New community proposed for city waterfront

June 24, 2009

North Shore News

The City of North Vancouver's western waterfront could one day be transformed into a mixed-use, beachfront community if plans presented to council on Monday go ahead.

Concert Properties' ambitious scheme met with a cautious response from city councillors, however, who said that while the plan is attractive, city planning staff are too busy to make studying it a priority. One councillor also felt it threatened the city's industrial base.

Concert Properties' chairman David Podmore presented council with a broad outline for developing several empty waterfront lots totalling about six hectares west of Mosquito Creek Marina. The reclaimed industrial land was left undeveloped during the creation of the Harbourside Business Park in the mid-1990s.

"A lot has changed since Harbourside was first conceived," Podmore said. "A lot more attention is directed to principles of sustainability, proper treatment of the environment, and creating opportunities for people to live and work in the same location."

Podmore submitted a sketchbook of ideas for the area, which includes 525,000 square feet of residential space, 320,000 square feet of office space and a range of community amenities.

"This isn't a plan," Podmore stressed. "It's an idea or a suggestion to start this conversation."

Podmore's sketches show a mixed-use neighbourhood laid out along the Spirit Trail route. It features a boardwalk, beaches and a dock for kayakers.

"This is a really unique opportunity to make the waterfront more accessible for more people, and make the waterfront more lively."

Podmore acknowledged that traffic would be a challenge for planners, but said he envisioned a multi-modal approach including transit, trails and ferries.

The planned community also would be connected to Lonsdale Energy Corporation, the city-owned heating utility.

Podmore told council there would be no suggestion of reducing the amount of commercial space in the area.

"We do think that by increasing the other uses, retail and residential, it will enhance the attractiveness of this area for employment uses."

Podmore asked council to direct staff to begin working with Concert on the official community plan changes that the project would require and to start conversations with other stakeholders such as the Squamish Nation and Port Metro Vancouver.

"I'm going to vote against this," said Coun. Bob Fearnley. "It's a good plan, but we have policy here about preserving industrial land and we should stick to it. We have an OCP. The process to amend it is a lengthy one and it should not be done on the fly."

Fearnley pointed out that Metro Vancouver is calling on municipalities to preserve their industrial lands.

Podmore reiterated that he was not suggesting industrial or commercial lands be lost, but Fearnley was not swayed.

Coun. Pam Bookham described the outline as "intriguing, interesting and not entirely unexpected."

But the scope of the project would require reassigning staff, she said, and city planners were already focused on the OCP review process.

Couns. Guy Heywood and Mary Trentadue echoed Bookham's sentiment.

Council voted to file the proposal, putting the ball back in Concert Properties' court. If it proceeds with a formal application to change the zoning bylaws and OCP, staff will process the application as part of their regular work queue.

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