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Is a steep hillside in Port Moody the right place for a new rental apartment building? The architect thinks so

The proposed eight-storey project would be built next to a property that had a landslide in 1994
A rendering of how an eight-storey rental building being proposed for Shoreline Circle in Port Moody might present itself at street level | Photo: Grimwood Architecture

The architect of an eight-storey rental building being proposed for a hillside in Port Moody’s western end says the project will help stabilize a problematic slope that’s had a history of landslides.

Thomas Grimwood, the principal of Vancouver-based Grimwood Architecture, told council last Tuesday (Dec. 6) the 68-unit market rental building on Shoreline Circle would not only provide affordable housing, but its placement into the steep hillside will provide geotechnical stability to the property that’s next to another lot that had a landslide in 1994 and has remained undeveloped ever since.

“Not much has been done since that event in ’94,” Grimwood said, noting without any remedial work, the property remains unstable.

Building the eight-storey building into the hillside will provide stability as well as protect at least seven adjacent properties from potential landslides, he said.

“It provides rental housing, but it also conveniently holds up the hillside.”

In a report, Port Moody senior planner Wesley Woo said the site for the rental building presents “significant” geotechnical issues.

In fact, a 2018 study of soil conditions on an adjacent property to enable construction of a single-family home indicated it could give way, and stability issues prevented a previous development plan to build three duplexes on the subject site from proceeding.

“It is likely that the subject property will have similar conditions to those noted for the adjacent property,” said Woo, adding before any construction could proceed, the developer would be required to provide an updated geotechnical report that could be subject to a third-party peer review at the applicant’s expense.

Woo’s report also expressed concern about the site’s distance from transit connections since residents of rental buildings tend to rely more on transit, as well as its scale in a neighbourhood comprised mostly of single-family homes.

Grimwood said as most of the complex is built into the hillside, only two storeys would be visible along Shoreline Circle — minimizing its visual impact in the neighbourhood.

Some councillors agreed, although Mayor Meghan Lahti conceded it would be a looming presence to residents who live below the hillside.

Coun. Samantha Agtarap suggested a green roof might soften the building’s stature.

As well, several councillors said bus connections to the neighbourhood aren’t as onerous as Woo’s report made them out to be: Rather than walking 15 minutes down to Barnet Highway to catch the 106 bus that runs between the Kootenay Loop in East Vancouver and Port Coquitlam Station, commuters can climb a short set of stairs to catch a community shuttle that goes through the adjacent College Park neighbourhood and then connects with major routes.

Last Tuesday’s discussion about the project was a preliminary assessment, which the developer can consider before bringing forward an application for amendments to the city’s zoning bylaws and official community plan.

Tri-City News