Ask Pat: Bent Court

I have been tardy on Ask Pats. I have this other project going on, and have taken the Ask Pat thing analogue a bit to reach more people. However, there are a few in the queue here, and I am going to spend a bit of my Thanksgiving weekend trying to get caught up. Enjoy!

Chris asked—


In an archived memo back in 2016 you posted this regarding the future study of Bent Court.

Bent Court: This area is interesting, a mixed residential and commercial district that is zoned for high-rises, although it is unlikely that anyone would build to that scale here. Staff is recommending a special approach here that can incentivize the preservation of the heritage homes, whether they be used for residential or commercial.

Can you help clarify why it is unlikely that ” anyone would build to that scale here”

Bent Court is a bit of an anomaly. The comment you hearken back to was part of the OCP discussions, where we recognized a few areas in the city that didn’t fit into a bigger area-wide picture very well. The West End and Massey Victory Heights are pretty internally homogeneous, but areas like Lower Twelfth Street and Bent Court are not easily defined, nor is it clear what land use will be most successful there.

Bent Court is mostly a collection of heritage-aged houses, many of them converted to some sort of commercial use. They are immediately adjacent to the uptown commercial area, but also serve as a buffer to the residential areas of Brow of the Hill. There is currently one project being (slowly) built on this site where a heritage house is bring preserved and a 6-story residential building is being built. Even they project caused us some challenges, as determining what a full compliment of parking should be for an area like this that is walkable, but not that close to SkyTrain is a difficult estimate. Street parking can sometimes be at a premium, but many of the apartment buildings nearby have largely underutilized parking. Alas… parking…

My thought in that statement about building to full high-density at Bent Court (in C-3 Zoning, this means Floor Space Ratio of over 5, mixed-use commercial at grade, residential above) was my own feeling that the economics and difficulty of assembling land to make it happen make it unlikely in the current market. Each of the lots is worth more than $1 Million now, to build to the scale of the adjacent mixed-use towers, one would have to assemble a dozen properties. Some (or most) of these properties have some potential heritage value (which adds some uncertainty to the approval process), and are currently returning commercial lease rates that make them economically viable as they are.

That said, there is a lot of development going on right now across the region, and I am not a land economist, so I may not be reading the market well. Not long after I wrote that statement, a real estate company put signs up suggesting land assembly and high rise development are viable options. That doesn’t mean it is going to happen, nor has there been an application for any kind of rezoning or development permit arrive at Council, nor is it clear how staff, Council, or the community would approach such an application. A Bent Court Area Study is planned for 2019 as part of the ongoing OCP Implementation Plan, and this will provide a little more robust economic analysis than my speculations above. Stay tuned, because there will no doubt be opportunities for community input at that time.

I could imagine Bent Court as a pretty special place. Co-op ownership, preserve the heritage houses, convert them to live/work units where artists can set up studio space and live on their studios, add a few food and drink opportunities and some clever marketing, and it could become a unique mini-artisan village of regional importance. However, one doesn’t have to be a land economist to recognize at a million dollars a lot, it would be neigh impossible to make this work unless one had small fortune to dig into… any patrons out there?

2 comments on “Ask Pat: Bent Court

  1. I love the idea of an artist’s corner. Bent court has that kind of feel already. But as you say, unless there is a deliberate and well funded push for something like this, it’s unlikely to happen. I fear this is a pretty common scenario in New West and the surrounding area.

    For my part, I have all kinds of ideas like this that have no basis in economic reality – repertory theatres, small music venues uptown, a pub without televisions, etc. I just think spaces should serve aesthetic purposes as much as for more practical, and duller, reasons. ????

  2. I have been a resident here in Bent court for 18 years, but nothing has changed since long before that. This area is continually overlooked and those of us who live here are forced to deal with the calamity of a zoning decision made way back in 1963. What you have here, are a series of older homes that are non-conforming to the zoning, and these structures and the design of this area do not compliment commercial use. I personally live next to a group daycare that is somehow allowed to use a one way, 12 foot alley, as a pickup and drop off point for 30 kids, with illegal parking for 5 cars. Im sorry, but its a nightmare to live next to.

    Back prior to the OCP even getting going, i was advised by the planning department to be patient and wait until the New OCP helped make a determination for what the future of Bent court would look like. Then after attending all the My City workshops, and a multitude of conversations with the planning department, Bent court is excluded from the new OCP and is deemed a study area. We have emails addressed to our realtor at the time, that the planning department would not even entertain any development applications until after the study was completed. We had an offer from a fantastic developer, with an ongoing HRA development in Vancouver and the NW westminster planning department once again ambushed the deal and the developer walked away. Not 4 months later, the Bent court Study, which we had been promised years before, has vanished into this air. That was over a year ago. I have been involved in 4 actual offers from developers, and another handful of inquiries, that have all had the same outcome. As soon as they talk with the NW planning department, they walk away.

    There are only three option here, or four if you include the city just burying the file like they have been. 1) allow the area to develop, with enough density that makes the project financially viable, or allow the owners to sell the unused density. 2) Switch the zoning back to residential and let the area attract families that want to reside here instead of slumlord investors buying up every property. 3) actually spend the time to come up with a plan that helps mitigate the constant insanity of having a residential zoning AND a commercial one.

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