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West Van considers sale of coveted Marine Drive municipal land
On March 5 District of West Vancouver council will be faced with a proposal that would change the redevelopment trajectory Ambleside: the sale of municipal land in the 1300-block of Marine Drive to global property developer Grosvenor.
In the past two years Grosvenor has secured ownership of private lots on the south side of the 1300-block. The district’s land is the last piece of the puzzle for Grosvenor’s ultimate goal of redeveloping the entire block.
In selling the property, which is currently home to the West Vancouver Police Department, the district stands to earn up to $37 million. The district chose to engage Grosvenor for the land transaction proposal based on recommendations from the Ambleside Revitalization Commission.
“On financial terms what [the ARC] concluded was that this was a strong agreement, these were very good terms. Probably higher than what other developers would be willing to pay, said Mark Chan, DWV manager of corporate initiatives.
The sale of the land to Grosvenor is dependent on council later approving a rezoning application, development permits, community amenity contributions and an amendment to the Ambleside Official Community Plan. Grosvenor will have between six to nine months from the date of the approved sale to apply for rezoning with the district.
“The district has two roles: one as the seller of land and one as the approver of what gets built,” said Jessica Delaney, DWV director of communications, noting that on March 5 council would not be committing to the scope, including height and density, of the development.
The south portion of the 1300 block along with two other “special sites” on Marine Drive in Ambleside — the north side of the 1400 block and the south side of the 1600 block — have “expressly been referred to in the OCP with wording to consider buildings over four storeys,” said Chan.
Grosvenor held a series of public “ideas fairs” last spring in Ambleside. Conceptual plans suggest a two-building, mixed-use development in the neighbourhood of six to eight storeys with terracing or varied heights.
“For instance one of the key themes that came out of the ideas fairs was the idea of a mid-block galleria,” said James Patillo, senior vice president and general manager in Grosvenor’s Vancouver office.
Residents made it clear to the developer that they did not want a tower in Ambleside. Having feedback well in advance of the rezoning application is important for Grosvenor.
“It gives us comfort that we’re going to put forth something that is going to be very much liked by the public,” said Patillo.
The Outlook has also learned the proposed development will likely embody celebrated architect Arthur Erickson’s flair for West Coast modernism designs.
Jim Cheng, whose architectural credits include the Shangri-La hotel in downtown Vancouver, has been commissioned by Grosvenor for the 1300-block development.
“For this particular project [Cheng] studied under Arthur Erickson. And of course Arthur Erickson has important ties to West Vancouver,” said Patillo. “He’s got wonderful vision. For this project he understands mixed use. He’s a graceful designer.”
Breathing new life into Ambleside is what Barbara Inglis hopes for. The owner of Beachside Forno restaurant located at 1362 Marine Dr. isn’t too worried about the foreseeable redevelopment of the entire block.
Three years ago she signed a five-year lease that included a six-month notice demolition clause with the previous owners of the property.
“I don’t know if we are typical of the other people on the block, but because my husband and I live in West Vancouver we are quite excited about it [redevelopment]. I think that block is a little on the shabby side,” said Inglis.
Compensation from the sale of the district’s land is two-fold: the purchase price and community amenity contributions to offset growth costs in the area.
“The purchase price is very likely to go into the endowment fund which is standard for the district’s practice,” said Chan. “And then from there it can be used for whatever purposes council decides are in accordance with the endowment fund bylaw including the potential public safety building.”
Council voted on Feb. 6 to receive public input on the sale of district land to Grosvenor. Visit the DWV website, westvancouver.ca, to submit comments by noon on Feb. 29 for council’s consideration.