From legacy to loss in the Walmart mall area

Note: This was published in the Richmond Review paper today.

SmartCentres’ image of Walmart mall from far south on the Garden City Lands, with Grouse Mountain in background. The red broken line above buildings is the height of condos (not shown), which would block the quasi-green view corridor (right of centre).

Re “Apartments to spring up around future Walmart,” Oct. 16.

Richmond’s director of development recently claimed that six-storey condo buildings behind the Walmart mall on Alexandra Road would block the City Centre viewscapes to a greater height than the mall. He used a SmartCentres graphic, a murky view from the south of the Garden City Lands, to support his point.

He may be right. But it begs a question: “How the #@?%!* did six-storey buildings get there?” We knew it was essentially four storeys there in the West Cambie Area Plan.

Thanks to Matthew Hoekstra’s article, we’ve learned that the zoning was quietly changed. That allowed mega-developer Polygon two more storeys to compound the ways the Walmart mall can muck up our views.

There’s been no development permit yet, but Polygon must see it as a done deal. They’re busy selling six storeys of condos in Alexandra Court.

Since the spring of 2012, many citizens have brought the City Centre’s threatened viewscapes to the attention of Richmond council and staff. While some of the problems escaped our notice, we kept revealing enough. Now we see that all of our warnings were brushed aside.

There’s plenty of research to show that beautiful views and wellness go together. All of us, especially the people of the City Centre, deserved our legacy viewscapes, not a Walmart mall scene with a tall Polygon backdrop and a Grouse topping.

It’s all so senseless. The problems didn’t exist until about 18 months ago. Since then, city staff got city council to change the rules again and again, even stripping away three kinds of habitat protection, in order to serve big developers.

Until the rules got changed, there could have been a right-sized Walmart mall and four-storey Alexandra Court in harmony with our viewscapes, Alderbridge wildlife corridor and wellness. All that was needed was respect for the area plan and the thoughtful insights that citizens shared.

Where we had a legacy, we’ll now be left with unforgettable loss.

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