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Which West Van ‘Village’ will come out on top?
While Park Royal Village has become a main gathering spot in West Van, revitalization of Ambleside Village is beginning to take shape
As staff for the District of West Vancouver busily prepare plans to revitalize Ambleside — festival streets, new gathering spots and the like – Park Royal Village has become a main hangout spot.
Besides the bustle of Christmas shoppers, more people are using Park Royal Village to visit with friends, go on first dates and even walk their dogs.
Outdoor seating around four cafés and take-out shops has made the mall a popular meeting spot, often rivaling or outdoing Ambleside Village.
District of West Van staff, however, want to draw residents to Ambleside — the area they insist is the “heart of West Vancouver.”
Bob Sokol, West Van’s director of planning, says Ambleside is the centre of the municipality and it will be more noticeable once a number of district-led initiatives are complete.
“I think Ambleside can compete [with Park Royal Village], and I think there are times it does,” he says.
“Check it out during the summer. There are thousands of people walking along the waterfront. What we want to do is a better job of providing people reasons to cross the railroad tracks to Ambleside.”
But Park Royal Village continues to attract more people, especially during the evening when many cafés and restaurants are closed in Ambleside and Dundarave.
Rick Amantea, vice-president of Park Royal, says the outside shopping centre was built to replicate a quaint seaside town with ample spots for people to relax and socialize.
He says part of the mall’s original vision was to create a community where people could meet up with friends.
“In many ways, we put more emphasis on the experience than the shopping.”
The Village’s buildings, which are part of the plan to create a “friendly” community, have won awards, including Innovative Design and Construction of a New Centre from the International Council of Shopping Centres.
Even small features such as drinking fountains for dogs and bicycle racks were added deliberately.
And more people could soon call the mall home.
Two new towers — 19 and 24 storeys with 289 residential units — are proposed for where White Spot is now.
The property’s owner, Larco Investments, calls the development a “community within a community.”
Despite this, Sokol says Ambleside Village is the heart of West Vancouver. Since Ambleside has attributes Park Royal does not (take the waterfront and museum, for example), he says the two areas provide different experiences.
“If we tried to compete with Park Royal head on, we would lose. There are a much higher concentration of commercial uses.”
According to the Ambleside Village Centre Strategy, the focus will be on independent stores, not large chains.
“Revitalization of Ambleside is one of this council’s priorities, and it has been priority for many councils,” says Sokol, adding the area is already the centre of government and has the largest concentration of residents in West Van.
Council envisions Ambleside as a busy pedestrian-oriented centre, especially along the two “festival streets” on 14th and 17th streets. When construction is complete, festivals and weekend events will be hosted along the streets, which will have room for additional seating, public art and street vendors.
Council also hopes Grosvenor’s mixed residential/commercial development on the 1300-block of Marine Drive, narrowly approved on Dec. 2, will attract residents to the waterfront.