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City approves Santa Fe apartments facade plan

September 8, 2014

Turns out, no sign of a development application is a bad sign.

The heritage apartment building at the southwest corner of Oak Street and 14th Avenue appeared to have dodged the redevelopment bullet. But rumours of its survival were greatly exaggerated.

A very misinformed tenant in the slightly run-down three-storey Santa Fe apartments at 2975 Oak Street told me, that Vancouver City Council had rejected the redevelopment plan which was wrapped up in an unusual Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA).

In fact, City Council voted unanimously, following a public hearing on May 20, to approve the plan to reduce the Santa Fe to a kind of architectural wallpaper to decorate a bland new pedestal tower.

Heritage preservation Hollywood North-style

At top, the Santa Fe today and below, someday soon, the facade of a dull tower.

At top: the Santa Fe today. Below: Someday soon, just the facade of a dull tower.

The redevelopment, designed by CEI Architecture for Aquilini Developments (the building’s owner since 2012), calls for a new 11-story pedestal, 50-unit, apartment tower to be built on the site while preserving, in place, the south and east concrete heritage facades of the historic 86-year-old, 14-unit, building.

Under the current RM-3 zoning, the Santa Fe could be demolished and replaced by by a new building with a floor space ratio (FSR) of 1.9 without Council approval.

Floor space ratio (FSR) represents he total square feet of a building divided by the total square feet of the lot the building is located on.

In exchange for the greatly increased FSR of 2.8 needed to build the 11-storey pedestal tower — without rezoning — the redevelopment agrees to preserve two facades of the Heritage ‘B’ building.

The developers are getting a lot for a little it seems to me. In effect trading trinkets for really valuable development density.

It’s hard to say exactly what the neighbourhood gets out of this. The least you can say is that the facade will hide the pedestal tower to some degree.

Creating a facade that nothing’s changed


The facade as seen looking west and looking north. — Aquilini Investment Group

Because of the nature of the site — small apartment situated on the southeast of a disproportionately large lot — the preservation of the south and east sides of the Santa Fe might actually create the illusion that nothing has actually changed.

To anyone approaching the corner of Oak Street and 14th Avenue, either from the east along 14th, or from the south along Oak Street,  it will appear that the Santa Fe is still there on its corner, same as ever.  Certainly there will be a new pedestal tower off to one side, but It may actually look like two separate buildings.

Obviously we’ll have to wait and see how it looks.

At the beginning of the year I wrote about the redevelopment plan and the HRA at its heart.

The sign announcing the development application has been removed and the tenants of the Santa Fe have, over the last few day, been conducting Moving Out yard sales. Click the image to enlarge it.

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