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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Feb. 29, 2024

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Vancouver staff present Heights District proposal

By , Columbian politics reporter
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The Tower Mall site will be redeveloped as part of Vancouver’s plan to create a new hub of activity connecting the east and west sides of the city.
The Tower Mall site will be redeveloped as part of Vancouver’s plan to create a new hub of activity connecting the east and west sides of the city. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

For the seventh time, city of Vancouver staff presented to the city council plans to redevelop the Heights District. With each presentation, the options narrow. For Monday night’s presentation, staff had narrowed the project to its first draft proposal.

The city is considering not only a policy-level recommendation for the 205 acres within the Heights District, but a detail-oriented redevelopment plan for the 53-acre Tower Mall site. The city purchased the site in 2017 for this purpose.

Three design concepts were first unveiled in October with varying focal points but all including a mix of commercial, residential and neighborhood uses. As staff anticipated, public feedback resulted in a draft proposal pulling elements from the original three concepts.

What’s being referred to as The Grand Loop proposes placing high-density uses at the site’s core, with a residential neighborhood bordering the existing Park Hill Cemetery, a space for creative office buildings along MacArthur Boulevard and neighborhood gateways allowing for a natural transition into existing neighborhoods.

The site will also feature a combined 2 acres’ worth of parks sprinkled throughout the development.

Rebecca Kennedy, Vancouver’s long-range project manager, said community feedback has been fairly consistent.

“They want greater connectivity so they feel like they can move from one neighborhood to another,” Kennedy said. This feedback coincides with the city’s plan to develop 20-minute neighborhoods — meaning residents can walk or bike to desired services including grocery stores, parks, public transit, school, work and entertainment.

The Grand Loop proposal also includes different street options. On MacArthur Boulevard, for example, the street might be reconfigured to allow for a two-way bike path and greenbelt on one side of the street.

But there’s concerns about density and ensuring that what is built is high quality, Kennedy said.

In terms of housing, the site can support multifamily housing, according to a market analysis conducted by the city. Kennedy said residential development opportunities could include townhomes, affordable housing, market rate and high-end apartments and senior housing.

“One thing that folks tend to understand … the city is growing,” Kennedy said. “People move here every day, and we need to accommodate that growth.”

Although the planning process is moving along — designs should be finalized in the fall — actual construction is still years away.

“We’re talking about 20 years plus for a full build out,” Kennedy said.

The refined proposal will once again be sent out for community feedback before staff returns to council with a final draft. The proposal will also get feedback from mayors nationwide.

Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle will travel to Charleston, S.C., next month to present the Heights District plan to the Mayors’ Institute on City Design.

“This will now have national designers take a look and give guidance and suggestions,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “It’s an absolutely wonderful opportunity.”

Columbian politics reporter