Alternative location proposed for new Commercial Dr. public plaza

Alternative location for required plaza proposed, but SkyTrain noise could be an issue

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Commercial Drive public plaza alternative location
Conceptual rendering of the plaza, in proposed alternative location.

The development team behind the upcoming redevelopment of the Safeway site at Broadway and Commercial are floating an alternative location for a required public plaza — one that’s not on the property.

The city’s Grandview-Woodland Community Plan requires an at-grade public plaza as part of any redevelopment of the Safeway site. The plaza is to be “ideally located near the middle of the site, with building arrangement to optimize the use of public open space.”

The community plan envisions the plaza as “the new social heart of the community” and “the primary gathering and social place at the southern end of Grandview-Woodland.”

Commercial Drive public plaza community plan location
Conceptual rendering of the plaza, located per approved community plan policy. 

The development team of Crombie REIT/Safeway, Westbank and BTA Architects say the potential redevelopment of a new grocery store on the existing Safeway site will limit their ability to provide the plaza configuration in the rendering above.

They are proposing an alternative location for the plaza, which would bridge over the Grandview Cut on the east side of Commercial Drive, adjacent to (and under) the Skytrain guideway.

Commercial Drive public plaza alternative location
Conceptual rendering of the plaza, in proposed alternative location.

One of the challenges with the alternative location already identified by the city is acoustics. Tests show volume levels under the SkyTrain guideway during train pass-overs are approximately 85-90 dB. This is higher than the 71 dB volume levels at the Safeway site, and could cause a disturbance to plaza users as trains come and go from the station day and night. The city says buffering of SkyTrain noise may be possible in this location, but more investigation is required.

The city says the alternative location is “is seen as a way to ‘heal the cut’ and bridge north-south connections along Commercial Drive.” The alternative location is also expected to have fewer issues with adjacent taller buildings casting shadows over the plaza.

One thing that’s not clear at this point is how a relocated plaza will impact the number or size of buildings on the Safeway site, as no formal rezoning application has been filed with the city yet. However, the first public information session for the redevelopment is scheduled for June 27, 5:30 p.m., at the Croatian Cultural Centre. 

Commercial Drive public plaza and Safeway redevelopment
The Grandview-Woodland community plan for the site recommends “a generous, centrally-located public plaza at grade, ideally located near the middle of the site.”

The city is seeking feedback on the alternative location for the plaza, via email at grandviewplan@vancouver.ca Deadline for submissions is Friday, June 16, 2017. More information is available here.

The alternative location for the public plaza may not be approved. The Citizen’s Assembly that was formed in 2015 recommended: “We expect the City to create a welcoming viable public plaza at the Safeway site. This south-oriented plaza should be visible to pedestrians at the main intersection and have multiple pedestrian access points…. The plaza should have an open feel and must connect to the Skytrain Greenway…. [It] is intended as a pedestrian area… and must be vibrant and safe for everyone.”