What’s Happening in the West End?

Joannah Connolly
August 25, 2015

Lovely treelined streets, a vibrant sense of community, parkland galore and the city’s most popular beaches – it’s no wonder that the West End is one of Vancouver’s best-loved neighbourhoods. But it is not immune to change – in fact, this community is a successful model of the kind of densification that is happening across the city.

Once largely made up of single-family homes, the West End now has a wide-ranging mix of residences from heritage houses to 60s concrete towers through to modern glass high-rises, and everything in between. However, apart from a couple of notable residential towers (the Alexandra at English Bay being one), the West End hasn’t seen much new development in the past decade or so.

That’s about to change, as the West End is undergoing new development, notably in the Davie Village area. In 2013, council approved the West End Community Plan, which identified a series of villages (namely Davie, Denman and Robson), corridors and residential areas – each of which has its own set of zoning rules. REW.ca joined a media walking tour, courtesy of developer Intracorp, to find out more about how the plan is coming to fruition and what can be expected going forward.

Heart of Davie Village: New Public Plaza

One of the key changes afoot is the Heart of Davie Village Public Space Improvement Plan, which intends to enhanceDavie Village’s public spaces and enhance the area’s distinct character as a hub for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.

In July this year, Vancouver Council approved the location and concept design for a new public plaza in Davie Village to be named “Jim Deva Plaza” in recognition of the late LGBTQ rights activist and founder of the well-known Little Sisters bookstore. The permanent plaza will be on Bute Street south of Davie to the lane between Davie and Burnaby. This section of Bute, starting at the famous rainbow crosswalks, will be permanently closed to traffic to create the plaza. Sidewalks will be removed and the area repaved, restaurant patios widened and movable public seating added.

The plaza will become the focal point for street festivals, public markets and other community events. There will also an LGBTQ outdoor museum on the plaza with a speaker’s corner and host of information about the work of Jim Deva and the area’s history as a hub for the gay community. The overall concept also includes a new suspended lighting feature above the Bute and Davie intersection, as well as tree planting and string lights above the plaza.

The plan and concept design has gone through a series of public consultations this spring and summer and the local community seems to be widely enthusiast about the new plaza, with 64 per cent of respondents to the most recent survey saying they like it or really like the plans. The expected completion date, if the final design is approved in December, is summer 2016.

The Jervis: Luxury Condominium plus Rental Tower

The community plan-defined Davie Village area stops at Jervis Street and becomes a corridor zone until Davie hits Denman. It is there, at the Davie and Jervis intersection (on the north-western, “corridor” side of the junction) that developer Intracorp has approval to build The Jervis, a mixed luxury condo and rental apartment building.

The development will see the demolition of three converted single-family homes and a small low-rise apartment building, all fronting the busy Davie Street.

David Jacobson, director of development at Intracorp, said, “The West End Community plan always intended to allow high-rise development on the corridors to increase density and therefore be able to protect the lower densities and single-family homes inside the residential areas. The community plan actually protects 124 of the 128 character homes that exist in the West End, but the ones on the major arteries – these being three of them – are allowed to be removed in order to make way for new development.”

The building will have three different components: a new retail space on the corner of Davie and Jervis, a white-brick, three-storey podium building containing 26 rental housing units that the City will eventually own, and a 19-storey luxury condo building rising up from the base (which has endured some controversy over its separated entrace doors for the condo tower and rental side). The height is restricted to 19 storeys by the neighbourhood plan, which is informed by the City’s view cones protecting views of the North Shore mountains from the other side of False Creek. 

The 58 condos will be large, two- and three-bedroom units, with the smallest a generous 1,000 square feet, rising to 2,400 square feet at the top of the building. Many will have large outdoor spaces, with most enjoying spectacular ocean, mountain and city views. Intracorp has partnered with interior design company Inform on the “design-led” condos, a company has previously worked with but never before partnered with at the outset of a development, to ensure the condos are of the highest design standards with high-end finishings. All of this means a price tag of about $1,200 per square foot, Intracorp told REW.ca – so buyers are looking at $1.2 million and upwards for a unit.

The Jervis is slated for completion in the winter of 2017/18.

More Developments in the Future?

Further down Davie Street, opposite the relatively new Alexandra condo tower at the Bidwell Street intersection, proposals are currently before City Council for a new 21-storey rental building that would see the demolition of neighbourhood café the Red Umbrella – although this plan is in its infancy.

And with Davie, Robson and Alberni streets, all west of Jervis, identified as “corridors” ripe for development, it is likely that the West End will see yet more densification over the years to come.

Joannah Connolly
Joannah Connolly is editorial director of Glacier Real Estate, Glacier Media's real estate division. Joannah writes and curates real estate news for Glacier Media's local newspaper websites, including the Vancouver Courier, North Shore News, Burnaby Now, Tri-City News and others. She also oversees editorial content in Real Estate Weekly Homes, West Coast Condo, Western Investor and Glacier's special real estate publications. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 22 years of journalism and editing experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture, healthcare and business media. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, has moderated and spoken on various industry panels, and spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist radio show on Roundhouse Radio.