Waterfront tower application reignites public debate on central waterfront
A development permit application for a glass tower proposed for 555 West Cordova next to Waterfront Station receives wide criticism and is not supported by the Urban Design Panel. In response to this proposal, The Downtown Waterfront Working Group, comprising planners, urbanists and others who want to see an implementation plan for the city’s 2009 Vancouver downtown Waterfront Hub Framework, published a draft discussion paper outlining issues on the future of the downtown central waterfront. The Downtown Working Group also told city council that an implementation plan for the entire hub area should be in place before any permits were issued.
Owner-developer Cadillac Fairview’s application was for a 26-storey asymmetrical office building cantilevered over the station, designed by Chicago architects Gordon Gill and Adrian Smith of AS+GG Partnership. The site, between two heritage buildings and with a view of the harbour and mountains, is part of the Waterfront Hub, which had proposed a smaller building at 555 West Cordova. Critics felt that the building was too large, did not fit its context and would remove a public view of the waterfront. Their protest not only altered immediate decisions on the site but also led to the revision of context for planning approval and shifted the focus to implementation of plans and not just the planning process.
In 2009, Vancouver City Council endorsed the Central Waterfront Hub Framework, with a vision for the central downtown waterfront. This framework includes ideas such as a transportation plaza, re-opening Granville Street to the waterfront and development of multi-use and public space north of the station and over the railway yards. At the end of 2015, city council asked staff to bring the hub framework back for further discussion.