Friday, November 16, 2012

Oakridge Mall

Kingsgate Mall is one of two Vancouver malls slated for (re)development. Recently it was announced that Oakridge Mall at 49th and Cambie would be converted from a low-rise two-storey structure (with acres of outdoor parking) to a city-within-a-city megapiece featuring 13 towers, the tallest at 45 storeys (see above). Within this mass, 2800 private homes and 350 retail shops.

While the Beedie Group (the current lease-holders of the Kingsgate Mall) have yet to reveal their plan, area residents continue to express concern over the scale of recent development applications, particularly in light of the controversial Rize proposal at Broadway and Kingsway, or the Stong's Markets site in Dunbar. As is often the case with these developments, the first to assure us are not the developers but the architects. On the topic of Oakridge, Stantec Architecure Ltd.'s Darren Burns had this to say: "I think you have to look long-term and think what the city will look like in 2050."

Like a lot of architects, Burns not only designs buildings (for developers) but sells them to area residents. Implicit within the architect's expanded role of "seller" is the changing role of area residents who, increasingly, want a say in that which they will be living next to. Indeed, as new models for developments take shape (such as the city-within-a-city structure at Olympic Village) so too are area residents forming their own critical structures.

Mediating between builders and concerned citizens are municipal governments, who approve development applications, ideally through community consultation. Have these governments developed new structures to consider the increasingly sophisticated concerns of area residents? That is the question being asked by those currently gathered on the steps of Vancouver City Hall, many of whom have imagined this city in 2050 and do not like what they see.

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