Stephen Rees's blog

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

Rezoning the Arbutus Development

with 20 comments

Arbutus Rezone

I had thought that I had written something here about the redevelopment of the Arbutus Mall which is just next door to where I live. I am actually quite surprised that I haven’t been able to find anything. It is mostly on flickr. So to give you a very quick background, when Arbutus Village was first built it was a real exercise in being a complete community. There were apartments and townhouses, a park and a shopping centre which included some local services, like dentists and insurance offices, as well as a recreation centre. The Mall had a large Safeway as its anchor tenant as well as a liquor store, bank, dollar store and so on, with a significant amount of surface parking between the buildings and Arbutus Street.

Arbutus Mall 4.6.17 panorama

A couple of years ago, a new development was approved to excavate the parking lot and build more apartments over commercial and retail space on the ground floor, with parking underground.  I was quite pleased to see that start construction as the huge high level flood lights for the parking had been shining into our apartment windows all night long.  The light pollution meant we could never see any stars. It also interfered with my sleep. Of course it was a blow to see all the small businesses disappear. Safeway kept the pharmacy open – a requirement of their license, with a small convenience store providing essentials. The Liquor Store also stayed open to protect its grandfathered rights which might otherwise be lost due to the proximity of the Prince of Wales High School. The post office tried to stay open but couldn’t, due to lack of foot traffic. And we lost our recreation centre to commercial operations of a dance school and a swimming school. At least the indoor pool now saw much more use than formerly.

Arbutus Mall redevelopment pan

The scale of the proposed development was roughly equivalent to the buildings around it. There are three condo buildings of six storeys – known around here as “high rise”. What the developer was going to build was not too different – and there would be more townhouses and a wider social mix as the city was insisting on more rental units. Once development got underway on the first two buildings, the developer (Larco) applied for greater density on the part of the site closer to our building and the park. This evening we went to an Open House. The information on the many boards around the room is available on the city web page . There are a lot of documents there too.

The City Vancouver has received a rezoning application for 2133 Nanton Avenue (the Arbutus Centre) to amend the existing CD-1 (642) (Comprehensive Development) District. The proposal would increase the residential floor area, including an increase in the number of market and social housing units. The specific amendments include:

  • An increase in the maximum allowable floor space for all uses from 67,065 sq. m (721,881 sq. ft) to 77,611 sq. m (835,400 sq. ft.). The additional floor space is to be accommodated on Blocks C and D (the western portion of the site).
  • An increase to the maximum building height on Block C from 57 m (187 ft.) to 60 m (197 ft.) and the maximum building height on Block D from 57 m (187 ft.) to 72 m (236 ft.).

The rezoning application proposes no change to the amount of office and commercial space, and includes an expanded Neighbourhood House.

The images below are taken from the Applicant Boards pdf file available on the City web page.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.59.43 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.59.58 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-17 at 3.00.17 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-17 at 3.00.31 PM

The scale drawings give a much better idea of how much bigger the new proposal is compared to the pictures. In fact I think the Block C illustrations are almost comically misleading. The size of the block in the new proposal seems to be comparable to the original at first glance until you realise that the scale is quite different. Not only are there more storeys above ground, the below ground is also greatly enlarged, although the consultant told me that the parking ratio is only one space per unit. Two spaces for car share are included – which might at long last see some Modo cars parked here, something I have been lobbying for, though I think two is unlikely to be adequate. I also suggested that dedicated parking for evo and car2go be included. The Arbutus Club across the street already provides a lot of demand for both.

Given that the site is adjacent to the #16 trolleybus we might, I hope, see more service on that given the number of other four storey additions to commercial areas in Kerrisdale and the proposed major transit interchange at Broadway and Arbutus once the stubway opens. I suspect that the ratio of one parking space per unit will also generate considerable on street parking demand as the retailers will want to reserve much of their underground for customers.

I know that the major concern I have heard from my neighbours is the scale and height of the buildings. We are also aware of other developments that are going to be proposed on Eddington at Valley (Amica – currently a two storey residential care facility, with the adjacent townhouse development) and at McBain and Valley/King Edward (currently town houses and three storey condo apartment block). We do not know how high these will be yet, but the fear is that Larco’s proposal will set a precedent for much taller buildings.

In the applicant’s rendering shown below the building I live in is at the bottom right hand corner. The Amica building slated for redevelopment is behind it – about half way up the right hand side of the image. At this time we have no idea how high that will be.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 3.05.26 PM

The Arbutus Ridge Community Association is certainly not happy.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 13, 2018 at 8:24 pm

20 Responses

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  1. The following is the comment I posted on the City web page

    “The proposal to increase the heights of Blocks C and D is far in excess of what should be allowed at this location. Ten storey buildings looming over the park and the adjacent 6 storey building where I live will greatly reduce the amenity value of the park and the surrounding “village”.

    “I was told by the Transportation Consultant at the Open House that the parking supply of the rezoning proposal was based on one space per unit. Without significant increase in transit service (especially on bus route #16) and other alternative transportation, I think a significant increase in on-street parking in the neighborhood is inevitable. A broader analysis is needed in view of the proposed redevelopments of a number of sites in the immediate vicinity including Amica, Quilchena Gardens townhouses and the McBain strata on the corner of Valley and King Edward.

    “Space for two car shares is inadequate and more provision for car2go and evo as well as Modo is essential. Charging for electric vehicles and bicycles should also be mandatory.

    “The applicant’s statements about underground water bely the present experience. Since development of sites A and B began significant volumes of water are now being continuously pumped at the corner of Yew and Nanton. Even so, flooding along the Yew frontage of Amica is commonplace after heavy rain.

    “The proposed rezoning is excessive and has scant benefit for the existing residents and park users. The application should be refused.”

    And as soon as I posted that the following reply appeared

    “Thank you for your comments about the proposed rezoning.

    “Your comments, as well as other comments received from the public, will assist staff in assessing whether the proposal is in the public interest and whether any changes will need to be made to it. All public comments will be represented in our report to City Council advising of the merits of the proposal. Should Council decide to consider the application, a public hearing will be held and you will have an opportunity to speak directly to Council with any comments you still want to make. Letters received after the report has gone to Council will be included in a summary of correspondence that Council receives at the Public Hearing.

    “A Public Hearing is advertised in the Planning Matters section of the Courier newspaper. We also mail notices to property owners within an approximate two-block radius of the site to tell them about the time, date and location of the Public Hearing.”

    Stephen Rees

    February 17, 2018 at 3:44 pm

  2. […] wrote about this development back in February. The city webpage on the proposal includes the Policy Report considered at the Council Meeting on […]

  3. You are unhappy with the development but does it increase your property value substantially?

    jj long

    August 16, 2018 at 10:44 am

  4. Impossible to tell at present: the development is only now getting under way. The removal of trees around its perimeter is making life here quite unpleasant and greatly exposing us to the development process. If we were to show the property now most people would be deterred. I think having a 12 storey structure immediately adjacent to us and in a form which has admitted massing and shadowing problems will not help sales once it is completed. Until the final plans are approved by the City we won’t know. The general consensus is that for the next few years we are going to be surrounded by building sites, and that will not help individual sales. It is not just the mall to the east that will be redeveloped: so will sites to the south and north west.

    In general the volume of sales in the region is down but prices seem to be firm – see the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver for details

    Stephen Rees

    August 16, 2018 at 11:25 am

  5. Interesting to read. Now it is more than half a year later, Stephen. Has the development affected sales or perceived value in/for your building? You say trees have been cut down exposing your building to the unpleasantries of the construction site. For how much longer will this go on? Are you still living there?


    April 21, 2019 at 12:57 pm

  6. Values – and volumes of sales – are down in general in Vancouver. The developer who was interested in buying our strata and an adjacent one has now dropped out of both sales. Despite the impact of the Mall redevelopment enough owners thought that the price ought to be higher, or that they just did not want to move, that it was below the necessary 80% approval to proceed. Construction work on parcels A and B is now at around two to three storeys. Work on increasing the size of drains around parcels C and D is proceeding, with some impact on access. We are still here, and hoping that improvements to our building will make it watertight: a new fire alarm system is currently being installed. Larco will complete the construction of the first two parcels before proceeding since Safeway, BMO and the Liquor Store need to be relocated before the remaining mall buildings can be demolished. So we are talking a couple of years at least before construction starts – maybe more depending on how the market looks then.

    Stephen Rees

    April 21, 2019 at 3:53 pm

  7. “…since Safeway, BMO and the Liquor Store need to be relocated before the remaining mall buildings can be demolished.” So these businesses are still at the old mall and operating? I thought the buildings were all closed and torn down already. You are saying construction has not even started yet?

    JJ Long

    May 1, 2019 at 2:43 pm

  8. Why so many new condos being planned for your neighborhood? I would have thought condo developers would prefer Oakridge or Kerrisdale where there are more restaurants and shops.

    JJ Long

    May 1, 2019 at 2:48 pm

  9. No, the rear of the old mall is still standing. The upper level has become the site office. BMO, BCL, the Dance Co and the swimming school are all still operating. Demolition of this building will be at some unspecified time in the future. A sign board about the proposed expansion of areas C & D has not been updated – but says it was approved July 24, 2018. Given the current slump in demand, the developer may be in no hurry to move this forward.

    Stephen Rees

    May 1, 2019 at 2:52 pm

  10. So I suppose the construction is ongoing, five days a week? What is the noise level like, for you/your building? Many years ago, long before any of this started, I had an email conversation with Kerry Jang at City Hall about this Arbutus Mall redevelopment. I was telling him how the mall would be better without any redevelopment. I used to love shopping at Arbutus Safeway; but I have not been there in years since everything started closing down. Such a pity. Do you know if Jang is still the point-man on this or has he moved on?


    May 8, 2019 at 2:38 pm

  11. Kerry Jang is no longer a councillor.

    We are on the opposite side of the building so the construction does not directly impact us, except for the noise from the warning horns on the cranes. Once the first stage of the construction is completed, the works will be nearer to us – assuming the development continues as planned.

    Stephen Rees

    May 8, 2019 at 3:26 pm

  12. More than a year has passed since last update. What’s new? Construction-wise? Shops open yet, Stephen?

    jj long

    July 17, 2020 at 5:31 pm

  13. I suggest you go to my Flickr photostream

    Theatre Organ

    Stephen Rees

    July 17, 2020 at 5:43 pm

  14. Your Flickr photostream is really huge; so many photos of so many things. I have skimmed through it but can’t see anything about the Mall per se. I’ll change my question: Is the situation for the neighbors (in particular, you and your building’s denizens) of the Arbutus Mall redevelopment better these last few months, given the presumed progress of the construction? I have been reading that the Mall will not open for at least another two years or more.

    JJ Long

    July 18, 2020 at 3:46 am

  15. Sorry that link should have pointed to the album

    Arbutus mall

    Only the Safeway has opened so far (June 18). The remainder of the old mall with the bank and liquor store still stands. As does the reply I made to you on May 1, 2019. If anything the two years has stretched out further into an uncertain future.

    Stephen Rees

    July 18, 2020 at 9:47 am

  16. Thanks. What you say is hilarious in a sad way. (“…the two years has stretched out further into an uncertain future.”) What do you mean? Doesn’t the property developer owe the City of Vancouver a completion date for the promised public housing units? The best things about the old Mall were the medical offices on the second floor (my doctor was there), Dollarama (I loved that store) and Safeway. If the Mall now has an “uncertain future”, Larco should not have made the tenants all move out!

    JJ Long

    August 10, 2020 at 3:59 pm

  17. Thanks for the compilation photo album (above). The work is obviously coming along but it seems hideous. This redevelopment has altered the look and feel of the neighborhood. The old Arbutus Mall was so much better. What I see of the new structure is cold and overly dense. Nonetheless you’ve done a very nice job of creating a photo history. Thanks again.

    JJ Long

    August 10, 2020 at 4:10 pm

  18. Well none of it is actually “public housing”. All of the housing is to be rental – and some of that at below market rates.

    Much has changed since the proposal was approved, and the work has yet to start demolishing what remains of the mall. As it is on my doorstep, I remain a far from impartial observer.

    We are enjoying the new Safeway. I hope some of the businesses that were in the mall will be returning. But some may not survive the impact of the pandemic.

    Stephen Rees

    August 10, 2020 at 8:40 pm

  19. Any updates now? End of 2022 is coming up and I wonder how things are looking for Block D.

    Simon Wilson

    December 23, 2022 at 7:42 pm

  20. The current status is that excavation for the underground parking under blocks C and D is very nearly complete. It has been interrupted by a very cold spell accompanied by heavy snowfall – and now the Christmas holiday. The most recent photo I have taken was on Christmas Day and is at the end of the album “Arbutus Mall Redevelopment” at

    There is no trace of the former mall and parking meters are being installed on the streets. Oddly enough while we no longer have to endure the bright lights of the former surface parking lot, we still get disturbed by the headlights of the cars leaving the new underground parkade under blocks A and B. This will end once the new blocks are built. All the units are for rent (as opposed to condominiums) and while the small number of subsidised apartments are all let, the market units seem to be experiencing considerable difficulty in finding, and retaining, tenants. They are, of course, hideously expensive.

    It is also notable that the developer has moved a pedestrian path in the park in order to squeeze in the townhouses as shown in the developers illustration.

    Stephen Rees

    December 24, 2022 at 10:44 am

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