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Four futures for Ridgeway Annex
Nearly 100 North Vancouver residents and seven school board trustees gathered in the gymnasium of the once vibrant, now vacant, Ridgeway Annex school Tuesday to hear four possible futures for the former school property now up for grabs.
The lease and purchase proposals were made by representatives from three interested property development companies and one local childcare business.
But when all the cards were down, Ridgeway’s four possible futures could be grouped into just two options. One, the building is saved and renovated for use as daytime daycare and nighttime community centre. Or two, it’s bulldozed and new housing is built atop the Ridgeway property at 450 East Fifth St.
Vancouver-based developer Anthem Properties pitched first, offering a variety of possible housing styles for the site including townhouses, single-family homes or a combination “pocket neighbourhood” comprised of a mix 30-foot and 50-foot lots.
But Anthem president Eric Carlson told the scores of residents gathered that the company’s preferred plan is to build just eight single-family homes, eight laneway homes and a small “pocket park” on the Ridgeway site, estimating the work would take about two and a half years to complete if they started tomorrow.
With a proposal for 15 detached homes, fellow developer Atti Group varied little from Anthem in their proposal. But with an option to build 28 units of duplex housing on the site, Atti also put forth the highest density plan of the night.
The only proposal to receive a burst of applause — albeit brief — came from Oliver Webbe, president of North Vancouver developer Darwin Construction, whose suggestion that the former school’s large gravel yard should be turned into a grass park won the ascent of many in attendance.
Adjacent to the public park, Webbe proposed, would be nine duplex homes; five fronting onto East Fifth Street and four fronting onto a laneway behind those East Fifth Street homes, backing onto the park.
On the question of affordable housing, Webbe estimated duplexes in the Ridgeway neighbourhood would still likely sell on today’s market in the ballpark of $850,000 per unit, not exactly starter home prices.
However, Darwin was the only of the three developers to indicate the company would be open to the idea of entering into a long-term lease deal with the North Vancouver School District for the property, an option the Atti Group flatly declined and Anthem hadn’t addressed.
“In our study, we believe that the resale value for a home, if it’s on leased land, could be around five to 10 per cent less than if it was not on leased land,” Webbe said, estimating a leased-land duplex at the same site would go for about $775,000.
The final proposal of the night came from Ridgeway’s neighbour, the KidsLand Childcare Centre at 443 East Fifth St.
It’s there that Ramak Toufanian operates a 20-spot childcare facility with what she describes as a “solid” wait list.
Her proposal is to lease a completely renovated Ridgeway building from the North Vancouver School District to run a year-round daycare facility for 100 children during the day, turning the building over for community recreational use at night.
This would boost KidsLand’s childcare capacity fivefold, as Toufanian said she would keep her existing care centre open for young toddlers while using Ridgeway to house expanded programs for older kids.
City of North Vancouver development planner Carl Purvis told the meeting that any of the four options except the daycare proposal would require an amendment to the city’s Official Community Plan to change the Ridgeway property’s zoning from school-institutional use to residential.
The North Van school board will now evaluate the proposals further, as well as any public input they receive, and interview the proponents over the coming weeks before announcing a decision on the property in late January, according to board chair Franci Stratton.
In the meantime, the former Plymouth elementary school is set to undergo the same process of a public hearing of proposals as Ridgeway on Dec. 4.