Density rises on Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver
Construction has begun where there used to be an Extra Foods store on Lonsdale Avenue at the corner of 17th Street in North Vancouver.
When this joint venture between Anthem Properties and Loblaw Property West—called Local on Lonsdale—is finished, a 20-storey condo tower with 175 homes, a 43,700-square-foot grocery, and 8,600 square feet of commercial space will be in place.
This massive development won’t be the last of its kind on the city’s famous avenue, which climbs the hill from Burrard Inlet toward Grouse Mountain.
A few blocks down on Lonsdale, the Onni Group is eyeing three 18-storey, mixed-use condo towers on what is currently a Safeway site at the corner of 13th Street. Based on plans unveiled early this year, the developer wants at least 400 apartments.
Onni has yet to secure approval from city council. But another developer, Wesgroup Properties, has received just that for a property across the street to the south. Also at 13th and Lonsdale, Wesgroup will build 10 storeys of residential units, plus three floors of commercial space.
This seemingly rapid pace of development in a municipality of about 12 square kilometres has naturally raised questions about the direction the City of North Vancouver is heading in as it deals with growth.
“The way we deal with it is we talk about the benefits and how it makes life better for us,” Mayor Darrell Mussatto told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
According to Mussatto, it’s concern for the environment that is driving the densification of his municipality.
“What we’re looking at is you’re seeing a city of the future, where we’re reducing our carbon footprint, which is the critical reason why we’re doing this,” the third-term mayor explained.
According to Mussatto, business is also doing well. “Lots of people are able to walk to their shopping,” he said. “And that works extremely well for the Lonsdale corridor and on Lower Lonsdale. People like that. People are saying, especially as they age, ‘I don’t need a big house anymore, nor do I want one.’ ”
But this pace of development has Coun. Pam Bookham calling for a slowdown.
“People anecdotally tell me that they are feeling that the city is growing very quickly,” Bookham told the Straight in a phone interview. “I’m not sure that our transportation systems are keeping pace. We’re challenged to provide employment close to home.”
The three-term councillor noted that although Mussatto suggests that he supports an average growth of one percent per year, she doubts that will hold true, given the interest of developers in this municipality at the foot of the North Shore mountains.
“Part of the attraction is the willingness of past councils to grant significant density bonusing, and that has meant that while other municipalities have seen development activity slow down in recent years, that hasn’t been the case in the city,” Bookham said.
The councillor cited as an example a proposal by Concert Properties to develop 801 Harbourside Drive, “where residential was not contemplated in our last official community plan”.
Passed in 2002, the city’s OCP is undergoing review, a process that could take until early 2013.
An official community profile prepared by the City of North Vancouver in 2009 puts its population at more than 48,000. “Substantial growth in the 1960s and 1970s was followed by more modest increases over the next two decades,” the document states. “Although the City’s population continues to rise, the rate of growth has fallen during the past census period, a trend that parallels other North Shore communities.”
Mussatto is aware of this trend, and he made the same reference when he questioned Bookham’s suggestion that North Vancouver may be growing too fast.
“There’s always peaks and valleys in growth,” Mussatto said. “We grew faster in the ’60s than we did in the first 10 years of 2000. But because it was all single-family houses [during the ’60s and ’70s], you didn’t notice it. Now we’re growing slower, but you can notice it more because you’re going up.”