MacKenzie Heights retail area under threat from redevelopment

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      The local shopping area at MacKenzie Street and West 33rd Avenue means a lot to Deborah Henderson and her Vancouver West Side neighbours.

      This is where they often buy bread, order coffee, get their hair and nails done, pick up flowers, take out insurance, and receive other services, all in walking distance. There’s also a dental clinic there.

      “It’s so busy, it’s like the centre of the community,” Henderson related in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight.

      However, Henderson and her neighbours in the single-family-home oriented MacKenzie Heights area worry that they may lose many shops in their vibrant commercial district. The northeast corner of MacKenzie Street and West 33rd Avenue has been sold, and a developer wants to put a three-storey residential building on the spot.

      Last fall, an open house was held for the project, and according to Henderson, she and her neighbours were disappointed.

      Henderson recalled that based on the initial renderings, only two or three new retail spaces at ground level will replace the nine shops that are currently at the corner.

      As for the homes on the upper floors, she said they go straight up from the sidewalk, with no setbacks to make them less intrusive.

      “It’s not sensitive to the neighbourhood,” Henderson said.

      According to her, it’s a simple case of “maximizing” potential returns.

      “What we object to…is developers, who don’t live in the area, who don’t use the area, are making these decisions about developing the city based on their profit, not based on what’s good for the neighbourhood,” she said.

      The importance of MacKenzie Heights’ local commercial area has been recognized by the City of Vancouver. In 2005, city council approved the long-range vision of what Arbutus Ridge, Kerrisdale, and Shaughnessy (ARKS) residents want for their community.

      Part of the ARKS Community Vision document endorsed by council is the improvement of local shopping areas like the one at MacKenzie and West 33rd.

      “Kerrisdale Village, 33rd and MacKenzie, and Macdonald and Alamein should be enhanced to serve as the heart of their surrounding neighbourhoods,” according to the document.

      The community document also states that these “small local shopping areas could be enhanced by making improvements to the public realm and encouraging increased commercial activity within the boundaries of the existing shopping areas”.

      Henderson is also worried that the redevelopment of the northeast corner will put pressure on the opposite side of MacKenzie Street, where other local shops, like a grocery and a learning centre for children, are located. She said residents are not against adding new homes in the neighbourhood. “Our concerns are loss of retail, mainly,” she said.

      According to Henderson, the new development at West 57th Avenue and East Boulevard could be a good template for the commercial area in MacKenzie Heights.

      She was referring to Shannon Station, a boutique condominium project that features homes set back—through decks and terraces—on top of several shops in Kerrisdale. “You hardly notice it’s three levels,” Henderson said.

      Henderson also said that she and her neighbours have alerted city hall that they are not happy with the proposed development plan.

      Henderson noted that a zoning change is required for the project, and this is where the city might have “some leverage” to get a development that is a “little more neighbourhood-friendly”.

      A media statement sent out by Henderson and another resident, Beverley Kort, noted that only the “right kind of development on this site…will ensure that MacKenzie Heights continues to serve the needs” of its residents.

      The statement continued: “In a city where green, affordable and sustainable are cornerstones of municipal policy, the proposal for this building needs to be revisited and redesigned before it is too late and we finish up with yet another Vancouver Zombie zone.”