New Westminster city council had a chance to discuss the possible design of the planned Downtown multi-use civic facility on Monday.
The preliminary design concept, prepared by architecture firms Hughes Condon Marler and Musson Cattell Mackey, was presented at the Jan. 10 committee of the whole meeting.
At the corner of Eighth and Columbia streets, the city’s civic facility and restaurant space will total approximately 92,000 square feet.
Developer Uptown Property Group has partnered with the city on the project and plans to construct an up-to-130,000-square-foot commercial office tower above.
In the preliminary drawings, the main lobby entrance on Eighth Street is flanked by retail space on the left and a restaurant on the right.
The mezzanine and second floor have space allocated for an art gallery, museum and teaching space, as well as storage and support, while arts function space is planned for the second and third floors.
Administration offices and a theatre, which sits at a slight angle to the street, are also planned for the third level.
The remainder of the 11-storey building is to be office space.
Bart Slotman, vice-president of the Uptown Property Group, declined to comment on the architectural plans, saying the city has driven the design process.
A report to council says the two distinct components—the multi-use facility and the office tower—will complement one another.
Four buildings must be demolished to make way for the new development, and although none of them are heritage properties, the report states “the context of surrounding heritage buildings are being considered in the project design process.”
Coun. Bill Harper said the city has already heard comments from the public as to whether the structure’s glass front is “sympathetic” to the Downtown heritage district.
“Some people may jump up and say a glass front, for instance, is not sympathetic, when in fact the actual shape of the building may be more sympathetic,” Harper said, adding, “It’s not going to be a 1910 Chicago-style building on the outside.”
“What council wants is an iconic look on the street that’s not completely out of sync, or out of character with the rest of the Downtown, which we’ve designated as heritage.”
He said he has faith in the architects, who have delivered what council asked for when it comes to the square footage of each component.
“We’ve been lucky to have them take on this building and I think one of the reasons they took it on was because they know this is going to be a major feature of New Westminster for the next 50 to 100 years.”
Coun. Jonathan Cote is confident the preliminary design incorporates the right mix of arts, city, green and convention centre components, but he wonders how the structure will appear to someone walking down the street.
“I want to make sure it actually does fit in with the historic district and also that it still has that human scale when you’re on Columbia Street,” he said. “It’s an interesting design and I’m interested to hear how the architects came up with that.”
The project has a $35-million budget financed by gaming funds and must be completed by December 2013. To meet that deadline, excavation of the underground parking lot is expected to start this summer.
A public hearing will be held Feb. 21 at city hall.
I like this proposal. It looks like the original idea was to partner the centre with a residential high-rise (http://commercial.ecorealtyinc.ca/Ne...vicCentre.html
). The extra residential density would have been nice, but this is a pretty classy building, and I think the long-term plan is to stuff the area bounded by 12th St. and Stewardson Way with residential.