WEST Vancouver's aging police station could soon be replaced by an eight-storey residential complex if a plan tabled by the site's prospective owners is taken up by the municipality.
Grosvenor property developers submitted a development permit application to the district Monday that would see the entire 1300block of Marine Drive levelled and replaced with a pair of tiered mid-rises joined by a covered galleria. If approved, the west block would rise eight storeys and the east block seven. The ground floor would be taken up with retail space, and the floors above it would contain a total of approximately 88 residential units, according to the municipality.
"We think this is going to be a real catalyst to revitalize Ambleside," said James Patillo, a senior vice-president and general manager with Grosvenor Americas. "It's a large, comprehensive development, and we're really proud of what we're putting forward."
The plan is the first detailed glimpse residents have had into the possible future of the property. The parcel, which is currently home to the WVPD and a number of retail spaces, came up for a redevelopment designation several years ago during the official community plan process, when the municipality began to consider moving the police force and some fire services to a new public safety building next to municipal hall.
West Vancouver gave Grosvenor the option to purchase the municipal portion of the site in March on the condition the developer came up with an acceptable plan. The application submitted this week aims to meet that requirement.
Certain elements of the proposal, at least, seem to be in line with what the municipality has in mind for the area, said Bob Sokol, West Vancouver's director of land and permits.
"I think there are a lot of intriguing aspects to the development," he said. "I think there are some really interesting things they do at the pedestrian level to help activate Ambleside, and I look forward to digging further into the application."
Sokol was especially pleased with ground-floor retail, the galleria - which will allow pedestrians to pass from Marine Drive to Bellevue Avenue - and with the substantial setback on the west side, which would gel with the community's vision of using 14th Street as a "festival" street.
"I can really see that street being a very exciting place during Harmony Arts Festival or Community Day, helping to tie the Ambleside commercial area to the waterfront," he said.
Patillo drew attention to the building's West Coast Modern design, as conceived by architect James Cheng, a one-time apprentice of Arthur Erickson. He also said the glass-covered galleria, which would be lined with stores on the inside, should prove to be a draw for residents.
At eight and seven storeys, the buildings will be substantially taller than the rest of the Marine Drive strip. Although the 1300-block is one of several large parcels the district had singled out for possible density increases, the plan is likely to stir controversy. Discussion of the land sale at a council meeting in March drew fire from some residents, who feared an increase in density would impact views and detract from the feel of the neighbourhood. In July, a group of residents submitted a small survey of homeowners suggesting at least 100 opposed any development above four storeys.
Patillo said he expected the impact of the building's height to be lessened by its tiered design, which at the street starts at just two storeys.
"We think it's a really good fit with what we heard the community wanted through all of this public engagement we did through a lot of 2011," he said. "We're very excited and looking forward to the next step."
West Vancouver staff are reviewing the application and plan to submit it to council in November. Councillors will decide at that point whether to reject the proposal, ask for more information or approve it for public hearings.