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Two women drift across False Creek on stand-up-paddleboards in Vancouver, British Columbia on August 11, 2015. Concord sold a piece of land here more than 20 years ago to be used for charitable, community purposes, but it was put up for sale in May.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

One of Vancouver's biggest developers is suing the city for trying to sell off a piece of land that was originally intended for a low-rise housing project when Concord Pacific turned it more than 20 years ago.

The land 601 Beach Cres. was one component of millions of dollars' worth of community benefits Concord provided through negotiations with the city as part of the company's massive redevelopment on the north shore of False Creek.

The site, which the city put up for sale in May, is in a formerly derelict part of town, next to the Granville Bridge.

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However, it is now positioned directly across the bridge from an eye-popping development under construction, Ian Gillespie's Vancouver House. That cantilevered tower, designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and marketed as a high-end residence, is expected to transform the neighbourhood.

But Concord says that the site, which is made up of half Concord land and half land from another source, was supposed to be used for charitable, community purposes.

Related: B.C. real estate reform: What you need to know

As well, the suit says, the sale will cause Concord "irreparable commercial harm."

"It was an expressed and/or implied undertaking of the city that the Concord Lands would not be used for development of high-rise market housing, a use that would compete with Concord's own development plans for its other lands," says the suit, filed by Concord's lawyer, Howard Shapray.

The lawsuit also asks for an immediate injunction to prevent the sale.

Concord has offered to buy back the land at a fair market price.

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The city was accepting offers for the land until last week.

City planning documents say that a building as high as 425 feet could be allowed.

City of Vancouver officials declined to comment on Thursday because the issue is now before the courts.

Concord Pacific also issued a statement saying it was limited in what it could say because of the legal case.

"The proceeding involves issues regarding building densities owned by Concord and agreements from 17 years ago that may be affected by the process," the statement said.

"There are certain legal technical interpretations that need to be made to give certainty to the issues. We cannot comment further as the issues are being determined by the court."

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The notice of claim, filed earlier this week, also objects to the city's offer, in its memorandum to potential purchasers, to sell of almost 60,000 feet of unused density that is left over from what is known as Area 1 of the Concord lands. The land is currently assessed at $8.1-million but would likely be worth more to bidders at high density.

Concord Pacific is the company that has been developing former industrial land on the north shore of False Creek since 1987, when the provincial government decided to sell the 67 acres after Expo 86 was held there.

It has since built about 10,000 units of housing that accommodate a population of more than 13,000. As part of the redevelopment, the company was required to provide land for schools, daycares, parks and social housing.

According to city policy, all mega-projects are supposed to incorporate 20-per-cent social housing, with the developer providing the land and other levels of government providing the money for construction.

That arrangement has been under stress since 1994, when the federal Liberal government ended its support for new social-housing projects. Since then, several sites on the Concord lands, designated for social housing, have sat undeveloped.

The land at 601 Beach is one of four parcels set aside just in Area 1, one of six designated sectors of the Concord lands.

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