DEVELOPERS are looking to completely revamp a large section of the Lower Capilano neighbourhood, converting what is largely empty space to a "village centre" complete with multifamily homes, a community centre and public plaza.
Larco Investments presented the plan to neighbours at two meetings last week. The proposal, still in its preliminary stages, would see a cluster of multi-storey residential buildings and a limited amount of commercial space appear on what is now a vacant lot - once the home of the Capilano Winter Club. The 4.35-acre site sits between Curling Road and Fullerton Avenue to the west of Capilano Road.
If approved, the project would be the first development in the neighbuorhood since the official community plan was revised last year.
It is too soon to say how many residential units would be involved, or how many storeys the buildings will consist of, said Art Phillips, director of development for Larco, but artist's renderings presented at the meetings gave a rough idea of what is envisioned.
"It will have the impression of a two-storey town home on street level. Step back from there and we'll have residential above in condos," said Phillips, comparing it to the streetscape in Vancouver's Yaletown.
To sweeten the deal for the District of North Vancouver, Larco is offering to build a community centre and public plaza at the heart of the development.
The commercial space would be something along the lines of a coffee shop or deli that faces onto the plaza, added Phillips.
The company has begun working with the municipality and neighbouring residents to collect early feedback and ideas, he said.
"We're really wanting to engage the community and get the dialogue before we make a submission so when we go back to the district and to the community, it's been vetted by all parties," said Phillips. "That's what we're setting out to achieve."
Larco had sought to amend the OCP to develop the property two years ago, but the project was shelved until the OCP review was complete.
If all goes smoothly, Phillips hopes to submit a rezoning application for the land by the end of September, finish the public process by next summer and begin construction in 2014.
The Lower Capilano Community Residents Association is greeting the proposal with skepticism, however, worrying that it will make neighbourhood access worse than it is now.
"The land is ripe for developing. The question is what is proper for the area, and how do you address the biggest problem, which is traffic," said association spokesman John Miller. "It's just a traffic jam. Nobody can move during the evening rush hour."
Larco held an information meeting July 19, but no one from the association was notified, said Miller, so the group is playing catch-up.
Ultimately, Miller's neighbours don't want to see anything exacerbate the already-snarled traffic that bottlenecks at the approaches to the Lions Gate Bridge.
"Due to the proximity of the bridge, is high-density the right thing to put in there?" he asked. "People are complaining they can't get home in our neighbourhood."
The OCP calls for the area to have more of an emphasis on walking and public transit, but it might be too late for that, said Miller.
"When you can't move, it doesn't matter if you have public transportation or not. . . . Right now, the buses can't get into their bus lanes."
As for the community centre, "wrong location," said Miller.
"If you can't get to it, what good is having it?" While the area would benefit from one, he said, it would be better to put it somewhere where it can be shared and accessed by residents from Pemberton Heights and Norgate as well.
Miller is also unsure that any new businesses could survive in the area if it is to depend solely on foot traffic for customers.
"Commercial developments cannot survive on local residents within walking distance," he said. "If traffic is such a problem, how do they ever expect business to survive in the area?"