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Seaspan backs North Van Harbourside plan
Since early February, City of North Vancouver council and development-watchers have been waiting for Seaspan to arrive in council chambers and outline its interest, or lack thereof, in the vacant waterfront land on Harbourside Drive.
On Monday night, Seaspan’s CEO Jonathan Whitworth did just that and his answer surely pleased those hoping to see a large mixed-use development built on the contentious plot located just east of Bodwell High School.
“There is no requirement for additional land for ship construction,” said Whitworth, reading from one of his presentation’s slides.
The line stood in stark contrast to Coun. Rod Clark’s long-stated belief that Seaspan, or the various companies it will be working with as it builds the non-combat ships it was awarded during last year’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, would need the space for work that didn’t fit at Seaspan’s yard on Pemberton Avenue.
“They need office space, cubicles,” said Whitworth, noting that Seaspan has committed between $150-$170 million to upgrading its North Vancouver facility.
“There is not a need for any outside location. For warehouse space? Yes. But not here, that can be anywhere in the Lower Mainland.”
Whitworth did say, however, that the company’s new employees would need a place to stay. Since the government awarded Seaspan the contract last October, Seaspan has received more than 2,000 resumes. Currently, Seaspan employs 338 people. By 2015, 1,127 will work for the company. By 2016, 1,263.
As such, the concept of a residential development on Harbourside is something Seaspan finds “positive.” The only caveats, Whitworth added, are that a gap remains between residences on the western side of any potential development to mitigate noise and that the units available be those that new Seaspan employees can afford. While no dollar figure for those units was discussed, Whitworth did say that Seaspan pays “well.”
Whitworth’s musings on the area seem to fall in line with that of Concert Properties’ plans, co-owners of the land along with Knightsbridge Properties.
In an interview with The Outlook Monday afternoon, representatives from Concert Properties said a mixed-use development in the area would allow for about 800 units — both rental and strata — and commercial space. A hotel and seniors building would be built by Knightsbridge.
Under the city’s current Official Community Plan, the site, zoned commercial and light industrial, allows for 372,000 square feet of commercial space. That space would remain if the city allowed residential development. Of the 372,000 square feet, Concert Properties anticipates the majority of it being “high-quality” office space and about 35,000 square feet going to retail services such as restaurants and coffee shops.
Much of the backlash to the development has centred on an assumed increase in traffic congestion, as the Harbourside area has only two entry points, one at both Fell and Bewicke avenues.
Concert has acknowledged the changes to traffic a new building will bring and has said it will include underground parking for residents and commercial tenants and a shuttle from the area to Lonsdale Quay.
Concert Properties and Knightsbridge Properties are seeking an amendment to the OCP, which will only allow for the possibility of residential space to the site. If the amendment is given, then the rezoning process would begin.
A town hall meeting is scheduled for April 30 from 5:30 - 8 p.m. at Westview elementary school, located at 614 W. 17th St.