Feb 29 2012
My neighborhood of Mount Pleasant has been one of Vancouver’s fastest growing areas in the city from 2006 to 2011. In general, I’ve liked what I’ve seen since I moved in here six years ago; a Canada line along Cambie; more businesses along Cambie, Broadway and Main; cool restaurants, cafes and bars; amenities like a new public library and community center. Along with business, condos have gone up, which can be good and bad.
Businesses in the neighborhood tend to be at ground-level. The condos that have gone into the neighborhood recently have been around four storeys or higher.
And now we have the Rize development; 19 storeys of 241 market-rate condos being considered by Vancouver City Hall. Here’s a quick roundup of my thinking:
- The city is unaffordable. According to normal economic theory, more condos should make the neighborhood more affordable, but…
- Realistically, given that Vancouver is now a “world-class” city with a significant number of international buyers, this development will not move market prices noticeably downward. In fact, the price per square foot will be significantly higher than what I paid when I bought in six years ago; and I still paid a premium then that I try not to think about. I’m no expert, but I’m guessing developers would need to simultaneously plunk down tens of thousands of units around Vancouver just to slow down the cost of housing in this city. Long story short: anyone who advocates for the Rize on affordability grounds (as in, affordable enough for even lower-income people to buy in) is fooling themselves. Without some kind of government subsidy, no new development in Vancouver will ever be affordable.
- The Rize seems too high to me. I’m a fan of development. The changes that have already occurred these last years have been very positive. But nineteen storeys is a game-changer. It’s a gut feeling — but I also don’t see how a developer can’t make a very healthy profit with a shorter building. Instead of really high towers, how about going with a Parisian model of lower-profile buildings of four storeys or so?
- We’re not just talking about the Rize. If that development goes ahead in its current planned form, others will follow. It’s the thin edge of the wedge. Even if I were fine with one 19-storey development, I wouldn’t be so accepting of three or four.
So, that’s where I’m at. As a guy who wants a sustainable city and thriving neighborhoods, development is good. But I’m not convinced this particular development is right for Mount Pleasant.