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Shadows and Highrises: Battle Continues Over Wesbrook Landscape

Development permit expected in the coming weeks for highrise—townhouse project

A controversial development proposal in Wesbrook Place is expected to receive the green light from campus planners in the coming weeks.

UBC’s development permit board considered a development permit application for Lot 26, located at the corner of Gray Avenue and Ross Drive, at a meeting Jan. 31.

While no development permit has been issued so far, the highrise and townhouse development is expected to get the go-ahead despite considerable opposition from local residents. A development permit from UBC’s director of planning is expected within the next few weeks, paving the way for construction to begin.

The construction of the new residential complex—a 16-storey tower and eight townhouses—has been a contentious topic since Vancouver-based developer Polygon Homes first unveiled the plans for the vaguely triangular space that backs onto the Webber Lane greenway and waterway in May 2023.

The original plans generated sufficient opposition that the development permit process was postponed for Polygon to make changes. Critics complained about shadows that would be cast by the proposed tower on the six-storey Prodigy condominiums across Gray Avenue. The development’s density and footprint and the reduction in green space were also concerns, as well as noise and traffic issues because two major construction projects would be underway at the same time in the same area.

A block away, on Ross Drive and Birney Avenue on so-called Lot 6, Polygon is currently finishing excavations for another 16-storey market apartment building with three-storey townhouses.

Lot 6 on Ross Drive and Birney Avenue, where Polygon Homes is finishing excavations to build a 16-storey apartment building with three-storey townhouses. (Photo: Emmanuel Samoglou)

When Polygon came back in November with revised plans, the proposed 16-storey tower was rotated to occupy the centre of the site, instead of facing Gray. The new proposal also cut the number of townhouses to eight from 11 while adding seven units in the tower, bringing the number to 214.

It also consolidated open space toward the western side of the site, but the area converging at Ross Drive and Gray Avenue would become a private landscaped outdoor space for the use of future residents of the development.

Nine trees on the site and six trees along the street would need to be removed but 77 trees on the boulevards would be protected. Vehicle access to a three-level underground garage will be provided from Ross Drive.

The current and past configuration for Lot 26–a new residential complex in Wesbrook Place featuring a 16-storey tower and townhouses. (Source: UBC Campus and Community Planning)

The changes were sufficient to win approval by the UBC planners. In December 2023, the project received final consideration from an advisory urban design panel and was presented to the development review committee, which supported the project.

But at a second public open house in December, it became clear that Polygon and UBC had done little to quell opposition. The density of the project remained a concern as well as the shadows cast by the tower and a desire for more public open space on the lot,

Concerns were also voiced over pedestrian safety because of increased traffic, the impact of two ongoing construction sites in close proximity, and the additional traffic congestion on Ross Drive once the Lot 26 and Lot 6 projects are completed.


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