Agenda Index City of Vancouver


Date: September 23, 1997

Dept. File No. BA/GMcG

CC File: PH350

TO: Vancouver City Council

FROM:Director of Community Planning on behalf of the Director of Land Use and Development

SUBJECT: Heritage Designation and Floor Space Increase - Bay Theatre

(907 - 935 Denman Street)


A.THAT the former "Bay Theatre" building, located at 907-935 Denman Street, listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register in the "C" evaluation category, be designated as a Protected Heritage Property;

FURTHER THAT, Council support a commercial floor space increase from 1.2 FSR to 2.19 FSR, as proposed in Development Application DE402324; and

B.THAT Council instruct the Director of Legal Services to bring forward for enactment an amendment to the Heritage By-law.


The General Manager of Community Services RECOMMENDS approval of A and B.


Under Section 3.2.5 of the Zoning and Development By-law, the Development Permit Board or the Director of Planning may relax the regulations for heritage conservation.

Council policy on heritage designation states, in part, that:

"legal designation will be a prerequisite to accepting certain bonuses and incentives; and

where the floor space increase being considered is more than 10% greater than the maximum permitted under the zoning, prior Council approval is required.


This report seeks Council support for a commercial floor space increase in exchange for the rehabilitation and designation of the building as a protected heritage property.


Development Application DE402324 proposes the adaptive re-use of the former "Bay Theatre" building at 907-935 Denman Street, most recently known as the Starlight Theatre. The theatre use is to be discontinued while other commercial uses are to be expanded by creating two single-storey spaces in the existing two-storey theatre volume. The ground floor level will consist of retail and commercial service uses. The new upper floor will contain a restaurant and office space.

The Director of Land Use and Development is prepared to approve this application, subject to various conditions being met including Council approval of the commercial floor space increase and designation.


Heritage Value

This heritage building, formerly known as the Bay Theatre, has two above-grade storeys on Denman Street. It was constructed in 1938 and is a good example of the "art moderne" style. The building, listed in the "C" evaluation category on the Vancouver Heritage Register, is a local landmark. The notable features on the building include the poured in-place concrete structural system, sculpted recessed corner, prominent sign tower, second storey bay windows, and a carefully balanced composition of vertical and horizontal elements.

Compatibility with Planning Objectives

The property is part of the well-established Denman Street retail and commercial area, and is zoned C-5 (see context map, Appendix A). The C-5 District Schedule encourages retail and service uses and building forms which are compatible with the residential character of the West End. Emphasis is also placed on requiring the external design of buildings to be oriented to the pedestrian in terms of scale and functional considerations. Dwelling units are also encouraged.

The proposal retains and restores the existing building. Special attention is being paid to the restoration of the street facing facades, both to restore lost detail and to add to pedestrian interest. Dwelling uses are not being proposed, but the building will contain retail and commercial uses which are important to the continuing vitality of the street. The application is thus consistent with the overall intent of the C-5 District Schedule.

Zoning Considerations

The proposed development has a Floor Space Ratio (FSR) of 2.19, all of which is to be devoted to commercial uses. This is less than the maximum 2.2 FSR permitted by the C-5 District Schedule, but it exceeds the 1.2 FSR permitted for commercial uses. The table below is a comparison of the existing, permitted and proposed floor space calculations.





1,164 m²

(12,534 sq.ft.)

964 m² (10,375 sq.ft.)

1,759 m² (18,939 sq.ft.)


1,164 m²

(12,534 sq.ft.)

1,767 m²

(19,021 sq.ft.)

1,759 m²

(18,939 sq.ft.)

Commercial FSR




Total FSR




No parking currently exists on the site. Even though additional floor space is being added, the removal of the theatre means that the required parking for the proposed development is less than what was required for the existing building. In such cases it is common for the Director of Planning to relax the parking requirement for the proposed conversion. She is prepared to do so in this instance.

There are also no loading facilities in the existing building. The interior additions to the building and the change of use have resulted in an increase in the loading requirement of one space. In response, the applicants have agreed to provide one space, to be accessed off the lane.

The Vancouver Heritage Commission reviewed the proposal on May 26, 1997, and supported the relaxations of parking, loading bays, and commercial floor space in exchange for the designation of the building. They also recommended that more thought be given to detailed resolution on all facades, and this has been addressed by staff.

The Director of Planning is recommending Council approve the requested floor space increase for the following reasons:

-there are no additions to the exterior of the existing building;

-the maximum permitted FSR for this site is not being exceeded;

-there is no physical impact on the surrounding neighbours; and

-the proposed commercial floor space increase will secure the rehabilitation, designation and long term protection of the heritage building.

Conditions and Economic Viability

The rehabilitation work (see plans Appendix B) includes:

-repairing and painting the exterior facades;

-installing new doors, fabric canopies, neon signage and ceramic tile motifs inspired by the original 1938 design;

-adding a second entry to access the upper floor designed to complement the main marquee entry; and

-upgrading the building to conform to the current Building By-law.

Real Estate Services has determined that the proposed redevelopment does not provide an excess profit to the developer. The applicant is satisfied that the retention, rehabilitation and designation of the building would be economically viable if the proposed relaxations are approved.


The Director of Legal Services has prepared the necessary Heritage By-law amendments and the requirements for notification, as specified by the Vancouver Charter, have been met.

As part of the development application process, a sign was placed on the site and letters of notification were sent out to 483 surrounding residents; 12 letters of response were received, of which 1 expressed support and 9 expressed opposition.

Of the letters received opposing the application, most were concerned about the lack of parking, as well as a lack of loading space and enclosed garbage areas in the proposal. Some people also opposed the loss of the theatre use, and some regretted the loss of the mural on the Barclay Street facade.

As mentioned above, the parking load for the proposed building is actually less than for the existing form of development. Since the existing building footprint fills the entire site, the only way to provide parking would be to excavate and underpin beneath the existing building, an undertaking which would be extremely expensive. Since the parking requirement is actually being reduced as a consequence of this proposal, the Director of Planning believes that it is reasonable to relax the parking as proposed by the applicant noting that this will cause less parking and loading congestion than in the past.

With regard to loading and garbage, the applicant has submitted revised drawings showing one enclosed loading bay, as well as garbage and recycling spaces placed within the building. This is a considerable improvement over the existing situation, and the City Engineer and the Director of Planning consider it an acceptable response.

The loss of the theatre, while regrettable, must be balanced against the opportunity to revitalize, restore and designate the building. The building has been for sale for the last few years and during such time several unsuccessful attempts were made to renew its use as a cinema. With regard to the restaurant noise issue, there are no proposed outdoor service areas, and restaurants are an approvable use in this location.

The mural was created approximately 10 years ago by local artist Teresa Waclawik on the Barlcay Street facade and shows a cinema audience some of whom are depicted as well known film actors. A public meeting was held on May 25, 1997 at the Denman Plaza Hotel on the future of the mural. The artist, Heritage Planning staff, the developer and supporters of the mural attended. The meeting concluded with all parties endorsing a proposal to work together to find a new location for the mural. A new receiver site has not yet been found, however the developer remains committed to making a meaningful contribution towards the recreation of the mural in another West End location.


The proposed redevelopment of 907-935 Denman Street offers an opportunity to retain, restore and designate a heritage building which is also a neighbourhood landmark in the West End, in exchange for a commercial floor space increase. The designation of the building will ensure that it is protected from inappropriate alterations or demolition in the future.

Therefore, staff recommend that Council amend Schedule A of the Heritage By-law to designate 907-935 Denman Street as a protected heritage property and support the requested commercial floor space relaxation.

(Appendices A and B are maps and on file in the City Clerk's Office)

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