West Van residents buck Ambleside tower proposal
West Vancouver residents seemed determined to bring down the highrise at a public meeting on a development proposed for Marine Drive’s Safeway site.
Although not opposed to the redevelopment of Ambleside’s core, many speakers said the draft’s 15-storey or 10-storey tower possibilities simply aren’t options.
“This site should be revitalized, but not this way,” West Van resident Tim Arnold said, adding it would open all of Ambleside up to highrise development.
H.Y. Louie Group, the company that owns the 1.4 acre lot at 1650 Marine Drive, pitched its two designs at the Thursday night meeting which saw the Seniors’ Activity Centre’s banquet room filled and crowds spilling into the hallway. Both drafts include a 41,000-square-foot food store below street level, 16,800 square feet of above-ground retail and office space, and between 144 and 154 residential units. The difference comes down to the residential tower. Option A proposes a 15-storey building while option B drafts a 10-storey structure.
“The 15-storey option is an overshoot to make the 10-storey [option] sound better,” Arnold said.
The West Van resident of 45 years was backed by a majority of onlookers who rallied behind the Official Community Plan’s suggested four-storey limit in Ambleside. Several petitions against the tower were handed to district staff.
The Safeway block is one of three sites the municipality tagged for consideration of development over the four-storey limit, noted IBI Group Architects director Gary Andrishak, who was contracted by H.Y. Louie Group to design the building. The drafts aim to create critical mass to draw people out of Park Royal to a would-be new hub in Ambleside, he said.
“The Safeway block should be a part of the community and in my mind it is not at this point,” the West Van resident of 25-years noted.
The development provides public plazas and a tree-lined walkway down 17th Street. Both designs also include a restaurant on the second storey of the building facing the ocean, Andrishak said.
Placing the highrise on the southeast corner of the lot is the most advantageous solution to keeping views open, he added.
“Both of our options feature street servicing small-scale retail.”
As part of the project’s community amenity contribution, the development could include up to 208 underground parking spaces. More than $1.5 million would be paid to the district through its development charges and the municipality can anticipate the development’s annual general property taxes to exceed $336,000.
Not all residents snubbed the proposal. If the community doesn’t permit development in Ambleside, it risks losing its central core to Park Royal, Clive Bird.
“I think we need to be realistic about revitalizing Ambleside,” he said, before being booed off the microphone.
Development is going to occur, like it or not, but the municipality should be careful of what it excepts for public amenities, West Van resident Sara Baker said. The south-facing property with waterfront views is one of the most beautiful pieces of land in the Lower Mainland, she noted.
“If [the developers] want 15-storeys they better pay for it and parking does not do it,” she said.
Baker suggested the proponent consider including affordable housing in the proposal. West Van has a large aging population and it’s too expensive for many in the younger generation, she said. By incorporating such alternative housing options, the development would give back to the community in a meaningful way, she said, adding development on such a centrally located site should encourage foot traffic.
The public hearing was the first step in the municipality’s public review process, said Geri Boyle, West Van’s community planning manager. All the members of council attended the meeting to listen to people’s concerns.