gas station on the other side of 16th, marks the end of what is almost continuous retail down to Broadway. There is single family residential from here to King Edward, then multi family and a small mall with a large Safeway. And that is the next major redevelopment site.

Arbutus mall

Again, this will become condos over ground level retail with underground parking. Though some of the old ladies in my building wonder about how they will deal with ground water here, as the back of the lot used to be a swamp that was filled with sand to allow for development.

And, in case you notice any difference with formatting in this post it is the first time I have used the WordPress app for Mac.

If you like this sort of thing Changing Vancouver does it better – but is not really interested in the suburbs (which, as Gordon Price once pointed out to me, start at 12th Avenue).

Written by Stephen Rees

November 27, 2015 at 1:21 pm

3 Responses

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  1. A bit of background on the parking … if you overlay a map of ‘forgotten’ streams which was posted at the ‘Rewilding Vancouver’ exhibit at MOV, you see that the Ridge site is directly over the old stream bed. The construction was *quite* tricky as a result!

    The thing is, this wasn’t known until after construction started and they had major water issues (because I told them to look at the map) so wasn’t an issue in the design (unless the design took it into account, but no-one told the construction company) – but should have been! So don’t know why so short, and its a good thing it stayed short because parking was a p.i.t.a. even as is – any deeper would have been even harder.


    November 27, 2015 at 4:50 pm

  2. I believe the original proposal called for an extra floor but concerns from the neighborhood caused the city to chop a floor off as a condition of approval.


    November 28, 2015 at 8:41 am

  3. I fondly remember the old Ridge Theatre. I lived in Shaughessy in the early 80s in an old mansion carved up into rooms and apartments. After work two or three times a week I loved pedaling my bike down to the Ridge to catch a double feature, which they offered almost every night at a very reasonable price. In the late 80s and living with a new spouse in False Creek, we got to know a neighbour who was a projectionist at the Ridge on Friday and Saturday nights. She let us into the projection room during the break between flicks. There was a back door to that room leading to a fire escape on the top floor on the west side of the building with a great view of English Bay and over the well-treed landscape of the West Side. Sadly, then owner Ray Mainland died in a car accident and the Ridge started to decline with the advent of DVDs and the Internet. The rest is history.

    I like the new Ridge development for its clean lines, its unpretentious simplicity, its reasonable height and gentle increase in density. Even with the 5th floor mentioned by Rico, I think it would still be acceptable. I believe it fits well with the newish development to the north on the old O’Keefe Brewery land that established a comfortable urbanism on Arbutus. That project resulted from hard negotiations between the neighbours and the developer with the city acting as facilitator. It started with a prposal for 15-storey towers and ended at a maximum of 8-storeys, stepping down to four or five on Arbutus. There is a unique internal park in the centre with limited vehicle access. The project is a success in my mind as the result of the public process, the initially affordable prices on the lower units, the mix of one, two and three bedroom suites, and reasonably good architecture and site planning.

    As Vancouver densifies we need to keep these successful projects in mind as the debate rages over development.


    December 9, 2015 at 3:42 pm

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