524-528 Powell St development application

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NSDA Architects has applied to the City of Vancouver for permission to develop on this site a new seven-storey, mixed-use building, consisting of:

  • 114 social housing units (3rd to 7th floors)
  • Retail/office and a community amenity space (ground and 2nd floors)
  • One level of underground parking, providing a total of 20 parking spaces having vehicular access from the lane
  • A total floor space ratio of 4.38 (approximately 7,445 m²)
  • A maximum geodetic building height of 25.76 m

Under the site’s existing DEOD zoning, the application is conditional so it may be permitted. However, it requires the decision of the Development Permit Board.

In response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), an extended online question and answer (Q&A) period was held in place of an in-person open house for this project.

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NSDA Architects has applied to the City of Vancouver for permission to develop on this site a new seven-storey, mixed-use building, consisting of:

  • 114 social housing units (3rd to 7th floors)
  • Retail/office and a community amenity space (ground and 2nd floors)
  • One level of underground parking, providing a total of 20 parking spaces having vehicular access from the lane
  • A total floor space ratio of 4.38 (approximately 7,445 m²)
  • A maximum geodetic building height of 25.76 m

Under the site’s existing DEOD zoning, the application is conditional so it may be permitted. However, it requires the decision of the Development Permit Board.

In response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), an extended online question and answer (Q&A) period was held in place of an in-person open house for this project.

View all documents


The virtual open house has concluded. Please use the “Send your comments” tab or contact the Project Facilitator directly for any further feedback. Thank you for participating.

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    This is great news! We need more social housing and supportive housing. I hope that as many barriers are removed as possible, such as allowing pets and smoking.

    Elaine Beaudry asked 20 days ago

    Thank you for your comments Elaine.

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    Why is there so little weather protection along the front of the building?

    Tavia asked 21 days ago

    Thank you for your question Tavia.

    Staff will take this question into consideration as part of our review for this application.

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    Why is the allowable building height only 22.86m if even a building at 25.76m in height can’t achieve the allowable density of 4.5 fsr? Shouldn’t the DEOD allow for more height here then?

    Silent_Echo asked 21 days ago

    Thanks for your question Silent_Echo.

    Regulations in zoning are not always universally applicable so all sites will have their own set of constraints to work within. 

    There are a number of factors to consider on this particular site; the topography of the site which slopes in excess of 4 ft. from Powell Street to the lane, the provision of higher floor-to-floor heights within units for improved livability, and the requirement to provide a full-height loading space off the lane. These are collectively contributing to the additional height and this is information staff will be proceeding to the Development Permit Board with in response to this concern.

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    What is the rational for the requested front yard setback relaxation?

    Silent_Echo asked 21 days ago

    Thanks for your question Silent_Echo.

    Staff are seeking the Development Permit Board’s relaxation of the front setback requirement, as it is generally in line with existing buildings on this block which are setback between zero and 2.4 m. The proposed zero front setback aligns with the existing Buddhist Temple building; however, as this site is within the same Sub-Area, a 10 ft. front setback would be anticipated for any future development of that site under existing zoning. Eastern portions of this block fall under a different Sub-Area of the ODP, which does not have a front setback requirement. As such, it would not be possible to achieve a consistent 10 ft. setback along this entire block face. Staff have weighed the benefits and impacts of the setback and determined, on balance, requiring the full setback would limit the usability of the small CRU's and reduce the viability of the project to deliver core-need social housing. Staff determined the modest recess currently proposed is sufficient to provide a transition from the public realm to the publicly-oriented ground level uses.

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    According to the Design Rationale, Lookout will be providing approx. $8.2mm towards the funding of this project. How much total funding is estimated to be needed and, if approved, how much would be provided by the municipal, provincial, and federal governments?

    Live&WorkInDEOD asked 21 days ago

    Thank you for your question Live&WorkInDEOD.

    This is a question best directed through Sarah Robin in our Housing Regulation Group who can be contacted at sarah.robin@vancouver.ca.

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    What considerations have been given to the effect that this project will have on parking availability for local neighbouring residents

    NicholasT asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question NicholasT.

    Staff recognize the application is deficient in parking spaces being provided and are seeking a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Plan which will outline measures the applicant is prepared to deliver in an attempt to offset the shortfall. The TDM Plan will also be secured ultimately through a legal agreement which ensures the delivery and management of said measures.

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    3. What safety considerations have been given to the residents in the immediate surrounding area, especially those of 557 E Cordova Street who have rooftop decks below the window heights of the proposed project?

    NicholasT asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question NicholasT.

    If you can be more specific in terms of what concerns you have with respect to safety, I will be better equipped to provide you with a response.

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    The proposed height of the project breaches bylaws for building height. How and for what reason would this be allowed?

    NicholasT asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question NicholasT.

    The DEOD ODP allows a height of up to 25.8m under Section 5.6.1 found here for your reference: https://bylaws.vancouver.ca/odp/odp-downtown-eastside-oppenheimer.pdf and staff recognize the proposed height of 25.65m exceeds this. Staff are however seeking approval by the Development Permit Board to invoke Section 1.3 where "...literal enforcement would result in unnecessary hardship...". There are a number of factors to consider on this; the topography of the site which slopes in excess of 4 ft. from Powell Street to the lane, the provision of higher floor-to-floor heights within units for improved livability, and the requirement to provide a full-height loading space off the lane. These are collectively contributing to the additional height and this is information staff will be proceeding to the Development Permit Board with in response to this concern. 

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    DEOD zoning document dated September 2017, under section 1.1(9), is to "Enhance the public enjoyment of the waterfront and views to the North Shore and mountains"

    NicholasT asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for this comment NicholasT.

    Are you able to clarify exactly which document you're referring to? It's unclear what your question is here.

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    When will the Development Permit Board be meeting to decide on this proposal? The schedule on the vancouver.ca website indicates that all meetings have been cancelled as of March 30. As these meetings are open to the public, how is the City accommodating public observation and participation in light of Covid-19?

    DesignerInVancouver asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question DesignerInVancouver.

    The Development Permit Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 20, 2020 and is expected to be hosted virtually. I would suggest continuing to check back here for updates as staff continue to work through virtual engagement solutions in light of COVID-19 and will provide any additional information as soon as it's available.

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    The renderings depict the shadow of an additional 6 floors on the building at 550 Powell and an additional 2.5 floors on top of the Vancouver Buddhist Temple (most noticeable in the Aerial Perspective - North East and View from Powell Street renderings). What do these represent in the renderings? If these are meant to represent local zoning height restrictions, they are highly misleading as they appear to depict zoning exceptions, not the standard four storey/15m limit of DEOD Sub-area 2 Cordova Street. In fact, the proposed building dwarfs the surrounding structures.

    Live&WorkInDEOD asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question Live&WorkInDEOD.

    These renderings were provided by the applicant team in an attempt to provide a depiction of future context. They typically identify the largest form possible under current zoning which in this case, would be what is represented graphically.

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    What measures are planned to ensure privacy is maintained for neighbouring residential buildings?

    DesignerInVancouver asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question DesignerInVancouver.

    Staff are seeking additional landscaping and/or architectural screening along the lane at the 2nd level office areas in an attempt to increase privacy and reduce opportunities for overlook to/from adjacent residential buildings. This will be reflected in the report that ultimately proceeds to the Development Permit Board meeting on July 20, 2020.

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    Will the roof decks be lit at night and will they be open at all hours? We are concerned about light pollution, noise, and lack of privacy in the evening.

    Live&WorkInDEOD asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question Live&WorkInDEOD.

    While the City maintains our standard Noise By-Laws, Health By-Laws, etc, the use of the roof deck(s) are expected to be managed by the Operator of the building as they fall within private property.

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    Will the building stairwells be lit at night? Even from a distance the Alexander Street Community building (111 Princess Ave) and the Budzey Building (220 Princess Ave) stairwells generate significant light pollution.

    DesignerInVancouver asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question DesignerInVancouver.

    We don't have that information at this time but in general, lights in stairwells are a Vancouver Building By-Law Requirement as per Section 3.2.7.1 Minimum Lighting Requirements which states:

    1) An exit, a public corridor, or a corridor providing access to exit for the public or serving patients’ sleeping
    rooms or classrooms shall be equipped to provide illumination to an average level not less than 50 lx at floor or tread
    level and at angles and intersections at changes of level where there are stairs or ramps.
    2) The minimum value of the illumination required by Sentence (1) shall be not less than 10 lx.

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    Is smoking permitted in the building or on the roof decks?

    Live&WorkInDEOD asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question Live&WorkInDEOD.

    While the City cannot impose a No-Smoking regulation within the building itself, you may be aware of Section 2.2 of the City of Vancouver's Health By-Law, found here for reference: https://bylaws.vancouver.ca/9535c.PDF , which specifies no-smoking "...within six metres measured on the ground from a point directly below any point of any opening into any building including any door or window that opens or any air intake...". 

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    In the design rationale, there is a statement that reads: “It is Lookout’s intention for the patio to connect periodically and interact with activity in the lane via the use of a large, welcoming, pivoting metal wall.” What is meant by “activity in the lane?” and what lane way use is being considered here?

    DesignerInVancouver asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question DesignerInVancouver.

    There is no formal use or "activity" being contemplated as part of this application as a Development Permit only includes regulating land use on privately-owned property. The lane would be City Property and as such, and formally proposed activities in the lane would need to be submitted, reviewed, and approved, in large part, by the City's Engineering Department.

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    The maximum height allowable in the DEOD Sub-area 2 Cordova Street is 15m (approximately 4 storeys) with a possible increase to a maximum height of 22.8m for social housing units as long as the site has a frontage no greater than 45.7m and the development board reviews the “height, bulk, location, and overall design of the building and its affect [sic] on the site and on surrounding buildings and streets and existing views with an emphasis on preserving and strengthening prevailing context and mitigating the impact on the livability of adjacent residential areas.” This site has a width greater than 45.7m and the proposed height would significantly impact the privacy, access to light, and views of neighbouring buildings. It does not meet the criteria for a maximum height of 22.8m, let alone exceeding this exemption by proposing a height of 25.8m. Does the City agree that this proposal does not adhere to the DEOD Sub-area 2 bylaws?

    Live&WorkInDEOD asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question Live&WorkInDEOD.

    While the site width of 45.72m is greater than 45.7m, the Director of Planning supports exercising discretion in considering the additional 0.02m (3/4 of an inch) as a nominal difference which still meets the intention of the regulation under this Section of the By-law. Having said this, staff recognize a height relaxation is required and are seeking approval by the Development Permit Board to invoke Section 1.3 of the DEOD ODP where "...literal enforcement would result in unnecessary hardship...". There are a number of factors to consider on this; the topography of the site which slopes in excess of 4 ft. from Powell Street to the lane, the provision of higher floor-to-floor heights within units for improved livability, and the requirement to provide a full-height loading space off the lane. These are collectively contributing to the additional height and this is information staff will be proceeding to the Development Permit Board with in response to this concern.

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    What is the floor space ratio of the building? We are aware that the maximum density in DEOD Sub-area 2 Cordova Street is a floor space ratio of 1.0 with exemptions allowing for a density of up to 4.5. Based on the renderings this building appears to have a floor space ratio of close to 4.5. The exemption that allows for floor space ratios of up to 4.5 requires the site to have a frontage of no greater than 45.7m, which this site exceeds at 45.72m.

    DesignerInVancouver asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your question DesignerInVancouver. 

    The proposed FSR for this application is 4.49 and permitted under Section 5.5.1.(b) of the DEOD ODP, found here again for your reference: https://bylaws.vancouver.ca/odp/odp-downtown-eastside-oppenheimer.pdf. While you're correct in that 45.72m is greater than 45.7m, the Director of Planning supports exercising discretion in considering 0.02m (3/4 of an inch) as a nominal difference which still meets the intention of this Section of the By-law.