Vancouver’s development permit board hasn’t rejected a proposal since 2006. But that streak ended Monday when the board turned down Beedie Living’s controversial proposal for a nine-storey condo building at 105 Keefer St. in Chinatown.
The development industry was shocked.
“(The board) succumbed to political pressures, in the broadest sense of the word,” said real estate consultant Michael Geller.
But the city’s general manager for planning, urban design and sustainability argued the rejection wasn’t about politics, it was about the design not fitting into the historic neighbourhood.
“This is such an important and symbolic site in Chinatown, and there is so much interest in Chinatown heritage right now,” said Gil Kelley, who cast the deciding vote in a 2-1 split. “That combined with my assessment that the developers in this case didn’t really step up the design game in the way that I think this site called for … in terms of having a very contextual design that is appropriate to that (site), without trying to be faux historical.”
The Keefer development has been rejigged five times since Beedie’s initial proposal for a 13-storey building in 2014. Located on an empty lot at Keefer and Columbia streets, the proposal met with fierce resistance from Chinatown activists who argued it would gentrify the working-class neighbourhood, and was more like the modern highrises in downtown south than the historic buildings in Chinatown.