- BC Games
Redevelopment of entire Lower Lonsdale block sought
There’s a game of retail musical chairs currently happening in 100-block of West Lonsdale Avenue as shop owners await the outcome of a redevelopment application for the entire block.
Staburn Property Group is seeking to rezone the properties between 101 and 149 on Lonsdale. The mixed-use, six-storey development would contain 64 residential units, five of which would be low-income housing, as well as office and retail space at street level.
Included in the project is the preservation of The Beasley Block, a false-fronted, two-storey wood-frame building on the corner of Lonsdale and West First Street. Built in 1904, the Beasley is one of the oldest surviving buildings in North Van and currently houses Moodyville Cafe.
Grant Gardiner with the North Shore Heritage Preservation Society is pleased with Staburn’s proposal to restore the heritage building.
“We are happy to see they are going to keep The Beasley Block,” said Gardiner.
However, the NSHPS is hoping Staburn will work with its architect to bring the Beasley back down to its original massing, which Gardiner estimates is six feet smaller in width than the current structure.
“That building was originally thinner than it is now,” explained Gardiner. “We felt it might be best to bring it back to its original era.”
Speaking ahead of a Jan. 20 public hearing for the project, Alex Wren with Staburn Property Group told The Outlook the rich heritage of this particular block of Lonsdale was appealing to them.
“Our proposal includes a complete rehabilitation of the McDowell Block (also known as the Beasley Block) at Lonsdale and First [Street],” said Wren in an email. “Further, our architect pays respect in both design and building materials to earlier “period” buildings adjacent to the McDowell Block to ensure that our building fits in well with the established neighbourhood.”
Staburn is also confident the proposed project, with its mix of office, retail and residential uses, meets the objectives of North Vancouver City’s Official Community Plan
“The new office component will assist in the accommodation of jobs for the area,” said Wren. “The new retail component will be more viable than the current majority of narrow/deep premises, and will also be supported by efficient and sustainable building operation systems and badly needed on-site parking.”
Near the south end of the block, a pedestrian mews is being proposed to connect Lonsdale Avenue to the lane. There would be a 128-stall, underground parking garage for commercial and residential use at the rear of the building.
In the interim, as this stretch of Lonsdale awaits its fate, some of the retailers are already making relocation plans. Dave Steele, owner of Highwater Tackle at 113 Lonsdale, is preparing to move one block north.
Meanwhile, his neighbour Pete Turcotte, owner of Lower Lonsdale mainstay Big Pete’s Comics & Collectibles, has already been asked to move.
This past summer, after spending eight years on the corner of Lonsdale and West Second Avenue, Turcotte said he was offered a “decent deal” by Staburn to move a couple doors down, which puts him right in the middle of the redevelopment picture.
“Through the process they have been more than fair with everything,” said Turcotte.
Still, Turcotte tells The Outlook, it was a bit of a shock being asked to move, but, at the same time, it was expected.
“It’s the prime building,” said Turcotte, who has had a demolition clause written into his lease for the last five years.
When asked about his future business plans, he is undecided.
“I’m at a crossroads with that,” said Turcotte.
Big Pete’s has had a home in Lower Lonsdale for close to 25 years. Turcotte laughs, saying he has occupied almost every retail space on the block.
On Monday, two young boys peer through one of his glass display cases at a rare Pokemon card.
“You won’t find this card anywhere else,” says one of the kids who is grateful that Big Pete’s exists in the Lonsdale area, which is near his home.
Should Staburn’s project be approved, Turcotte will have to find a temporary location for two years while the construction takes place. He hopes Big Pete’s will have a home in the new development.
“It really comes down to what deal can be struck,” said Turcotte. “Redevelopment tends to price out the mom-and-pops [shops]. The rent becomes too onerous.”
Turcotte estimated he has paid $50,000 in operating costs over five years, under a triple net lease which puts the onus of some or all property expenses, including taxes and maintenance fees, on the tenant.
He said there is fine line between too much rent and too little space. Currently, Turcotte has 1,800 square feet to house his innumerable collectables.
Staburn’s development plan calls for one commercial parcel on the corner of Lonsdale and West Second to be close to 2,000 square feet, with the majority of the units falling in the 800- to 900-square foot range. In total there would be 11,400 square feet of office space and 13,550 square feet of retail space.
“The developments, the way they set them up, they take away the larger retail space,” said Turcotte, not speaking specifically about Staburn’s application. “They tend to parcel them out into smaller units. I don’t want to see Lonsdale become a bunch of dentists, small hair salons and sushi bars.”
There will be a public hearing for the redevelopment of 101-149 Lonsdale Ave. on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. at North Van city hall.