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The Outlook's guide to Lower Capilano, a North Van hub undergoing a growth spurt
When it comes to walkable communities on the North Shore, Lower Capilano sometimes gets overlooked.
But it shouldn’t. According to walkscore.com, this fast-growing area is the third most walkable community in the District of North Vancouver, earning a rating of 75 — meaning most errands can be done by foot.
Walkscore.com notes that area residents — and there about 1,200 of them presently — have more than 70 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the area. “People in Lower Capilano Marine can walk to an average of 5 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in 5 minute,” it reports.
And with a spate of new mixed-used developments sprouting up along the Marine Drive corridor there’s more and more dining, shopping and services to explore, including the recently opened Man Up Grooming, where men can get an old-school straight-blade shave and new-school mani-pedi, or choose from a variety of other services offered.
Within a short radius, you can also find books, speciality wines, tech stuff, clothing — and even a new car. Turn south on Pemberton and you’ll stumble across lots of brand-new and long-established businesses, whether you searching for a casual lunch, new couch, shiny gemstone or tattoo. At the foot of Pemberton you can join up with the North Shore Spirit Trail and discover more of the Shore.
Along with the Spirit Trial, there’s also lots of other areas to explore, all within close proximity.
Lower Capilano is a next-door neighbour to Lions Gate, Norgate, Pemberton Heights and Woodcroft, which together created the Lower Capilano Partnership Committee in 2007 with a goal of supporting and improving the community infrastructures of these communities.
This entire Capilano area, as documented on the District of North Vancouver website under “Community Profiles” section, has a rich history, that “began in earnest with the opening of the Capilano street car line in 1912 and when Marine Drive was officially opened in 1915 connecting Lower Capilano to Lonsdale and West Vancouver respectively.”
Next, according to the DNV website, came the opening of the Tomahawk Restaurant, then the development of a residential pocket called Norgate in the 1940s and later high-rises at Woodcroft and the International Plaza in the 1970s.
The next big change coming to the area will be the new village centre planned for Capilano Road and Marine Drive, and with it a host of new shops, residential buildings, pedestrian-friendly walkways and community amenities.
Block parties: The original Facebook
Sandra Tweed has lived in the same house in the 1200-block of West 15th for 15 years. She knows most of the neighbours on her street, but admits she never really got a chance to meet anyone living beyond that radius. Until last year. That’s when she and one of her friends in the neighbourhood decided to organize a neighbourhood block party.
It was the first time she’d met any of denizens of the 1300-block. But they weren’t the only ones she got to meet. They came from all over Norgate, and beyond — some from as far away as Woodcroft.
This year, the second annual Norgate block party attracted nearly 300 people — about 100 more than the inaugural event the year before.
And there was lots of fun to be had: drinks and goodies, a pie-eating contest, street hockey, prizes, bouncy castle, water-gun fights, a demonstration by the local fire department and a series of community booths. And it was all for a good cause: the Soroush Ayandeh Mihan Institute, which cares for orphans in Iran.
“It’s a pretty busy street. It’s kind of cool to be able to walk down the middle of your street one afternoon a year,” says Tweed who approached the District of North Vancouver two years ago about getting a permit to shut down two blocks on West 15th.
Because Tweed and fellow organizers put up posters this year and invited local businesses it turned into a much bigger party, with a great deal of diversity.
The local mosque, which serves many nationalities, invited its worshippers to bring a dish from their home country. So, along with serving hot dogs they also served up a variety of international dishes, like for instance falafels, a Middle Eastern staple.
A group of Korean Buddhist nuns living in the neighbourhood cooked tofu on a portable grill outside their home and served a variety of fresh fruits.
“It was just really cool,” Tweed said of the event.
The best part for Tweed was seeing the kids have a blast and meeting people from the community.
“People getting to know each other,” she said.
Since the inaugural block party in 2012 Tweed has gotten to know people in the 1300-block and beyond.
“I see them, and I recognize them, and it’s so much better.”
As anyone whose ever organized a block party knows it’s hard work — from acquiring permits, to organizing volunteers and food and much more.
But as the positive feedback flooded in, Tweed and one of the other organizers, Arlene King, began to immediately talk about next year’s block party.
Tweed has always known that Norgate has a strong sense of community. Now she just knows a few more neighbours by their first names.
Norgate’s tight-knit past and present
North Vancouver neighbourhood’s community values haven’t changed since the 1940s
The safe, tight-knit community feel of Norgate, located east of the Lions Gate bridge, hasn’t changed from the time it was first developed. The land was originally cleared in the 1940s by developer Norman Hullah to build two airstrips — one for heavy aircraft and another for smaller planes to transport people to the North Shore.
When it was deemed too dangerous, due to proximity of the Lions Gate bridge, the project was called to a halt.
As the District of North Vancouver deliberated uses for the Norgate site, Hullah sought a $10,000 loan to secure an option on the property.
He proposed to build a housing project and was approved by district council due to the need for housing.
A total of 450 homes were built, 50 at a time. It required five separate construction crews to build a house in about one month’s time.
The three-bedroom bungalows, built on 60-foot x 100-foot lots and equipped with a carport and radiant floor heating, sold for $9,000 with $1,500 down and monthly payments of $45 for 15 years.
Realtor Mark Pelesh has lived in the community of Norgate for 13 years. From speaking with original owners of homes and families who once resided in Norgate, Pelesh has learned the community doesn’t differ much from its early days.
“There’s a real togetherness… in the sense that everyone is very caring with each other and looks out for each other. I think that’s been a long history of Norgate for a long time,” Pelesh said, adding he gets contacted from time to time from families who have left but still feel a connection with the community.
“They do move to different places around the world or they do move to different places on the North Shore, but they do tell me this: ‘We love the home that we moved to, but we miss the community of Norgate.’”
A look ahead to the Lower Capilano-Marine Drive Village Centre
Big changes are in store for the Lower Capilano-Marine Drive corridor.
Taking the place of motels, parking lots and empty land, the plan is to build a community centre surrounded by apartments and small shops.
Around 1,200 units are expected over the next decade, incorporating small-scale commercial businesses such as cafes and produce stores.
“This creates an opportunity for seniors housing, for first-time home buyers and it gives people a choice in terms of their lifestyle. Right now we’re largely a single-family community in the district… and this is an opportunity to bring that diversity, “ said Brian Bydwell, District of North Van’s manager of planning, properties and permits.
The Lower Capilano-Marine Drive Village Centre is one of four village centres planned for the district, including hubs in Maplewood near Dollarton Highway and two in Lynn Valley. The implementation plan was approved by council in April, but each project still needs to go through a public consultation process before approval.
Right now there are five motels within the Lower Cap Village Centre, many with a low-occupancy rate. The plan is to cut the number of units from 380 to about 150 into one hotel site on Capilano Road to make room for more viable apartment and commercial space.
The vision is a compact, pedestrian- and cyclist-oriented village.
There is already a pre-application for approximately 260 residential units, a restaurant and commercial space for the Grouse Inn site and another major application for a vacant site that would house 450 units and the community centre.
“We anticipate that both of those projects could actually get to a public hearing late this year,” said Bydwell, adding construction would begin in phases over the next few years if the developments are approved.
Although the Marine Drive-Capilano Road corridor already has heavy traffic, particularly around rush hour, Bydwell said the new developments won’t significantly add to congestion because of rapid transit and biking networks.
“Anytime we do these large-scale projects, it’s an opportunity for us to improve the infrastructure; lane widening, bike network and pedestrian network improvements,” he added.
A taste of Lower Capilano
Take a tasting tour of the original Eat Street
As the Lower Capilano Marine Village Centre plans start taking shape, area chefs are s
harpening their knives in preparation for a new
wave of customers.
The dining options along and just off the area’s main drags — Marine Drive and Pemberton Avenue — are endless.
Many of the area’s culinary offerings — Greek, Asian, Italian, Persian — reflect Vancouver’s multicultural makeup. Also in the mix are a couple local institutions that evoke nostalgic memories when you walk through the door.
The successful Cactus Club Cafe chain has its roots in Lower Capilano. The first location opened in 1988 on Pemberton Avenue, and today remains the only place where you can still find classic Cactus Club menu favourites and some original décor.
A couple streets over, at 1550 Philip Ave., the legendary Tomahawk Restaurant is still serving its famous burgers alongside First Nations artifacts almost 90 years later.
The original Tomahawk Barbecue opened in 1926 where Norgate Shopping Centre now stands. It held the honour of being Vancouver’s first drive-in restaurant, and today remains the oldest family-run eatery in the country.
The tradition continues with Tomahawk founder Chick Chamberlain’s son Chuck and granddaughter Kaila (at right).
“I think it’s because we are less like a business, more like a family setting. And it’s all home cooking here,” says Kaila of the Tomahawk’s longevity in the neighbourhood.
Ethical Kitchen is an artisanal food oasis nestled in the heart of the hustle and bustle of Marine Drive near Capilano Mall.
The credo here is simple: serving traditional, nourishing food made from scratch — with many ingredients harvested from a
modest-sized garden out back.
The café has a homely ambiance. Customers savour sandwiches, homemade soups and baked goods — either inside at the raw wood tables and comforted by the aromas wafting from the open kitchen, or al fresco at picnic tables in the garden.
Ethical Kitchen really embraces the farm-to-table movement: the organic, grass-fed beef, lamb, pork and poultry comes from café owner Barbara Schellenberg’s family farm in B.C.’s northern interior.
Keeping the regulars coming back for more are the sourdough pancakes smothered with maple butter caramel sauce — and, served warm, the melt-in-your-mouth, traditional Brazilian cheese buns.
Drink offerings include house-made kombucha and specialty lattes in a handful of flavours; try vanilla bean — or, if you are feeling adventurous — the exotic cardamom turmeric.
Ethical Kitchen, located at 1600 McKay Rd., is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hurricane Grill executive has cooked up a new menu and a new motif, just in time for the restaurant’s 10th anniversary in North Vancouver.
While many a Canucks fan has migrated to Hurricane Grill to watch the game on one of the many flat-screen TVs inside — the restaurant is not billed as a sports bar.
The lacquered tables and new, West Coast-influenced menu have been attracting a more diverse clientele.
“As Marine Drive is evolving with the new residential developments, we wanted to invest in our restaurant,” said Hurricane Grill owner Ash Ranjbar.
And the neighbours have responded well to the restaurant’s rebranding.
“This is the second time I’ve been here this week,” says Hurricane Grill patron Harrison Cook, who lives in the Hamilton Avenue area. “I had the poutine yesterday, and that was very delicious.”
A drink menu mainstay is the Hurricane, a blended strawberry and mango puree cocktail that contains equal parts amber, dark and white rum. There are also 10 beers on tap, including an amber ale from neighbouring microbrewery Red Truck Beer Company.
Starting this fall, Hurricane Grill will offer a brunch menu seven days a week, featuring their traditional West Coast eggs benny with smoked salmon and avocado.
Hurricane Grill is located at 999 Marine Dr.
Gilaneh Persian Grill House (222 Pemberton Ave.) is steeped in ornate decor inspired by Persian tradition.
Established earlier this year, Gilaneh Grill House is the reincarnation of two popular Persian restaurants that were once housed in the same space, Hakhamanesh and Kashkool.
The house speciality is a traditional kabob served alongside rice drizzled with a golden-hued saffron sauce.
“They use real saffron. It is the price of gold, one gram of saffron,” raves regular customer Susan Bassir of the food.
After a meal, authentic Persian chai tea is served on a tray with a china tea pot and translucent tea cups. Some customers may retreat to the patio and indulge in house-made hookah flavours including orange, apple, mint and cherry.
The (new) Corner Store
A place to pick up a last-minute carton of milk — or enjoy a glass of wine with a three-course meal
It used to be that corner stores were go-to spots for five-cent candies, chocolate bars and a quart of milk or loaf of bread — in a pinch.
But this isn’t your grandmother’s corner store. Times have changed, especially in Pemberton Heights, where The Corner Store has become the neighbourhood hot spot, not only for the well-stocked candy aisle or a last-minute jar of spaghetti sauce, but also for its wide array of artisan gifts, fresh coffee beans and its tasty, sit-down menu.
And now, thanks to a decision last year by District of North Vancouver council to grant owner Tracey Cochrane a food-primary liquor licence, you can also enjoy a glass of wine, cider or beer with your meal.
At the time of the decision, Cochrane told The Outlook she was “thrilled” by the council vote but stressed that her motivation for getting the rezoning was more than just serving booze.
“To move towards this food-primary, it brings us into compliance with the food that we’re serving and we now can expand our menu and our seating, so we’re thrilled,” said Cochrane, who bought the store in 2006 and gave it a complete makeover, inside and out.
And that expanded menu means there’s less reason to rush in for a last-minute ingredient for dinner when you can take a seat on the patio and order a delicious meal.
A recent “Mexico in the Hood” three-course dinner special featured caesar salad, chicken or beef fajitas — and, of course, cold Coronas.
The Corner Store is located at 2230 Lloyd Ave.