A proposal to build more than 200 apartment units on the St. Andrew’s School site would create a fortress-like building funneling traffic in and out of a quiet residential street, some neighbours worry.
Vancouver-based Bosa Properties has optioned the school property at Pandora Avenue and Vancouver Street.
It wants to build a six-storey, wood-frame building with studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom rental apartments over ground-floor commercial.
But some neighbours say the project, which should be before the city’s planning and land use committee early in the new year, is totally out of scale for the quiet residential street and would dwarf nearby Franklin Green Park and one of the oldest urban farms in the city.
The new development would have an interior courtyard for private use by tenants and townhouses fronting Mason Street.
The project would have two levels of underground parking accessed off Mason via Vancouver Street.
City policies are that access should be off the street with the lowest use — in this case, Mason Street — but residents would like to see a smaller, lower building with access off Pandora Avenue.
Coun. Shellie Gudgeon, council liaison to the North Park neighbourhood, notes that Bosa has undertaken considerable consultation with the neighbourhood.
But, she said, the local resident association is opposed to the development, and neighbours “have some valid concerns.”
Gudgeon said she would like to see an attempt to access the property from Pandora Avenue instead of Vancouver Street, which is a cycling route.
Creating two-way cycling lanes on the south side of Pandora would make access from Pandora easier, she said.
Tristan Trotter, co-owner of Yoka’s Coffee on Mason Street, said that after all the consultation, the company “has not significantly altered its plans. The neighbourhood is expected to make all the concessions.”
Trotter said there’s no need for the suggested commercial tenants, which include a bank, coffee shop, grocery and pharmacy.
“The commercial tenants they’re looking for duplicate businesses around here that are still not operating at full capacity,” he said. “So it’s not as though the neighbourhood needs that.”
A visioning process suggested that a development more in keeping with the neighbourhood would have a maximum of three storeys fronting Mason Street, an open greenspace connected to Franklin Park and staggered commercial buildings on Pandora only.
“They’ve offered a [600-square-foot] community room,” Trotter said.
“That does not balance what the community loses in terms of light, greenspace, [additional] traffic problems and the bad precedent it sets in terms of bulk and mass.”
Coun. Pam Madoff, who sits on the planning committee that will be evaluating the development, said the site is “an interesting one” to try to develop, with busy Pandora on one side and quiet Mason street on the other.
She called Mason Street, with its urban farm and restored heritage building housing Yoka’s Coffee, “a valuable little hub in the neighbourhood.”
“I think what I would be looking for would be a significant stepping down on Mason and stepping back so the street edge supports the kind of properties we have across the street,” Madoff said.
Access will be an issue, she said.
“I’ve got absolutely zero interest in Mason Street becoming the loading dock for a development on Pandora and having all that traffic there. So there has to be a resolution that does not do that.”
© Copyright 2013