Jump to content

      












Photo

[Downtown Victoria] Centro condos | 54.4m | 19- & 14-storeys | Canceled


  • Please log in to reply
203 replies to this topic

#121 G-Man

G-Man

    Senior Case Officer

  • Moderator
  • 13,166 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 02:41 PM

No I am not against zoning though in general I like development permit areas that allow for "look and feel" definitions rather than blanket zonings such a 14 storey height limit or a 3:1 density. I also think that neighbourhoods and zones within neighbourhoods should have smaller zone definitions so that as you move around an area you will be able to tell by the built environment where you are.

Blanket prescriptive zonings create inorganic bland boring cities. Get away from the numbers and give a description of what you want and allow the numbers to come out of it.

As for whether the 14 storey height limit was defensible well I have lived here since 1995 and I never had a chance to vote on it so I don't think they could say it is the opinion of the people.

#122 Mike K.

Mike K.
  • Administrator
  • 57,768 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 03:08 PM

The city shouldn't be in the business of strictly defining what the market can and can't do. The reason we're seeing a rise in heights and densities today is directly related to the problems developers originally faced with these strict building definitions five years ago and which have reached a boiling point in 2008. Developers began complaining to City Hall that they could no longer afford to build at 14-storeys and/or 3:1 density. So out came the contentious rezonings that lead to the VibrantVictoria.ca movement and a general distaste for strict municipal zoning among a growing number of residents/homebuyers (and a push for high-density developments far outside the downtown core).

Just so everyone is aware, the cost to build, market and sell, per square foot, in the downtown core is hovering around the $450 sq/ft mark if not substantially higher for more "luxury" condos. All of a sudden that $500/sq/ft condo pricetag doesn't seem that outrageous, does it?

In any case, if our zoning is more lax and developers are able to build something that directly reacts to the demands of the market I guarantee we'd see development rates in the $250-$350 sq/ft range. Instead, we have the status quo griping about the lack of affordability while slamming developers for requesting height and density easements. We'll never get anywhere with the affordability fight if the community doesn't accept the realities of the market, yet the status quo continues to believe developers are somehow (they're not sure how, but they're sure its happening) screwing the city out of affordability, housing and "air space."

#123 jklymak

jklymak
  • Member
  • 3,514 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 04:09 PM

Just so everyone is aware, the cost to build, market and sell, per square foot, in the downtown core is hovering around the $450 sq/ft mark ...

In any case, if our zoning is more lax and developers are able to build something that directly reacts to the demands of the market I guarantee we'd see development rates in the $250-$350 sq/ft range.


Can you explain where the difference in price comes from?

If developers can build for $250/sqft, what is preventing them from doing so at the present? If it is land prices, who is driving the market up so much that development is unaffordable except the developers themselves? Why would they buy it if they couldn't afford to build on it? Unless they were counting on zoning easements.

Or is there really a huge overhead in the first few floors of a building, such that going above 14 stories makes the building much cheaper?

Or is there something else I don't understand?

Developers began complaining to City Hall that they could no longer afford to build at 14-storeys and/or 3:1 density. So out came the contentious rezonings that lead to the VibrantVictoria.ca movement and a general distaste for strict municipal zoning among a growing number of residents/homebuyers


If you aren't in favour of "strict" zoning then what would take its place? I don't think it can be nothing. I am under the naive assumption that a developer, given free rein, would build as large a building as they could on a given property, and we would be a city of View Towers.

As I've said before, I'm in favour of more density and greater heights. However, I am not in favour of the ad-hoc way they are being implemented. I'm not clear on what mechanism would be more appropriate than the current height caps and density specifications.

#124 jklymak

jklymak
  • Member
  • 3,514 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 04:20 PM

Blanket prescriptive zonings create inorganic bland boring cities. Get away from the numbers and give a description of what you want and allow the numbers to come out of it.


I agree with you. However, I'm not clear how that is different than what is in place now? The zoning map is a pretty quilt-like blanket, and I assume it was made with an initial description of what was wanted. My question is what mechanism would be more appropriate?

As for whether the 14 storey height limit was defensible well I have lived here since 1995 and I never had a chance to vote on it so I don't think they could say it is the opinion of the people.


I'm pretty sure there have been a few municipal elections since 1995! Council are our representatives, and they get elected based on their positions on things like development. If people were grossly unhappy with current zonings I assume there would have been a change. I hope this change is a major issue in the upcoming election.

#125 Mike K.

Mike K.
  • Administrator
  • 57,768 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 04:35 PM

Or is there really a huge overhead in the first few floors of a building, such that going above 14 stories makes the building much cheaper?


That's pretty much it in a nutshell, plus density. You can't build a successful 20-storey building in Victoria unless it has adequate density. The new downtown plan is more of a facade in that it is merely raising the arbitrary cap by a few floors and a few points of density. It won't do anything to alleviate cost pressures as materials and labour costs continue to rise.

If you aren't in favour of "strict" zoning then what would take its place?


Less strict zoning. We don't need limits to achieve success. We need a combination of guidelines and common sense, both of which appear to be severely lacking.

Developers never know what will pass with the advisory panel (consider the Falls' almost deal-breaking ordeal), or what planners will require of them (consider 834 Johnson's sewage issues), or what zoning they can achieve without wasting thousands of dollars proposing a project the personal taste or opinion of a councillor or a planner will ultimately derail (consider Crystalview).

#126 aastra

aastra
  • Member
  • 16,262 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 04:40 PM

Am I the only one who thinks things are working out rather well now that we're using the height cap as a guideline and allowing exceptions here and there? Folks, they're proposing skyscrapers in the suburbs. A developer recently proposed a 36-story building in Nanaimo. If developers were running amok in the city then we'd surely know it, because they'd be proposing 40-story buildings left and right.

The fact that Orchard House has remained Victoria's tallest building for the past ~40 years should be pretty good evidence that the various developers have been cooperating with the rules in Victoria during this recent boom, even in locations where those rules don't make a heck of a lot of sense (for example, in the immediate vicinity of the Chateau Victoria and the Executive House Hotel). Westbank's original concept for the Falls was quite a bit taller than what they're actually building. The tallest proposed Hudson tower would only be slightly taller than Orchard House, and we all know full well why the city is making an exception on that project. So what's the problem?

Let's not kid ourselves. Plenty of Victorians like highrises. Several times in the past few years we've observed the irony whereby the most vocal opponents of tall buildings tend to live in the city's tallest buildings.

If ~14 stories is allowed on the Centro site and the developer proposes a very fine building at 16 stories then I have no problem with it at all. The last thing we want is a sea of 14-story buildings. Corazon was under the limit. 860 View was under the limit. Gateway Green will go over the limit. Centro might go over the limit. I don't see that as a problem. I see it as a very good thing because variation is good.

#127 aastra

aastra
  • Member
  • 16,262 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 04:54 PM

I also think there shouldn't be anything taller than 8 or 9 stories (or so) in the old town (west of Douglas, north of Humboldt, south of Chatham).

#128 G-Man

G-Man

    Senior Case Officer

  • Moderator
  • 13,166 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 04:57 PM

^ Exactly we need to allow zoning to be malleable to each location and let a building with merit pass based on the building presented not on arbtrary numbers. If a building is amazing at 19 storeys than that should be it. Not say: " Well that is a nice building but why can't you make it shorter?"

#129 jklymak

jklymak
  • Member
  • 3,514 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 05:54 PM

The fundamental problem with that approach is that I do not know what "amazing" is. For instance if "amazing" means filling an empty parking lot, then I agree this proposal fits the bill. But after that I am not clear what is "amazing" about it that earn it the height exception.

"The variety is good" approach has appeal. However, if the Centro goes in at 19 stories, will the next developer come in and say, "for variety, I'll build at 10 stories"? I am skeptical. Instead we'll get the 800-block Yates and View, with the 8 storey building being overshadowed by the 13 storey, being overshadowed by a 20 (to name a location where the process has not worked very well in my opinion). At some point the planning process has to step in with clear rules everyone can follow.

#130 G-Man

G-Man

    Senior Case Officer

  • Moderator
  • 13,166 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 06:04 PM

Well I have to say I am no fan of this building at any height but still I don't think it is "earning its height."

Height should be a secondary discussion after the important ones of use and design.

In our crazy city it goes:

1. Height
2. Density
3. Use (only necessary if over height or density limits or is a needle exchange)
4. Design (only necessary if over height or density limits or is an offensive coloured hotel)

#131 Nparker

Nparker
  • Member
  • 26,755 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 06:46 PM

Centro is such a prominent site downtown that I feel something exceptional is needed here. Now "exceptional" does not necessarily mean beyond current height limits, however, if it is to stand out from the buildings around it I think a taller tower is justified. That being said, the current lacklustre design does nothing for me. My hope (naive as it may be) is if Townline can increase the density for at least one of the requested towers, then perhaps this will bring in the needed revenue to ensure that the design and finishes are top-notch. I know everyone fears another View Towers, but I am sure, given the chance, Townline can give us something that will make us go "wow". It is for this reason that I am going to attend the public meeting next Tuesday (@ Silver Threads on Douglas). I want to encourage the developer to give us the BEST DESIGN POSSIBLE. If this means taller than the current heigh restriction than so be it. But the bottom line will be good design.

#132 aastra

aastra
  • Member
  • 16,262 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 07:41 PM

"The variety is good" approach has appeal. However, if the Centro goes in at 19 stories, will the next developer come in and say, "for variety, I'll build at 10 stories"? I am skeptical.

Why are you skeptical? Parkside isn't even finished yet and it will only be 9 stories, even though it's surrounded by much taller new buildings and much taller old buildings, too. The new Oswego Hotel is shorter than the old Harbour Towers hotel right next door. The Cherry Bank condo building will be shorter than its immediate neighbour, the Savoy.

When talking about the 800-block of Yates we should remember that the Chelsea and the Metropolitan were already there when the shorter 860 View came along. If overshadowing is such a concern, then why didn't they build 860 View to be taller than the existing buildings on the south side of the street? Heck, why didn't the city oblige them to build it taller? What sort of crazy nut would willingly choose to live in an overshadowed building? But if they had built it taller, wouldn't the folks in the Chelsea and the Metropolitan have complained about being overshadowed? So maybe all buildings should all be exactly the same height? Wasn't it a moral crime, after all, to build the Wave so much taller than 860 View? Voila, height restriction. You've still got all of the same issues re: views of walls and limited access to natural light, but at least nobody is overshadowed by anybody else.

I agree, that block was definitely botched, but it wasn't botched by height; it was botched by the packed-in fatscraper format. Blocky residential buildings simply aren't acceptable anymore. People don't like living in them and they also don't like looking at them. The very same issues would be present whether or not the buildings were 4 stories or 104 stories. If you pack blocky or wide buildings together, you destroy views and deprive units of natural light. I can show you innumerable houses in Victoria that have issues on one side or another re: natural light. Is it because the other houses in the neighbourhood are too tall? Of course not, it's because of the shape of the houses and how they're packed together. The great mystery is why Victoria is still doing the blocky fatscraper thing, when so many Victorians despise it to such a degree. Look at the situation between City Place and Parkside. Is City Place getting burned because Parkside is too tall? Nope. The heights are low. The problem is in the way those two rather blocky buildings will be packed against one another.

Note: when I mention "views," I mean "of something" and not "of the entire span of the Olympic range, uninterrupted from east to west." Everybody has a different take on what constitutes a view. G-Man, for example, doesn't seem to care about views at all. Personally, I like to be able to see the street below and the immediate vicinity. Some people won't settle for less than the entire deal: city, ocean, mountains...you name it.

Like I said in another thread, I've seen plenty of great views that were changed or eliminated altogether by the growth of trees over the years. What you see out your window isn't guaranteed in perpetuity. Some people think it is, which is why you have those incidents in which people go onto property that doesn't belong to them and cut down view-blocking trees.

Consider the crazy question at the following link (and some of the equally crazy responses):
http://www.guardian....ersonaleffects1

#133 Nparker

Nparker
  • Member
  • 26,755 posts

Posted 08 January 2008 - 08:59 PM

Sound reasoning aastra.

#134 Phil McAvity

Phil McAvity
  • Member
  • 1,238 posts

Posted 09 January 2008 - 01:40 AM

A more sympathetic look at Pam Madoff's entire career would, I think, reveal a surprising number of initiatives and developments she has supported that we love today.


Oh yeah, name one development that Pam has supported that people love today.

Just one.

#135 Phil McAvity

Phil McAvity
  • Member
  • 1,238 posts

Posted 09 January 2008 - 01:48 AM

^In my mind, the 14 story limit is defensible as the opinion of the citizens of Victoria. Any height limit is only a matter of opinion, so I'm not sure what other defence there should be.

If the majority of Victorian's agree that the height limits are antiquated and need modification, then council should change the zoning, as I assume they are trying to do with the new downtown plans.

You seem to be advocating no zoning. Is that really an appropriate way to decide on land use? I can see quite a few problems with it.



I've never seen any opinion polls on the height limit or been asked what my opinion is, so i'd love to know how you figure this is the general consensus. In deciding some arbitrary number like a height limit, how about a defense based on logic and reason? Apparently that's too much to ask though, because if people actually thought about it, there wouldn't be a height limit because it is completely irrational, especially since every building has to face myriad bureaucracy before any digging even starts.

Name some problems that would arise from the elimination of zoning.

#136 jklymak

jklymak
  • Member
  • 3,514 posts

Posted 09 January 2008 - 08:00 AM

I've never seen any opinion polls on the height limit or been asked what my opinion is, so i'd love to know how you figure this is the general consensus. In deciding some arbitrary number like a height limit, how about a defense based on logic and reason? Apparently that's too much to ask though, because if people actually thought about it, there wouldn't be a height limit because it is completely irrational, especially since every building has to face myriad bureaucracy before any digging even starts.

Name some problems that would arise from the elimination of zoning.


Height limits are almost purely an aesthetic decision. "We" say "we" don't want 50 storey bldgs downtown, so they aren't allowed to be built. I don't think there is any "logic" behind it.

I am not claiming the current height limit is the current general consensus, just that it was in the past. At some point that "arbitrary" 14 stories was decided on by duly elected representatives and it hasn't been changed yet. That makes it plenty defensible in my books. I may not like it, but it still is the law.

The problem with the elimination of zoning is quite clearly that "ugly" "out of proportion" (whatever those illogical terms mean) buildings will be proposed and built. G-man says that a 19 storey building needs to be "amazing" - that height premium is only based on the 14-storey zoning. If there is no zoning, I don't see what is to stop every building from being View Towers.

#137 G-Man

G-Man

    Senior Case Officer

  • Moderator
  • 13,166 posts

Posted 09 January 2008 - 08:06 AM

Anyways the height limit here is 18 not 14 for this area now based on the interim height guidelines.

#138 jklymak

jklymak
  • Member
  • 3,514 posts

Posted 09 January 2008 - 08:25 AM

Aastra and G-man,

I agree with most of what you both say.

Why are you skeptical? Parkside isn't even finished yet and it will only be 9 stories, even though it's surrounded by much taller new buildings and much taller old buildings, too. The new Oswego Hotel is shorter than the old Harbour Towers hotel right next door. The Cherry Bank condo building will be shorter than its immediate neighbour, the Savoy.


I wasn't around for the development submissions of these buildings. I think it is important to asked what pressure caused them to be smaller? Something in the existing planning process, public opposition, or developers deciding that was the appropriate size for the site? If these height variations are "good", and these developments are "good", I think it is worth trying to figure out why. If it is a pitched battle between the developers and council every time, which is kind of the picture Mike K painted above, then the system could use some tweaking. (BTW, it would be my contention that Parkside is definitely not "good")

I agree, that block [800 Yates/View] was definitely botched, but it wasn't botched by height; it was botched by the packed-in fatscraper format....The great mystery is why Victoria is still doing the blocky fatscraper thing, when so many Victorians despise it to such a degree. Look at the situation between City Place and Parkside. Is City Place getting burned because Parkside is too tall? Nope. The heights are low. The problem is in the way those two rather blocky buildings will be packed against one another.


Fully agreed. I expect the problem is that developers like blocky fat scrapers (fewer elevators, one crane construction, etc) over two slender towers. So how do we encourage/enforce properly spaced elegant buildings in the downtown core? Seems to me you have an overall density limit and third-floor and above area-fraction maximum. The height limit is implied by the product of the two. You make that relatively modest, and allow increases, particularly in density, for the "amazing" buildings.

#139 Mike K.

Mike K.
  • Administrator
  • 57,768 posts

Posted 09 January 2008 - 10:01 AM

I expect the problem is that developers like blocky fat scrapers (fewer elevators, one crane construction, etc) over two slender towers.


That's not really the case. Projects are oftentimes proposed as tall and slender towers only to be cut down by council and planners, much to the dislike of the developer:

  • Aria, today being built at 12- and 12-storeys, was originally proposed at 19- and 14-storeys.
  • The Falls was originally mulled at over 20-storeys, then cut down to 21, then 19, then 18-storeys.
  • Crystalview was originally proposed as a single 23-storey tower and the latest incarnation is a 14- and 10-storey design.
  • With 819 Yates, the developer proposed a single 16-storey tower but given the changes to the interim height guidelines pushed for a 20- and ~14-storey design. That was eventually cut back to 17- and 10-storeys.
...and so on. Each cut in height and increase in girth was a product of our council and planners.

#140 Nparker

Nparker
  • Member
  • 26,755 posts

Posted 09 January 2008 - 04:32 PM

Perhaps in attempt to keep our buildings at a "human scale", we are designing them to look like the typical Canadian: too wide for their height. Maybe if people were slimmer, our buildings would follow suit?

You're not quite at the end of this discussion topic!

Use the page links at the lower-left to go to the next page to read additional posts.
 



0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users