West Broadway village: genteel densification

Coach house, Trafalgar Street, Vancouver

Coach house, Trafalgar Street, Vancouver

For decades, the City of Vancouver has pursued a strategy of creating new, densely-populated residential zones around unused industrial lands. (Yaletown is a good example.) Efforts to densify residential zones have generally been more cautious. When Council goes for the gusto, as with the multi-tower proposal for Kingsway and Knight, public opposition is often bitter.

Larch Street: two units accessible from the main floor, one from the ground floor.

Larch Street: two units accessible from the main floor, one from the ground floor.

Vancouver’s West Broadway area is an example of creeping densification, an approach  designed to improve housing choice without triggering civil war. It’s achieved mostly by placing new mini-homes on large properties (as shown above), or by dividing vintage homes into multiple units (as on the left.)

The West Broadway village extends roughly from Vine Street west to Highbury, part of a broader community designated as Kitsilano. A City zoning map from 2010 labels the  north side of the village as “Two Family” RT-7 and RT-8. “The intent is to encourage the retention and renovation of existing buildings which maintain an architectural style and building form consistent with the historical character of the area.”

The condo/mixed use zoning often associated with densification is confined to a skinny corridor along Broadway itself (as with Hastings Street in Burnaby Heights), except for some older rental properties at the Highbury end. South of Broadway is classed as “Single Famly” on the 2010 map, although there are back yard mini-houses popping up here as well.

The benchmark price for a detached home on the west side of Vancouver was a touch over $2,000,000 in February 2013, and if West Broadway is cheaper than the west side standard, it’s not by much. Typical apartments command $650,000 and up. The local high street presents an architectural contrast to the residential streets; it has some elegant and interesting shops, but the camera sees a mix of vintage brick, ’90s post-modernism, and disposable one-story shopfront.

West Broadway, Vancouver

West Broadway, Vancouver

West Broadway, Vancouver

It makes an interesting stroll, with traces of the wave of Greek immigration of the 1950s and ’60s, and of the bohemian flavour that has characterized all the commercial streets of Kitsilano since the 1960s. I expect that new money, and new international arrivals, will push the look of West Broadway upscale. The surrounding streets, for now, can be expected to retain much of their character and charm.

[This is post #17 in our “Urban Villages” series.]

Kitsilano, Vancouver

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